posted Sep 26, 2014, 1:02 PM by BGPS Web
updated Feb 6, 2015, 2:39 PM
Chromebooks a game changer for bgPs
September 26, 2014
Chromebooks a Game Changer for BGPS
The mobile devices foster collaborative learning and help BGPS administer online state tests to every student in district
Technology, infrastructure, and state testing requirements have come together in Battle Ground Public Schools to create a perfect storm of web-based learning that will hit the district's classrooms beginning next week.
That's when the district's technology department will begin delivering carts filled with Chromebook computers—2,400 in all—to every school in the district. The mobile device looks like a lightweight laptop, except that it is used specifically to work online or in the Cloud through the district's secure network.
The 2,400 Chromebooks will be distributed evenly to primary, middle, and high schools. The Chromebooks are stored in rolling carts that each hold 30 devices and keep them charged. Teachers will be able to reserve and check out the mobile devices.
Students and teachers will use the Chromebooks for collaborative learning projects, and students in third through eighth and eleventh grades will use them to take new state-mandated tests,
which are only administered online beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
These tests include the new Smarter Balanced Assessments, which are based on the new learning standards that Washington adopted and uses to assess student performance across the state. The Smarter Balanced Assessments measure student progress in the subjects of English language arts and math.
Training is available for teachers who use the devices in their classrooms. One teacher at every school is part of a professional development group called The Academy. Academy members have advanced technology skills and receive additional compensation to train their fellow teachers on how to effectively use technology in the classroom.
At Amboy Middle School, Academy member Melissa Theis teaches English and language arts to seventh graders. Besides using Chromebooks in her classroom for poetry and other projects, students use them to learn the how-tos of having an email account. Theis also uses Google Apps for Education to grade her students' writing papers. She can add comments, how-to videos, or her own voice to a student's document to help them before the rewriting process, enabling them to get a better grade on the final assignment. "My students are learning more than just basic computer skills, they are learning to feel comfortable with technology," Theis said.
Academy member Kayla Verpoorten, a second grade teacher at Tukes Valley Primary, has used iPads, desktop computers, and Chromebooks in her classroom. Last year her students used Chromebooks for an insect research project. Students worked in groups to create presentations in Google apps.
Students then shared a document and helped each other type information about their insect in the online application. Students learned how to insert pictures into their presentations and how to use the Google apps research tool, which let them search the web for information to add to their project. "Student engagement is a huge success when using Chromebooks," Verpoorten said. "The students love using them and put 100 percent into their projects."
One of the central components of the new state learning standards is collaborative learning. Google Apps and Chromebooks are ideally suited for that, said Scott McDaniel, BGPS's Director of Technology. "The Google interface is intuitive, it isn't something that slows you down. You don't have to learn it," he said. "We want kids to work together and create content without those barriers to learning, and this solution helps them do just that."
It took three years for the district to get to this point. When Washington set the deadline by which schools had to implement online testing to this year, BGPS began weighing its options. Three key factors played into the decision to purchase Chromebooks for use with assessment: capability, supportability, and affordability.
A district technology advisory committee comprised of parents, teachers, technical staff, and administrators debated between iPads and Chromebooks for some time, but ultimately the group chose Chromebooks because they offered the best functionality for learning and assessment. At $279 each, the Chromebooks also provided a more affordable solution than iPads or laptops. The district used dedicated levy funds to pay the total cost of the new equipment.
In its discussions, the committee quickly ruled out desktop computers as a possible solution because of space. "We just don't have the physical space to put 30 computers in every classroom," McDaniel said. But that doesn't mean the desktop computers that schools already have will be forgotten. Teachers still use desktops for educational programs in the classroom as well as district email, assessments, and monitoring student progress. "There will always be a need for different kinds of tools," McDaniel said. "The world we live in is about finding the right tool for the job."
The district is transitioning to mobile computing because of an overall technology shift to mobile devices and Cloud or web-based applications on the market. To get ready for this project, the district has built a strong wireless network over the last three years that provides secure, controlled Internet access, as well as a foundation for future growth. "We have a great infrastructure and a great professional development program, and now we have the devices to really advance student learning," McDaniel said.