Students in the School District of Clintonville are going about learning a little differently this year.
This is the first year that each student in grades 7-12 have a Chromebook to use at school and at home. A Chromebook is a form of laptop computer.
Clintonville High School Principal Lance Bagstad said the district purchased the Chromebooks during the summer for around $280,000. This was after a presentation was made to the school board and the board approved the purchase.
In addition to the Chromebooks for students in grades 7-12, the district also has an iPad cart for grades K-3, and a Chromebook cart for grades 4-6. There are 30 devices per cart. Students in those grades are allowed to use those devices during class time.
“We’ve decided to go that direction because we’ve really felt that’s a direction to go because that’s the direction the world is going,” Bagstad said.
He added that it’s another way for students to use technology that they’ll use in their adult lives in the labor force.
Each student in grades 7-12 and their parents were required to sign a policy before the student received their Chromebook. Part of the agreement is the parents and students are responsible for any repair costs.
A little over two months into the school year, Bagstad said there have been only minor issues, such as cracked screens. He said these issues haven’t been due to carelessness, but rather students being hasty.
In preparation for each student receiving a Chromebook this school year, the district got Chromebooks in the hands of teachers last spring, Bagstad said.
This was done to get teachers comfortable with the devices and to do research with the devices. An entire day of inservice was devoted to training staff on Chromebooks and iPads. Mini-courses will continue to be available to teachers.
“The device is never going to replace the teacher,” Bagstad said. “The device isn’t going to be the be all, end all. It’s another tool for learning and engaging students. It’s another device that students have in their hands that teachers have available in the classroom to enhance the instruction that’s already going on in the classroom.”
With the plethora of internet websites and games available, an obvious concern was students using the Chromebooks for non-school items.
“Probably the biggest issue that we’ve maybe had is every once in awhile kids want to jump on there and try to play a game,” Bagstad said.
This issue isn’t a device issue, Bagstad said, rather it is a classroom management issue. He said some teachers have told him they have had to flip the part of the room they are teaching from.
“We now teach from behind the kids where we have a visual of their devices rather than standing in front of them. That proximity has eliminated some of that. By engaging in some pretty easy classroom management strategies, some of those things can be eliminated,” Bagstad said.
Bagstad did acknowledge that some students may play an online game during a study hall.
“I don’t think it’s any different than those of us adults, when we have free time, we do that type of thing,” he said.
Another obvious concern was students using the Chromebooks to search for websites they shouldn’t be on.
Bagstad said the Chromebooks are set up to use the district’s federally required filtering system to filter any searches a student tries to conduct. It goes through the district’s filtering system regardless of the wi-fi system the Chromebook is using.
“It’s a forced filtering. Our filters are 24/7. They’re in place for all searches for all kids for all devices regardless of where the kid is doing the search,” Bagstad said.
He added that the district can access a running record of any student’s searches by student name.
“We can see what they are attempting to search for, but we also know that those things are blocked,” Bagstad said.
Bagstad said the feedback the district has received from teachers has been positive. Google Classroom is a popular program.
Lindsay Davis, a teacher in the English department, said she posts most assignments for the class on Google Classroom. Students then upload their assignments.
“This way, I can see when they turned it in, grade them, and provide easy feedback,” Davis said. “I also really like that it sends them an email when assignments are posted and when they are returned.”
Math teacher Alesha Flannery said she posts the weekly lesson plan to Google Classroom to give students an idea of what the class will be doing all week.
“This helps students to prepare for if or when they will be absent at all during the week,” Flannery said.
She added that she posts lesson notes, assignments and answer keys to the assignments.
“This is helpful for any students who did not get all the notes down during class, or students who would rather follow along during class instead of writing, or students who missed class,” Flanner said.
Flannery said Google Classroom also allows for videos to be posted. She said if students request additional help with math concepts, she will post videos for them to watch outside of school.
Math teacher Kevin Reese also posts videos.
“In my morning post I also search for You Tube videos on the subject that will be happening in lecture so that students who are absent can see a demonstration of the topic they missed, but also made available to all students in case they need to see it one more time. The video doesn’t replace my classroom instruction, but it is another version of it for the kids that didn’t quite get it during class,” Reese said.
Heather Long, of the FACS department, said another advantage is the classroom is going paperless, which saves the district money. She said students are also more engaged, and having Chromebooks has made students more responsible.
“I never thought I would see the day when I could email a student on the weekend when I am grading and they email me back right away,” Long said.
Social studies teacher Dan Scherschel said Google Classroom allows him to communicate with his classes on days when he is absent.
Reese said Google Classroom also makes it easier for him to grade assignments. Rather than having to hunt through his emails to find assignments from students, all assignments are placed in an electronic folder for him to grade.
Middle school teacher Diana Rose added, “There is no way a document can be lost when it is turned in through [Google] Classroom, and no way a student can say ‘I turned that in,’ when they really didn’t.”
English teacher Ryan Conradt said the classroom has been turned into a learning environment in which much of the information being presented is generated from student research at their desks and then presented from peer to peer.
“It is not just students listening and repeating anymore,” Conradt said. “Students, whether they realize it or not, are becoming educators themselves in the classroom.”
Science teacher Jeff Crumbaugh said Google Drive allows students to share files. Since students work in groups of 2-4 on lab investigations, they can share data and work more collaboratively on lab reports.
He added that content, including slide shows, review articles, and videos are now available to students 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“This accessibility allows students to review class content at anytime,” Crumbaugh said. “Because of this, class time can be used more for lab investigations, problem solving, and projects.”
Bagstad said the use of Chromebooks has helped move education beyond the walls of the school.
“We’re really expanding opportunities for kids to learn,” Bagstad said. “It’s no longer 45 minutes in front of the teacher.”