Every student in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. from Grades 1 to 12 will have a computer loaned to them this fall for school use.
In kindergarten, there will be one iPad for every three students. Every student in Grades 1 to 8 will have a Chromebook. High school students will be assigned Windows laptops.
Chromebooks for students in Grades 3 to 8 were purchased in January and arrived for student use the first week of April, according to Mike Jamerson, BCSC’s director of technology.
The Chromebooks for Grades 1 and 2 have arrived and will be available for use at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.
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A major factor in getting the devices in students’ hands has been a combination of available funding and device price, said Jamerson and Eva Cagwin, coordinator of operational services. The more affordable computers now available have made providing the computers to all students more realistic, Jamerson said.
A Chromebook costs $300, the Windows laptop comes in at $500 and an iPad costs between $400 and $600 without a cellular network attached, which isn’t necessary at district schools, Jamerson said.
A decade ago, a laptop might have cost nearly $800, Cagwin said.
The computers will be replaced every four or five years, Jamerson said. Extra devices have been ordered to be used for any issues with failed equipment.
In the past, the school district had a bring-your-own-device approach, and that will continue for students and teachers in Grades 7 to 12 for those who wish to use their own computers, Cagwin said.
Students who have a personal laptop that is equal or superior to what the district will provide may prefer to use their own computers, she said.
Chromebooks presented several advantages over laptops for younger students, Jamerson said. They start in just a few seconds, the battery lasts longer, and the software and applications available meet the needs of elementary to middle school students, he said.
Even though the Chromebooks haven’t been available to students for very long, Edie Logston, a fifth-grade teacher at Lillian Schmitt Elementary School, already has seen a difference in the classroom. Students can work much more effectively together, thanks to the resources the Chromebooks offer, including Google Drive.
Before the Chromebooks were distributed, there were only two computers available in her classroom for student use, she said.
“When you are using just paper and pencil, you are limited in your research and how much you can edit. It’s all hand-driven,” Logston said.
Parkside fifth-grader Daniel Chen said he loves the Chromebooks because getting away from paper and pencil means he no longer has to worry about hand cramps from long writing sessions.
The whole class can work at a faster rate now, he said.
Students use Google Drive, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Wikipedia and BrainPOP, which Parkside fifth-grader Paige Osbourne described as “Youtube for kids.”
The new Chromebooks allow students to access Google Drive from home. So by using their school log-in, they can access class materials from their own computer at home, Logston said.
Chromebooks allow students to work collaboratively and quietly at the same time, Logston said. Students may edit a Google document at the same time without talking, she said.
The new technology became a focus for the fifth-graders when Principal Christopher Smith got on the school intercom May 4 and talked to students about how he was mystified by the “May the Fourth Be With You” references.
The 22 students in Logston’s class got a good laugh at Smith’s statement.
Logston had the idea for each to write a one-page essay to explain what “May the Fourth Be With You” was about.
Students were required to cite three facts and use academic vocabulary throughout their essays, which were composed on the Chromebooks. After Logston edited the papers, they were sent to the principal.
CSA leads way with laptops
While Parkside continues to experiment with its Chromebooks, Columbus Signature Academy will continue to offer Windows laptops for its seventh- and eighth-grade students.
Every CSA student has had a computer since the school opened in 2008.
The Columbus Signature Academy—New Tech program was designed to be a 1-to-1 environment for students in Grades 9 to 12, and students there already are assigned laptops, Jamerson said.
School officials felt that the same design should be extended to students in Grades 1 to 8 at all CSA campuses, he added.
Students will have the opportunity to take their loaned computer home in the future, but that framework hasn’t been finalized yet, Jamerson said. He envisions high school students being able to take the laptops home in the fall, and Grades 7 and 8 soon after that.
Students will be expected to provide care for the devices when not in the classroom and to bring their computers fully charged back to school, Jamerson said.
“The students have adapted very quickly to using these devices,” Cagwin said. “Within a day of receiving the Chromebooks, they were using them to do research and to produce classwork.”
Students are using some laptops available at Columbus East or their smartphones while they wait for their laptops to be available this fall, Columbus East science department chairman Aaron Lynott said. There will be changes and modifications to his lesson planning to incorporate the laptops into next year’s plans, he said.
“Having increased access to technology allows me to assess students differently as well,” Lynott said.
Rise in graduation rates?
New technology is increasing BCSC’s graduation rates, according to Bill Jensen, the district’s director of secondary education, attributing part of that to the corporation’s Universal Design for Learning model.
BCSC graduation rates have risen from 84.4 percent in 2012 to 89.9 percent in 2014.
Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all students an equal opportunity to learn. Its flexible approach means that subject matter may be taught in a way that is customized and adjusted for individual needs, including the use of technology. Jensen said adding more technology is a part of that Universal Design for Learning puzzle as it relates to graduation rates.
Having an assigned computer to every student allows teachers to engage students through the use of audio, video, individual and group projects using technology and interactive websites, Jensen said.
Michael Reed, a seventh-grade science teacher at Northside Middle School, said transitioning to Chromebooks has expanded what he can offer in his classroom.
It’s much easier to find computer virtual simulations of lab projects with the computers, he said. Having computer access to show students what the project will be like has been helpful, he added.
Computer devices by grade
Kindergarten: There will be one iPad for every three students.
Grades 1-8: There will be one Chromebook for every student.
Grades 9-12: There will be one Windows laptop for every student.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. used two general obligation bonds totaling $4 million to pay for the new computers. The two bonds were issued at different times during 2014 — the first one for five years at 1.61 percent interest and the second one was for five years at 1.76 percent interest.
Cost of the individual computers:
- iPad: $400 to $600
- Chromebooks: $300
- Windows laptop: $500