September 18, 2014

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Avon Lake 4th-graders get Chromebooks for school year

AVON LAKE — Every fourth-grader in Avon Lake Schools will receive a Google Chromebook this year as part of a pilot program aimed at transforming the classrooms via technology.

The Board of Education this week approved spending $100,000 to purchase 325 of the devices, which are similar to small laptop computers, for all four of Avon Lake’s elementary schools.

According to Superintendent Robert Scott, the devices will be paid for with $40,000 in gifts from individual and business sources, $30,000 from instructional resource funds and $30,000 divided among the district’s four elementary discretionary budgets.

During a telephone interview, Scott said students will use Google Chromebooks with lessons teachers present on an interactive whiteboard in their classrooms.

“We are always looking at better ways to have classroom instruction, and technology is a big part of that in this day in age,” Scott said. “There’s a variety of ways we can use these devices, and that’s a part of what we’re going to explore this year. We know we can do e-books, we know there are apps and we know students can interact with the lessons teachers are presenting on the whiteboard in the classroom.”

Scott said students will have access to the devices only during school hours. The fourth grade was chosen for the pilot program because it is the last year teachers engage students across multiple disciplines, Scott said.

Google Chromebooks also will allow for online standardized testing instead of traditional pencil and paper bubble tests. District technology director Scott Wuensch said one of the biggest challenges computerized testing presents is that students might be unfamiliar with the testing device.

“It’s kind of like how it would be hard to take a traditional test if you didn’t know how to use the pencil,” Wuensch said during a telephone interview.

Having fourth-graders using a Google Chromebook will expose children to real-world technology they’ll encounter out of school, Wuensch said, and technology, whether whiteboards in classrooms or individual devices for students, is changing the way children learn.

“This is just another piece of the puzzle in progressing forward with technology’s daily use and how to deliver content,” Wuensch said. “We’re going to see how this affects students as they become more fluent at using a computer at an earlier age.”

Scott said getting technology into the hands of students at an early age is important as schools move farther into the 21st century. He said the district will re-evaluate the fourth-grade pilot program next year to determine whether the devices should expand to include students in other grades.

But Wuensch was quick to point out that technological advancements can’t be forced on teachers or students by the technology department.

“Our interactive whiteboards were a teacher-driven initiative that was great for our students,” he said. “This is another one of those initiatives where enough teachers have gotten behind it, and realized how convenient it is.”

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or jwysochanski@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski.