Low-cost tech offers modern learning
By Scott Bellile
The Chromebook supply at New London High School has officially hit a 1-to-1 student-to-device ratio.
While Google’s Chromebook laptops at NLHS aren’t new – they were introduced during the 2013-14 academic year – this is the first year in which students across all four grades were issued their own device for take-home use.
Mathematics teacher Todd Koeller told the New London School Board at its Nov. 14 meeting he’s satisfied that everyone now experiences 21st century learning through their own portable device.
The School District of New London purchased its first Chromebooks a few years ago for the then-freshman class of 2017. The district was beginning the 1-to-1 initiative but due to budgetary reasons couldn’t buy Chromebooks for the whole school right away. The school phased in Chromebooks with each new freshman class. The first freshmen to receive Chromebooks are now seniors.
“In a perfect world, we would have enough money where we could just say every kid gets one the moment that we start doing this,” Koeller told the board. “You did feel bad for the seniors last year … It doesn’t matter whether you’re 7 or 70, when you see something that’s not fair, it’s like, ‘Wait a second.’ And you saw the frustration on the seniors’ part last year. I mean, three-fourths of the building has a Chromebook, and here’s 170 of them that, ‘Oops, too bad for you.’ And so I think they were a little frustrated with it.”
Koeller said he has no regrets, though, as the district phased in the devices in an affordable manner.
The district foresees costs savings through Chromebooks. This year it bought 375 at $175 each, for a total of $75,000, according to a memo NLHS Principal Danielle Sievert provided to the board.
“If we did not purchase Chromebooks, we would still be updating [computer] labs in the schools which comes at a higher price than a Chromebook,” Sievert stated.
Koeller said a Chromebook is cheap compared to a $1,000-plus desktop computer.
Added Business Services Director Joe Marquardt, “Even though we put more technology into the hands of our students, those expenditures have not increased in that way. They’ve stayed relatively flat because technology is more inexpensive.”
When the present NLHS building was built in 1999, there was a 5-to-1 student-to-computer ratio, Koeller said. Teachers competed for use of the computer lab. The 1-to-1 Chromebook initiative is a boost for technology access, he said.
“We didn’t really have to do this, but I always kind of thought of New London as being on the front edge of things instead of the back edge of things, and proactive instead of reactive,” Koeller said.
New London Intermediate/Middle School Principal Peter Schulz told the board that at the middle school, Chromebooks on carts are available for seventh- and eighth-grade teachers to reserve for their classes.
He said he’s not ready to issue Chromebooks to students 1-to-1 given the level of responsibility that entails. But having a mixture of computer labs and Chromebooks now, “In essence, we’re 1-to-1 based on what we can provide during the day.”
Chromebooks are laptops without hard drives. They’re primarily used for web applications, and students save files to the cloud. Unlike a tablet or smartphone, they’re not touch screen.
New London students have the option to pay $5 to $25 a year for insurance on the laptop depending on their family’s financial status, Marquardt said. Additionally, graduating seniors will have the option to purchase their 4-year-old Chromebooks for $25. Funds generated from these two programs will cover Chromebook repairs.