WJ students to get personal Chromebooks


(Posted April 15, 2016)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

No computer? No problem at Jefferson Local Schools where an initiative is placing Chromebooks in the hands of all students.

Students in grades seven and up will be able to take their Chromebooks home daily to use for research and homework. Any social media surfing must be done on their personal computer, phone or tablet.

“Technology doesn’t have to be a once-a-week thing or an event,” said Curt Dennis, district technology director, at the April 11 school board meeting.

“Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, all middle school and high school students will be provided with a Google Chromebook to take home. Sixth-graders will not be able to take the devices home.” Younger students will have access to the devices while in school.

Kristen Kearns, technology integration specialist, said the $300 devices are cost effective, user friendly and because everything is Web based, there is no software to install.

The district began using Chromebooks in classrooms three years ago, so students are familiar with them. Also, Google apps for education are free, secure and come with unlimited space. For students without an Internet connection at home, the devices can be used off-line and then automatically link when within a Wi-Fi area.

“You’ll see a lot more collaboration between teachers and students,” said Kearns, noting that the devices are also a means toward equality for students who cannot afford computers.

The district is looking at lower-cost options for students without Internet access at home and compiling a list of locations with free Wi-Fi access.

According to Dennis, students and parents must agree to usage terms regarding the Chromebooks. A meeting will take place before school starts to distribute the devices and explain the district’s policy.

If the agreement is not signed, the device is not released to the student. Dennis said the situation will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

A Jefferson technology protection plan is available and covers up to two cases of accidental damage for $25 per school year. It does not cover malicious damage. If a Chromebook is stolen and the incident is reported to law enforcement, the device can be tracked.

“We will be filtering at home, just like here (in school),” reported Dennis. “We want students to understand this is an educational device, not a personal device.”

A student-run Genius Bar in the media center will pair technology savvy students with fellow students and staff who need assistance. Paper consumption is expected to decrease and teachers can send documents out electronically.

“There have been amazing things happening this year in the classrooms (with Chromebooks),” said Debbi Omen, middle school principal. “I’ve seen Kristen so many times in our classrooms this year. There are some really good things going on already.”

For students who forget to recharge their devices or leave them at home, loaner Chromebooks will be available in the media center. However, the district will track repeat offenders. Teachers will have chargers in their classrooms, if needed.

“We know there will be glitches,” said Superintendent William Mullett. “Hope-fully, we’ll be adaptable.”

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