TCEA 2019: Texas District Tackles 1:1 Chromebooks in Junior High Schools

District leaders set the stage for success with extensive logistical planning, including overnight storage in classrooms.

Richardson Independent School District leaders knew they wanted to expand their one-to-one Chromebook program into junior high, but they wanted to do so without using carts. That necessitated creative thinking and logistical planning to figure out the best way for students to keep their devices at school overnight and pick them up each morning. 

Making the initiative more complex, Dallas-area RISD is huge, with 54 campuses, eight junior high schools and approximately 40,000 students. 

Database Coordinator Samantha Hernandez discussed RISD’s junior high one-to-one program on Tuesday at the Texas Computer Education Association’s annual convention in San Antonio. She was joined by Jessica Sloan, the district's world languages director, and by Laura Bond, Meredith Schnick and Joel Fisher, who each work at a different RISD junior high school. 

They presented “Thinking Outside the Cart: 1:1 Junior High Chromebook Panel.” 

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District Chooses Classroom Storage Over Carts for HP Chromebooks

RISD’s high school students take their devices home at night, but district leaders wanted to go a different route for seventh and eighth graders, who are using the HP Chromebook G5 Education Edition model. Instead of buying carts, leaders wanted to use that money for more devices, software and support staff. 

The other drawback to carts, for RISD, is that many of its older classrooms are small, so there isn’t much classroom space to store carts. 

The district landed on a system in which students pick up their Chromebooks from a designated classroom each morning and return them there every afternoon. Figuring out the details, however, took work.

For each junior high campus, “we helped each principal walk through what this looks like,” Hernandez said. 

One school has a late athletics period, for instance, and leaders knew they didn’t want Chromebooks in the gym or other athletics facilities

“What works for one campus with one population of students may not work for another, but as long as they’ve thought through those questions and planned for contingencies,” they could create the best plan for their campus, Hernandez said.

At Bond’s campus, with an enrollment of 700, students go to their eighth-period classroom every morning to collect their Chromebooks and then go to their first-period class. That way, at the end of the day, the devices end up back in their designated storage area. If students have an athletic period in the morning, they go there first and then collect Chromebooks from their eighth-period classroom before going to second period.

“At the beginning of the year, it’s a puzzle” as administrators sort through the master schedule, Bond said. “We don’t pass them out until the second week of school, so we have a week to get organized.”

Bond’s school also requires students to keep Chromebooks in their backpacks when they aren’t using them, except for certain portions of lunchtime, in an effort to keep them safe and sound. That’s another example of customization: Schnick’s and Fisher’s campuses don’t allow students to carry backpacks, so the district provides cases for the Chromebooks. 

K–12 One-to-One Programs Must Address Chargers and Repairs

RISD also had to figure out how to handle chargers. When one junior high piloted the one-to-one program, chargers emerged as a problem: Students took them home at night and often lost them, didn’t bring the Chromebooks to school fully charged or were busy trying to charge the devices during class. 

Now, students leave chargers at school, and the Chromebooks are ready to go when students collect the devices each morning.

Not having carts also meant, of course, that teachers had to figure out how to store the devices in their classrooms. The district left that decision up to each teacher, so each could decide what would work best for his or her room.

“The solutions are as individual as the teacher,” Sloan said. “That was kind of the beauty of it.”

Teachers also have learned that Chromebooks are subject to the same type of classroom management that existed before, Schnick said: “You still need classroom management with devices.” 

For example, teachers have to set rules and expectations such as whether students should have their Chromebooks open or closed when class begins. 

To manage necessary repairs, RISD created a quick troubleshooting guide for students and an online form where students can report problems. Weekly, a technician from the device vendor visits each campus, where there are designated spaces to work on devices.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Three ways K–12 schools can transform instruction with Chromebooks.

Advanced Planning Helped RISD’s One-to-One Initiative Succeed

One reason the program has worked so well, Sloan said, is that RISD spent significant time helping teachers and principals think through logistics and lesson plans before the devices ever showed up — in fact, even before the bond money was approved to purchase them.

“We were very intentional about preparing and saying, ‘What does this look like logistically? What does a lesson look like in your classroom with tech?’ and we did that for a very long time,” Sloan said. “We were intentional in having campuses think about every possible scenario.” 

Now, said Schnick, the Chromebooks are fully integrated into day-to-day learning. “Almost every teacher uses them almost every single day in the classroom, for assignments and class projects,” she said. “Our teachers have bought in.”

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