Southern Wells getting wired for new school year

June 21, 2013

By CHET BAUMGARTNER

Southern Wells high school students are returning to school in August with laptops, after school board members in May unanimously voted  to implement a one-to-one digital learning initiative.
The school will buy 500 Google Chromebooks to distribute to each student and teacher.
The laptop, Principal Chad Yencer said, essentially functions like a web browser.
Through it and the Google-based cloud — an online storage service — students can use their devices to read through lessons and online text resources, create and refine homework, presentations and notes, and view complementary multimedia content from anywhere they can connect to the Internet.
Also, Yencer said, students can access work and classroom materials online from any computer.
Finally, teachers and students can use the “exploding” Chrome Web store, which offers online applications, similar to computer software, for word processing, spreadsheets, video recording and editing, and similar “core” classroom tools, Yencer said.
Other applications offer specialized tools — such as a graphing calculator  — to accommodate students with different learning styles.
One application, for instance, allows teachers to record verbal feedback on students’ work.
Ultimately, Yencer told board members, the school’s one-to-one initiative gives students and staff more than a computer.
Among the goals Yencer presented, for instance, administrators want to “increase student engagement,” “empower students to do their own learning,” and “teach students to apply digital tools to gather, evaluate and use information.”
“We wouldn’t use a computer just for the sake of using a computer,” Yencer said. “We want to have a purpose.
“This is not about the Chromebook; it’s about what’s on the Web. To me, this Web-central idea is huge.”
Yencer said Southern Wells will offer teachers three days of paid professional development, funded through a grant, this summer as well as the normal two days of training at the beginning of the school year.
School officials visited about four schools and spoke with staff at about another 12 before deciding on the Chromebook, and the director of the Google Chromebook initiative said about 3,000 districts nationwide use the device.
At Northern Wells, administrators are still investigating the plethora of devices available, but Superintendent Scott Mills said he wants the district to commit to a device in August.
He wants to introduce the one-to-one concept to Northern Wells by the 2014-2015 school year. υ

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