(From left, David Fann, Madi Smithbaker, Cierra Winslow and Emma Estep utilize technology in one of their classes. Smithbaker brought her own Apple laptop to use, while the rest utilized the school’s new Chromebooks. Joshua Scheer photo.)
(Lander, Wyo.) – Lander Valley High School seniors and teachers are changing the way many classes work this year through the use of Chromebook computers supplied by the school district.
Tech Director Chris Brown and Instructional Technology Facilitator Carrie Johnson have helped spearhead the effort to get technology used in the classroom. Starting last year, seniors were encouraged to bring their own devices to the school but this is the first semester the school district has helped to provide devises for those who can’t bring their own.
For students who can’t bring their own iPads or laptops to use in class, the district has purchased 112 Chromebooks. Chromebooks are small laptops that are for web-based computing using Google’s Chrome browser. The devises cost $225 each.
Johnson said she has taken her classes completely paperless, and the use of technology has changed the way she and the students work. Using Google’s cloud-based applications like Google Docs and Google Drive, the students can collaborate on projects together online and access their work from other devices from anywhere.
“I’m stoked,” Johnson said. “I’ve wanted this for years.”
Brown said the students can also turn in projects and homework electronically, allowing teachers to grade from any computer without the need to carry home stacks of paper.
The Chromebooks remain owned by the school, but students can take them anywhere and use at home outside of class. Brown said this helps to break down the walls of the school and extends the education experience outside of the physical building. An example he gave was seeing his daughter meeting with classmates about a project using Google Hangouts, a video chat application.
The use of the Chromebooks, Johnson said, has also freed up the school’s computer labs for more computing-intensive projects beyond reading and typing, which can now be done in the classroom.
While Johnson and Brown said there are some teachers who don’t utilize the technology, they are hoping in the coming years every student in the school will have their own device to use. By January, the pair hopes for every teacher to have their own Chromebook as well.
Both said there have been minimal behavioral issues with students using the Chromebooks. The school’s wireless Internet connections have content filters that keep inappropriate sites and distractors unaccessible. However, Brown said the best filter is the teacher. Johnson agreed, saying its not too difficult to tell when students are off task.
Ultimately, Brown said the use of technology will help the students adjust to life outside of high school, noting the growing use of cloud-based computing in colleges and the workforce.
Brown also said, as the Tech Director, the cheapening of cloud-based computing is changing the way he looks at technological purchases for the district.