Chromebook classrooms could be a future possibility

When is a classroom not a classroom?

When the classroom is a computer.

Duncan Public Schools is planning on heavily incorporating technology into most high school classes over the next few years. A major part of this technology initiative is to provide every high school student and teacher with a Chromebook computer, in addition to a district-wide technological overhaul which is already taking place.

The plans to incorporate technology into high school curriculum go far beyond lending every student a computer, however. In fact, the district is planning on making major changes

to the way classes work.
According to high school principal

Justin Smith, the plan is for a “digital classroom” to start taking the place of some aspects of traditional school.

“Our goal is for the lessons to revolve around the Chromebooks,” he said. “We want it to be a digital classroom where you email your lessons in, you email homework in and tests are online a lot of the times. There will be a place for paper and pencil, quizzes and things like that, but this is just another resource in our toolbox that we are going to use to reach our students.”

David Altom, district technology coordinator and network administrator, elaborated on what that kind of digital classroom might look

like.
“You can go home, still exist in your

classroom. You will have a school- given email account, so you’re going to have your own duncanps.org account, and the teacher will communicate with you that way. Assignments can be put out there, videos, all kinds of things,” he said. “You’re going to see a major change in the way the classroom is structured over the next two to three years as the teachers get acclimated.”

These proposed changes are made possible by Google. Earlier this school year, the district changed its digital framework to run primarily off of Google programs

Now that the district is using these programs, known as the Google ecosystem, it has access to a digital classroom environment.

According to Altom, the Google ecosystem is allowing the district to take advantage of these programs without being a drain on the school’s money.

“Because we’re now in the Google ecosystem, we have free access to all of the Google apps,” Altom said. “These are things that would normally cost a district a lot of money. There’s lots of services out there that offer a virtual classroom environment, but they charge you per student to access them. But this is all free.”

In addition to enabling the district’s long-term education plans, the Google ecosystem is helping administrators and teachers communicate across the district, according to district superintendent Melonie Hau.

“When I first came into the district, there wasn’t a way for all of us to be connected. For instance, I wasn’t able to share my calendar with Mrs. Lee, who is the board clerk and administrative assistant,” she said. “And now, since we’ve gone to Google, we’re able to share documents and share calendars.”

Along with the switch to Google, a large step toward accomplishing technological integration is to provide all teachers across the district and all high school students with individual Chromebooks. However, while the students may have to wait a while to receive their computers, the teachers should be getting theirs very soon, according to Altom.

“They’re on the way,” he said. “They’ve been bought.”

The administrators, Smith included, feel that teachers should get the Chromebooks first so that they can be comfortable with integrating them into their classes.

“Whatwewanttodoisgetitinthe hands of teachers to make sure they know how to use it before we introduce them to students,” he said.

The administration isn’t sure when the district will be able to get Chromebooks for the high school students. According to Altom, the schedule for the students’

computers is still tentative.
“It could be spring, we’re not sure

yet,” he said. “What we want to do is make sure we don’t rush it, because any time you rush something, you get sloppy with it.”

Money is also a big issue with the Chromebooks. The money the district is using to pay for the computers is technology bond money, which must be used for technology, according to Hau.

Smith commented on the fact that this money must be used on technology initiatives, even though the district has been taking major budget cuts recently.

“There are a lot of questions about, if we’re cutting teachers and in such a budget crunch, why are we buying a certain amount of Chromebooks or whatever,” he said. “But we have to use that money for technology, so that’s why that’s like it is.”

Even with this bond money, though, the district doesn’t have all the funds necessary to provide every high school student with a Chromebook, according to Hau.

“We have some money to start, but we don’t have all the money to complete the final deployment like we dream of doing,” she said. “We’re working with our DPS foundation and other community groups to help us move forward.”

This problem is compounded, she said, by the fact that some of the district’s technology money is going to other projects, such as new computers to replace some of the school’s outdated ones.

The district has big plans to revolutionize the way classrooms operate. However, there are also plenty of hurdles to jump before those plans get fullyrealized.

Mrs. Hau says that, whatever the challenges, the district is commited to these technological changes because that’s what the community wants.

“I think the community wants students to have more access to technology. So putting all of that together, for me, meant that that was something we needed to wrap a plan around and an initiative around,” she said.