Next year, a fifth-grade class at Kirby’s Mill Elementary School is going to be trading in its pens and paper for computers.
Kirby’s Mill principal Mark Damon and fifth-grade teacher Andrew Reuter presented a proposed “One to World” classroom where a fifth-grade class will use Google Chromebooks as the preferred tool for learning.
Damon said the premise of the pilot program is to have students use technology throughout the school day. Currently, students are typically only using computers during technology classes.
“Students are very excited to go to tech lab,” Damon said. “Why are we limiting devices to one hour per week?”
Reuter’s fifth-grade class will be transformed into a 21st century learning environment. Lessons and assignments will be done interactively through the Chromebooks. Reuter explained how the new technology will increase his engagement with the students, better their skills with technology and expand their creativity.
As part of the program, the class will use Google Docs to keep track of assignments and grades. Google Hangouts can be used as a studying tool or for students to communicate with classmates or others from different locations. Other apps will also help enhance the classroom experience.
In addition, the new devices will be compliant with the new PARCC test and can easily be implemented as a tool in teaching the new Common Core curriculum.
With technology becoming a larger presence in society, Damon said it is important for students to begin using technology every day.
“It’s something we need, it’s something we can’t live without,” he said. “It’s necessary.”
Before presenting the pilot program to school administrators, Damon and others traveled to Hillsborough Township School District in central New Jersey to see how the tablet devices were used in the classroom. In preparation for the pilot program, school officials have also been communicating with the Maple Shade School District and Marlton Middle School, where device-based programs are already implemented.
While some districts such as Hillsborough are using tablets, Damon said Medford will be taking a different approach with the Chromebook. Numerous devices were looked at before making the decision.
“The Chromebook seemed to lend itself most to what we wanted to achieve,” he said.
Among its many features, the Chromebook has the battery life to last an entire school day, has a web-based management system to allow information technology officials to access it at any time and costs just $249.
The pilot program itself will not be included in the district’s budget. Damon said the entire program is being paid for through building funds.
Following the presentation to the Board of Education, the feedback was generally positive, but some members were concerned about security. The district is looking at ways to troubleshoot issues as they arise.
“We are building in some safeguards in case something doesn’t work,” Damon said.
Damon added the pilot is being rolled out in just one class because there’s likely to be snags in the beginning. However, he said he hopes the program is successful and any potential issues will be solved, allowing other classes and district schools to eventually roll out the program.
“The hope is that this will grow larger, and we’ll have already made the mistakes,” Damon said.