Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Chromebook Explosion

Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Chromebook Explosion

Article excerpt

The districts in this story have practiced what we at Tech & Learning preach: You can't start your 1:1 program with the device!

First, you have to come up with a framework and design a teaching and learning plan that will help you meet your objectives. As part of the process you should also update your infrastructure, devise a professional development plan, and determine how you'll let your community know about your new direction. Only after all of that is accomplished it will be time to discuss the device or devices that will help your teachers transform their practice and help your students achieve their best.

The following four districts did this preparation and chose Chromebooks. Their choice is not surprising since, according to Simba Information's Complete K-12 Report 2015, there are currently 1.2 million Chromebooks in our schools. What's helpful is to learn how they selected the particular Chromebooks that helped them reach their goals.

A DIGITAL LEARNING CONVERSION

"We don't call our program a 1:1; it's a digital learning conversion," says Valerie Truesdale, chief technology officer of Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) Schools (CMS). CMS has taken advantage of the Internet and mobile technology to personalize and individualize learning. CMS teachers have practiced differentiated instruction for awhile, but in 2012 the district started talking about how to maximize student achievement. They formed task forces, began planning for a 21st-century learning environment, and made sure every classroom was wireless and had projection devices. Teachers in personalized learning pilot schools are learning about the SAMR Model (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) and the TPACK Framework (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge).

In 2012, the district purchased Discovery Education's Techbooks to supplement the state's middle-school science and social studies textbooks that had not been updated for years. CMS also began to provide middle schools with a few carts of HP Samsung Chromebooks to support science and social studies. Because the state is moving toward online testing, the devices they selected had to have built-in keyboards. While they chose Chromebooks primarily based on price, Chromebooks also made sense because the devices boot up quickly. The district researched what students needed to be college-ready and as a result, they decided to build knowledge and use of Google Apps for Education, specifically Google Docs.

Based on a positive experience with Chromebooks in the middle schools, CMS started figuring out how to add devices to more schools. Price was critical, but the district also asked vendors what they could bring to the table to help make the digital learning conversion successful. "HP proposed Chromebooks and [offered] a team of researchers to study our conversion. A $220 price point was the primary factor in selection, but having the research study has made a big difference in our experience with HP," says Truesdale.

Today, CMS has 32,000 Chromebooks, providing every middle-school student with access, and the HPs are working out really well. "It's amazing how few breaks we've had," Truesdale says. "They are very lightweight and are ready right out of the box. Our technicians are in awe of how ready they are."

FROM 100 TO 27,000 IN ONLY THREE YEARS

Desert Sands (CA) Unified School District (USD) started researching 1:1 initiatives about four years ago. They visited a neighboring district with a 1:1 tablet program and learned from the students that the screens were too small for reading texts and that they would have preferred a device with a keyboard. "Our takeaway? Tablets are not the solution, especially for high schoolers," says Kirsten Wright, technology teacher on special assignment at Desert Sands USD. At the time, Chromebooks were just being released. Desert Sands needed something Web-based, cost effective, and scalable that students could use for testing. …

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