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Schools Embracing Chromebooks to Help Students Excel

23 Dec 2014 by Shay Moser

The deployment of 1:1 Chromebooks puts Internet access into the hands of students who might not otherwise have access to the Internet or to a computer of their own. This is one way that schools are closing the technology gap, increasing overall scores and preparing students for postsecondary education and careers.

Google lists one of the top advantages to distributing Chromebooks as learning that continues after the school day ends. With Chromebooks, the student has access to applications at home and can continue learning on his own. In Clark County, Ind., Brett Clark, technology director for Greater Clark County, reported to the local trustees that only an estimated 50% of students had Internet access at home before the implementation of 1:1 Chromebooks. Now, while at home, a student will be able to collaborate with the teacher as well as other students. The potential is even there to get help with homework or a concept the student is having trouble grasping.

In mid-June, Google announced it has sold a million Chromebooks to schools during the second quarter of 2014. At around $200 per Chromebook, the devices are inexpensive enough for a large number of school districts to afford their implementation. About one in every five school districts now uses Chromebooks.

Success stories

Greater Clark County Schools in southern Indiana adopted a 1:1 initiative in 2013 and put about 8,000 computers into the hands of students in grades three and up. Clark told WFPL, “This allows learning to take place no matter where the student is at. No matter what the student is doing they will have a device that they can go to, to help them gain access to the wealth of knowledge that is out there.”

At Charlestown High School, part of the Greater Clark family of schools, the students first received MacBooks through a 1:1 initiative, but the school later switched to Chromebooks as the district came on board as a whole. Since implementing the program, the school has seen a significant increase in the graduation rate and in the number of students going on to college.

According to WLKY, in 2009, only 28% of Charlestown High’s senior class was bound for college, vocational school or the military. By contrast, the 2014 graduating class saw a huge increase with 94% planning to go on to some sort of training after high school. The Indiana Department of Education grades schools on an A-F grading system. In the years leading up to the implementation of the 1:1 computer adoption, the school received letter grades of D and F. However, from the implementation on, the grade has steadily risen and the school is now considered an A-rated school, the top grade in the state.

Although Principal Mark Laughner only took over leading Charlestown High in 2012, his goals and the implementation of Chromebooks seem to go hand-in-hand. “I am interested in increasing not only the numbers of students who pass the statewide ECA tests, but also the numbers of students who tackle advanced placement and dual enrollment (college credit) courses and pursue an academic honors diploma.”

Another school that has seen success with 1:1 implementation is Leyden High School. According to Bryan Weinert, the school’s technology director, Chromebooks were the tool of choice because they are in the cloud. “I can give a replacement device and, once the student logs in, all of their settings and work is refreshed instantly. It’s magic, and it makes my life, and the lives of students and teachers, easier.”

What those in the trenches think about 1:1

The St. Helena Unified School District in California adopted a 1:1 pilot program, and then surveyed both students and teachers to see how effective the program was. Students felt that the Chromebooks benefited learning, increased resources and changed their learning experience in a positive way. Around 79% of both students and teachers were either strongly in favor or somewhat in favor of adopting 1:1 Chromebooks.

Cindy Hemsley, a fifth-grade teacher in St. Helena schools said, “Right this moment, I am watching my students use the Chromebooks to help work out a Common Core math problem, instead of depending on me to help them. I love the independence they are gaining with the Chromebook.”

Key points to consider

If your school or district is considering implementing a 1:1 Chromebook initiative, keep in mind that preparation will help the transition go smoothly. Ramp up technology, train teachers in the use of the devices and put firm use policies in place before ever distributing them to students. By taking care of these necessities before distributing the Chromebooks, you’ll avoid a lot of headaches and can get down to the business of teaching and helping students prepare for the next phase of education.

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