What does it take for a rural Texas school district to make the leap to one-to-one Chromebooks?
Barbers Hill Independent School District’s technology director Katie Russell led a session Wednesday at the Texas Computer Education Association 2015 Convention and Exposition where she shared the surprising, tradition-shirking journey her district embarked on when it decided to upgrade its student notebooks to Acer Chromebooks.
Since 2004, the southeast Texas district had used a traditional one-to-one notebook policy, allowing students to take the devices home. But by 2012, the equipment was aging and in need of an upgrade. Before making immediate plans to purchase new devices, the district gathered data by surveying students about their computer needs and habits.
One piece of data from the survey results changed the course of the district's technology plans, Russell told the gathering at TCEA 2015.
"We found out that a great deal of students already had a device at home," she says. “For a school district, it’s often hard to compete with what mom and dad can get them.”
Using that data, the school system decided to change its device policy and upgrade from older notebooks to Google Chromebooks. Russell says the functionality of Chromebooks impressed her, but the real selling point was the price.
EdTech is covering TCEA 2015, including articles on breakout sessions, keynotes and the pulse on social media. Keep up-to-date on all of our coverage by visiting our TCEA 2015 conference page.
The new device policy requires these Chromebooks to stay on campus. Although, students who don't have access to notebooks at home can still check out older devices for overnight use.
"I don't have Chromebooks for checking out. I just don't have enough — the kids love them," Russell says.
Barbers Hill High School was the first school in the district to get the new Chromebooks. In the year and a half since the school district adopted the new policy, only roughly 20 students have checked notebooks out, says Russell.
"Having a one-to-one program take-home unit, it is a bragging right, I suppose. But what is our focus? Student success," she says. "What is it as educators, what are we doing during the day that requires them to have that unit when they go home?"
The new devices are tied to particular classrooms. One benefit, according to Russell, is that the notebooks suffer less wear and tear over time. Much of the damage to the older devices occurred at school when they were in transport between classes or at lunch, she says. Now, students use a borrowed Chromebook in one classroom then stow it away at the end of class. When they move on to the next class, they log in with another Chromebook in that room.
Barbers Hill’s Chromebook policy differs from the solutions many other school districts use — particularly with the growing adoption of flipped- and blended-learning techniques. Classes that use for these teaching methods require students to do some online learning activities at home, then return to school ready for hands-on learning sessions.
However, Russell says her staff examined the issue and determined keeping notebook-based work at school was the right decision for their district. She added that the looming end-of-class deadline for notebook use may help keep students on-task.
"You may also find that students will be a little more focused, because now they're thinking 'Man, I've got to get this done,'" Russell says.