Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chromebooks: Reflections as we move from 50 to 1000

Through the 2013-2014 school year, two Grand Forks Public Schools high school teachers piloted a classroom set of Samsung Chromebooks.  Here is why we are moving from 50 to 1000 to start the 2014-2015 school year.   

Teacher’s Perspective
One of the pilot teachers teaches math while the other teaches English.  The teachers did an outstanding job of naturally integrating the Chromebooks into their curriculum areas. The best teacher endorsement came not through what they said, but from what wasn’t said.  Not one time throughout the school year, did the teachers contact me to say “these things aren’t working” or “the Chromebooks are difficult to use.”  In fact, the exact opposite occurred.  They loved having daily access to the Chromebooks and were easy for the students to use.

My Perspective
I have read much about the Chromebook itself and how other districts are successfully deploying Chromebooks.  My first impressions out of the box, were how easy the Chromebooks were to add to our Google Apps For Education Domain and organize into organizational units.  Also, being able to make changes and provide updates to the Chromebooks from my computer instead of touching each one is certainly a game changer.  I observed the students in both teachers’ classroom with the Chromebooks and noticed how well the devices functioned and how naturally the students used the Chromebooks for many aspects of their coursework.  Grand Forks Public Schools has been a Google Apps For Education for several years, which certainly adds to the overall ease of using the Chromebooks.

Students’ Perspective
I solicited input from the students through a Google Form.  Here is a summary of some of their responses:

  1. It's simple, easy to use, a nice layout. Everything is organized and simple.
  2. The Samsung Chromebooks are small and compact and easy to carry around. It is also easy to navigate around the computer.
  3. The OS on all of the Chrome systems is straightforward and easy to comprehend
  4. Nice and easy to use, small portable, if i ever wanted to get one outside of school.  They are fun and make daily work a lot easier.
  5. It is good for school
  6. I like the Samsung chromebook. The screen has a dull look to it that doesn't hurt the eyes which I like.
  7. The Chromebooks are a good resource to have in class. They make discussion easier and are a good device to have kids use in the classroom as technology integrates itself into the school setting.
  8. This is a very nice laptop.  Perhaps in the future, they could be issued for use by all students for paper writing and note taking.

With all of the positivity, not to mention the cost, we are moving towards getting Chromebooks into the hands of many more students.

1) We are currently 1:1 Asus netbooks in grades 5-8.  Although the Asus netbooks has served us well over the past 4 years, we will be phasing out the netbooks and replacing the devices per cohort group with Samsung Chromebooks.  Our middle school students keep the same device from year to year.  This cycle will allow for the 6th grade cohort (about 550) to receive new Chromebooks (1:1) this school year.
  • 5th grade - remain with the teacher
  • 6th grade - keep into 7th grade
  • 7th grade - keep into 8th grade
  • 8th grade - end of life, used for spares and parts

2) Currently, our high school students have access to a couple of labs and a couple of carts.  In order to increase student access to technology in core curriculum areas, 6 carts of 25 Chromebooks each will be dedicated to core curriculum areas at both Central and Red River.

That makes a total of 900 Chromebooks that will be prepared and deployed this summer.  This is a much smaller scale than some of the Chromebook deployments I have read about, but we are excited to get an increasing number of Chromebooks into the hands of our students.  After all, this project is closely aligned with Priority Area #2 of the Grand Forks Public School’s strategic plan: “Emphasize 21st Century Instructional Practices Which Foster Student Academic Engagement” and the sub goal #3 to: “Promote the utilization of appropriate technology tools to enhance the teaching and learning process.”

This blog post was about technology devices, but we continue to remind ourselves that any technology decisions made must be directly tied to student learning.  (The important role of our Curriculum Technology Partners will be another blog topic for another day).  I am looking forward to learn much more as we move forward on our Chromebook journey.  

Michael Fullan

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