Chromebooks Add Shine to SHS Classrooms
If the mere term "physics" can inspire dry-mouthed fear in many, imagine if a python was thrown into the classroom mix. Just such a crazy sounding juxtaposition occurred last week in a Summit High School physics classroom. Teacher Jeremy Morman was explaining the intricacies of projectile motion to a freshman class, when an innovative student, opened his fresh-out-of-the-box Chromebook and started writing his own Python code (a versatile programming language) to solve projectile problems.
The era of the Chromebook at Summit High School began in mid-October, as 330 of the Google-based devices were distributed to the freshman class. Underwritten by a $360,000 grant from SEF, the Chromebook program will be expanded to the sophomores in January 2016. The Chromebook is laptop-like in physical design, but differs from its competitors because it does not require an operating system or software to be installed in the unit. Instead, users need only an internet connection and a Google account to access word processing, spreadsheet programs and any apps they seek via the Google cloud. All work-product is saved in the cloud, negating the need for memory in each individual Chromebook. Students can complete homework in a Google app, and teachers can view online to see that the work was done.
While a successful iPad program was launched at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School in January 2014, and funded by two SEF grants totaling $268,000, Doug Orr, the head of the District's Technology Department, and SHS administrators, thought it best to go
with a device other than the iPad at the high school level.
For starters, Chromebooks lend themselves well to a wide range of uses that complement the High School curriculum, from data collection for science labs to collaboration on documents through apps like Google Classroom. Also,
the Chromebook at $280 per unit costs significantly less than the iPad. In addition, Stacey Grimaldi, assistant principal at SHS, said that by casting the technology net further, Summit students get the opportunity to experience a variety of technology options, better preparing them for what they might experience in the workplace or at higher education institutions.
Though it has only been a few weeks since the first set of Chromebooks was distributed, initial feedback from students, teachers and parents has been very positive. Physics teacher Morman, encouraged by the impromptu Python/ projectile episode described above, said, "The [Chromebook] in this case was a tool for creative learning, which will be [students'] most valuable use in the classroom."
Spanish language teacher Gilda Spiotta is similarly enthusiastic about the possibilities the Chromebook offers to the learning environment. "Using technology more creatively in class opens up the walls of the classroom and the minds of all of us." She added, "So many new programs have put educators and students on a level playing field: we are all on a steep learning curve and that tickles the mind and energizes!"
Many parents reported that the Chromebooks alleviated the gridlock surrounding home computers when multiple students need to get homework done. There has also been much positive buzz that if a home printer isn't working (as is often the case when a big project needs printing) and an assignment cannot be printed, the teacher can log in and see that the work was indeed done in a timely fashion. In these early days of the Chromebook, perhaps the highest praise from parents thus far has been the lack of need for them to be involved with setting up the unit. Parent Jen Isralowitz had this to say about her freshman son's experience, "[He] received the Chromebook and I never heard another word about it. He just incorporated its use into his daily school activities without much fanfare. In our house, if there is no complaint about something school related, it is a big win."
If all continues according to the District's plan, current juniors will receive Chromebooks in fall of 2016, at the beginning of their senior year, as will the current 8th
graders who will then comprise the new freshman class. With the first leg of the Chromebook launch complete, Doug Orr, the District Tech head, expressed his gratitude to SEF. "One thing that I would say to the SEF donors and parents in the district is that their efforts make a tremendous difference for our students. So many times, as we have distributed the devices, both parents and their students have expressed overwhelming gratitude for this opportunity. I, myself, cannot thank the SEF enough for their support of this and numerous other programs."
-Article by Nicolette Chin