The Sumner School District has bought up 1,500 Google Chromebook laptops as part of a “cutting edge” technology initiative for third and fourth grade students.
In 2007, voters approved a $114 million capital projects bond issuance for the modernization, expansion and improvement of six district campuses. Five years later in October 2012, a modernized Maple Lawn Elementary School opened its doors and concluded the “Promises Made, Promises Kept” renovation campaign. Approximately $4.9 million remained in the projects fund, available for other approved investments in education.
At an Aug. 14 meeting, the school board approved the district’s three-year technology plan and, with it, the initiative to put netbooks into the hands of students. The idea was to eliminate the shortcomings of computer labs, carts and other methods that divide a small number of machines amongst a large body of students.
“When we want to look up something, we want to look it up that moment,” said Sandy Maynard, the district’s chief technology officer. “Not three days later when it’s your class’s day in the computer lab.”
Chromebooks are laptops that run on a Linux-powered and browser-based operating system. They lean heavily — almost completely — on Internet cloud computing: hard disk software is replaced by browser-based apps and Google encourages users to store files on its cloud drive. Consequently, the machines are light and cheap; the Samsung models purchased by the school sell for $249 a unit on the retail market. Wireless internet bandwidth has been “beefed up” on every elementary campus in the district except Donald Eismann, Maynard said.
“I’ve had a chance to see kids with these before and it’s amazing to see how quickly they adapt,” Superintendent Sara Johnson said. “It will be interesting to see how many teachers are native users … I think kids will be teaching teachers.”
Johnson and Maynard immediately foresaw the laptop’s classroom applications for assignment sharing through Google Drive, and for meeting Common Core standards for online testing beginning in 2015. Applications beyond those will be up to teacher experimentation.
Teachers will be meeting at the district office Friday morning for an introduction to the new laptops.