Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson announced Thursday each middle school student would get the opportunity to receive a Chromebook laptop at the start of school next week.
It’s part of the district’s 1-to-1 – or one device for every one student – initiative.
The initiative provides the opportunity for each sixth- through eighth-grade student at Walter J. Baird Middle School and Winfree-Bryant Middle School to have the use of a laptop to complete coursework and add an enhanced educational experience at home and school.
Benson said if parents choose to participate in the optional program, they must attend a technology night at the student’s school, agree to the district’s responsible use policy and pay a $30 technology use fee. He said more information would be provided to parents about specific dates and times during registration Monday.
During the Chromebook rollout, parents and students will watch a video explaining policies, procedures and expectations, and administrators will be on hand to answer any questions, Benson said. After signing a responsible use policy and paying the $30 fee, the student will receive a laptop and a protective sleeve. Students and families will then be ready to use the learning tool during the school year.
“Technology plays a key role in a student’s current learning process and future career path,” Benson said. “We want to do everything we can to prepare our students for their future and believe this initiative is an important step in that direction.”
During the prior school year, the Lebanon Board of Education voted to buy 10 Chromebook laptops for experimentation and feedback from teachers and students.
The Chromebook is a small laptop with an Internet browser that uses Google Apps for Education to increase collaboration among students and teachers and provides a safe and filtered Internet resource at home and school, Benson said.
“The responses to the devices were overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “Teachers reported students were more engaged when using a laptop and students said that learning was fun. Students and teachers were excited to have the laptops to use and wanted more.”
In response, the board ordered three mobile Chromebook labs for each of the six schools. This effort placed an additional 510 devices in the school district.
Teachers utilizing these laptops for instruction allowed for students to work at different paces and also allowed for students to collaborate on projects more easily. “One school reported a student who had stayed home sick but, during the time she knew her partners were working on their project, she logged in from home so that she could still participate,” Benson said. “Although students and staff were excited about the additional technology, they were still asking for more. As well, throughout the year, district technology members conducted multiple meetings with students, parents and various other stakeholders to discuss the technology initiative and receive feedback.”
For the upcoming school year, the middle schools will begin their digital conversion, and the mobile Chromebook labs currently housed there will be moved to the elementary schools. Each elementary school will now have five mobile Chromebook labs in addition to their current computer labs, Benson said.
“Clearly, a technological initiative such as this requires significant preparation,” he said. “District teams of LSSD educators have visited nationally known leaders for implementing digital conversions in Baldwin County in Alabama and Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina to meet and discuss the impact of 1-to-1 technology on student achievement, the learning process, student engagement, professional development and the implementation plan.
“Administrators and teachers have continually researched the impact of technology on learning and were thrilled with their findings.”
Benson said during the prior school year, teachers were provided their own Chromebook device, attended professional development on numerous aspects of using technology in the classroom and have already implemented many of the learning strategies.
Benson credits the board with understanding the role of technology and supporting the district’s digital conversion.
“We are all thrilled about the technological advances in our district,” he said. “We are excited about the challenges and opportunities these technology devices are going to bring not only to our middle school students and families, but also what these additional devices are going to do for our elementary students. Technology engages students in the learning process. It is an exciting time to be in education.”