Ninth through 12th graders at DeKalb County High School will soon see modern technology in the classrooms — and in their hands.
Chrome Books will be issued to each of the students at the high school to begin the new school year. Sixth to 8th graders at DeKalb Middle School and DeKalb West School will get Chrome Books later in the school year.
Through these one to one laptop devices, students will be able to access the Internet, digital course materials and digital textbooks. By providing students their own notebook computer or tablet, the school is making it possible for students to find information instantly to produce rich multimedia content.
“We’re excited. We set as a goal to make available to our students the technology they need in the classroom. We hope this will keep students engaged and give them more opportunities to expand their learning and critical thinking,” Director of Schools Patrick Cripps told WJLE Friday.
While Chrome Books will not totally replace textbooks, they will add a new dimension to the students’ learning experience. “A textbook is just a resource and it shouldn’t be the only guide we use. That’s why we are excited about this new technology because it brings more resources into the classroom. For example, I sat in a third grade class (in another district) where the students, as part of their lesson, got to experience what it is like to take a plane ride to travel to a different country and learn its culture. They got to experience that through this technology. It gives it a different spin than just reading it in black and white in a textbook,” Director Cripps said.
Students will be assigned a Chrome Book through all their years at the high school, but for now they will not be allowed to take them home. Students will pick up their Chrome Books each morning and turn them back in at the end of the school day. “ These are laptops. They are portable so the students will be taking them from class to class. At this time we are going to keep them (devices) at school. We are discussing the possibility of letting the students take them home at night but for now we’re baby stepping this,” said Director Cripps.
The laptops use Google Classroom, a blended learning platform developed by Google for schools that simplifies creating, distributing and grading assignments in a paperless way. Google Classroom combines Google Drive for assignment creation and distribution, Google Documents, Sheets and Slides for writing, Gmail for communication, and Google Calendar for scheduling. Each class creates a separate folder in the respective user's Drive, where the student can submit work to be graded by a teacher. Teachers can check the progress of each student through the technology, and after being graded, can return work, with comments, for the student to revise and improve the assignment. Teachers who must miss a school day due to sickness or other reasons can have a lesson plan prepared using the technology for a substitute to carry out in their absence. Go Guardian software also enables teachers to monitor student activity online and to filter any potentially harmful or distracting content.
According to Dr. Kathy Bryant, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12, the Chrome Books have arrived at a good time in that all high school students will be state tested on-line for the first time this year. “We must have a device for each of them in order to go through the testing,” she said.
“This is what the students are going to be tested on so they need to become familiar with that device so that when it comes time to test they will be able to take that device and not be intimidated with it. They don’t need to be working with a computer they have never touched before. This will be their computer. They will be assigned this device and it will be their baby for the four years they are in high school,” added Director Cripps.
“We are actually doing a pilot with our 9th grade Algebra I classes and we’re anxious to see if that turns our test scores around in the Algebra classes with the addition of the new technology,” he said.
Director Cripps said he would like to see the schools eventually offer “flipped classrooms”, an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional educational arrangement by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom. “This has really got me intrigued but it would require us to send them (Chrome Books) home. I am really interested in this concept of “flipping the classroom” which would allow the teacher, instead of sending homework home, to lecture on-line at night while the student is at home and have the student do their work during the day at school while they are with the teacher”.
As with textbooks, students and parents will be responsible for the Chrome Books and could be required to pay for replacing them if they are damaged through carelessness or neglect. They will be asked to sign an agreement adhering to the proper use and care of Chrome Books assigned to them.
“We don’t have them (Chrome Books) insured. Everybody we’ve talked to has told us the cost to maintain and repair them is cheaper than the cost of keeping them insured. But we have talked to other districts and they have said you would be amazed how careful the kids are with those devices because they appreciate having them,” said Director Cripps.
Dr. Bryant said students who don’t have access to a computer or the Internet at home should not be concerned. “I know parents will have a lot of questions, such as how can you expect my child to do homework, without a device at home? We are working with our teachers to be mindful of that and to understand that there are students who don’t have a computer or access to the Internet at home. We are working through all of that and we won’t require students to do anything they don’t have access to. We will not limit them in that way,” she said.
The school system spent $300,000 from the 2016-17 budget to purchase 900 Chrome Books for the high school. This year’s budget includes technology funds to buy Chrome Books for 6th to 8th graders to be provided later in the school year.
“It’s an expense but we’re excited that the school board and the county commission allowed us to purchase them. The county mayor also worked with us to buy these computers to help our students. We are appreciative to all of them and for the support of our teachers and community,” said Director Cripps.