Chromebooks will allow Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) to get closer to high-tech fever, which is crossing the country with a vengeance. In September, students will get their first look at the new education tool.
A lightweight laptop computer will enable middle-school students to access school work and even text books via the internet. In fact the only thing the Chromebook will do is access the internet to use education based apps. However, the laptops will be unable to access unsavory or violent content on the internet.
Parents have already been able to access, by computer, parent notifications since 2006; student fees; a student information system and a bus routing system among other online features offered by CCPS.
Students will not have the option to opt out, According to Bermuda District School Board Member, Carrie Coyner.
The Infocus projection system was the most expensive at $593,000, in 2009 until this year when two more computer systems were added at just over $1 million.
The new laptops will help CCPS deal with unfunded mandates, or a lack of state funding, passed down from Virginia’s General Assembly such as a requirement that all SOL assessment be taken online (Chromebook have yet to be approved for SOLs); the Economics and Personal Finance mandate that require all students to take the course before graduating from high school; required online course; institution of certification test for standard diploma; Virginia’s Department of Education has identified CCPS as a multi –divisional online course provider, and the required intervention services for schools warned of achievement gap interventions.
But why Chromebooks? According to CCPS Anytime Learning program Google’s operation system is already deeply integrated with schools existing Google apps for education, and the devices are low cost. Batteries that last all day is helpful, while the operating system updates automatically and is safe for kids on the internet.
But don’t get carried away. According to Coyner, the Board must get a good price on the computers.
“So long as the RFP comes back within the projected budget for technology, the program will definitely start in the Fall,” Ms. Coyner said.
There are only two operation systems that will work easily with Chromebooks; the Chromebook itself, and the Windows operating system.
According to the Southwest Times, Virginia Superintendant of Public Instruction, Pat Wright, said last week, in Pulaski, VA., “I think the technology we rolled out today fits nicely with the way students learn now. You have to reach students in the ways they enjoy learning, they are motivated and encouraged when they use devices at school that are similar to what they use at home.”
Funding in this atmosphere of funding cuts, CCPS is claiming that when other technology currently in place is eliminated the expense side of the ledger will go up and negates the cost of the Chromebooks program.
Initially the program will cost about two percent of the budget until the high schools join the program and the percentage goes up to five-and-a-half percent of school’s annual budget. CCPS is currently accounting with a $7 million shortfall on a $5.35 million budget.
Yet, CCPS indicates in its computer budget that the program will be a zero-sum game.
But still, according to the CCPS presentation last week, the program will be less expensive for parents. Eighth-grade supplies required cost about $110 per year whereas the usage fee for the Chromebook will be $50 and a few additional supplies will cost parents about $30 per school year.
CCPS is working with a number of churches, restaurants and schools to provide internet wi-fi to those students who do not have the internet at home. Blended Learning to the catch phrase for the new laptop program.
Once middle school students and high school students have transitioned to the new Chromebooks, CCPS will evaluate the program and decide what may be appropriate for elementary school students.
A good place to get the entire information on the Chromebook program is: https://sites.google.com/a/ccpsnet.net/anytime-anywhere-learning/