Like the 1928 campaign promise of “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage,” each student at Union High School recently received a special tool that signals a change in how they gather, process and evaluate information from the world around them. The tool is a Dell Chromebook, an investment made by educators and school officials who believe it is a necessary instrument to help prepare students for life after high school.
In recent years, access to information via the internet has exploded, as the prevalence of smart phones and tablet computers allow individuals the convenience of mobile connectivity, 24/7. At Union High School, incorporating new sources of information into the lessons presented to students was becoming an increasing challenge. The lack of computer availability was limiting the ways teachers could utilize existing technology to enhance student learning.
Three years ago, the high school staff set out on a journey to learn more about devices that could help bridge this technological gap and allow every student access to make connections that would reach beyond the high school’s walls outside of school hours.
After visiting other schools that had made the commitment to provide a computer for every student, staff development opportunities focused on how to incorporate such technology in the classroom. Last year, a new online management software system was purchased to help the students and staff prepare for the Chromebook rollout.
The Chromebook is device that looks like a laptop computer but operates more like a tablet or cell phone, using a a wi-fi connection to access the internet. The Chromebook was chosen because of its functionality, ease of management, and economical cost. It has no software, but provides an outlet to the Internet and Google Docs for common tasks like word processing and creating presentations.
Prior to the distribution of Chromebooks last month, each student and their parents reviewed and signed a user agreement that outlines the terms of the Chromebook’s use and the steps that will be followed in the event it becomes lost, stolen or damaged.
While the school district is exploring the possibility of adding a large-scale insurance policy to include coverage of the Chromebooks, many parents have expressed that the relatively low price point of $310 for the device does not warrant the additional cost of the insurance.
Union High School Principal, Travis Fleshner, noted that many of the common repairs that Chromebooks require are simple fixes. Still, the school is working to put systems in place that will effectively address troubleshooting and repairs, including the formation of a student response team and utilizing teachers in the district who have completed a Dell-certified repair course. For larger repair issues, the school also has the option of shipping defective devices to back to Dell.
As with textbooks and other learning devices such as calculators, the Chromebook is a tool for learning, a portal to the Internet. Fleshner anticipates the high school will continue to expand its use of Google products, including Google Drive for the storage of documents. In the coming weeks, he expects results from a follow-up survey that will provide the school with important data related to technology access and skills. Students at the high school were initially surveyed last Spring, prior to the Chromebook rollout. The data gained from the Fall survey will help serve as a road map to guide the high school staff and students in their efforts to enhance learning through the effective use of technology.
“The current plan for the Chromebooks at the end of the school year is for students to check[ them] back into the school district for preventative maintenance and cleaning, [then] return the same device to the same student in the fall,” Fleshner said.
The school has conducted several meetings for parents related to the distribution and use of the Chromebooks. Additional questions, comments or concerns can be directed to Union High School by calling 342-2697.
The Progress Review gratefully acknowledges Travis Fleshner and Dale Wambold for their contributions to this article.