Bond-purchased Chromebooks make instant impact in schools

Friday, December 15, 2017 - 10:00am

Schools using Instructional Upgrade funds to bolster school technology

When more than 200 new Chromebooks arrived in classrooms at Woodglen Elementary in October, the impact was quick and undeniable for the students and staff at this Thornton elementary school.

As part of more than $200,000 in Instructional Upgrades money promised to the school through the 2016 Bond Program, Woodglen earmarked $51,000 to add 216 Chromebooks (six Chrome Carts) to supplement the school’s aging fleet of mobile devices.

Adding the new technology was a critical need shared by school staff and the larger school community, according to Woodglen Principal Brett Drobney. As the need for technology has increased in recent years – largely due to the demands of new state common core standards and online assessments, Woodglen stretched its current collection of 164 Chromebooks to meet the technology needs of more than 500 students.

It meant teachers needed to strategically plan for when they could access a Chrome Cart for their classroom, a situation that teachers admitted could often be stressful when trying to plan technology usage into classroom learning. It also led to prolonged testing windows because of the school’s limitations to test students in place. Additionally, there was limited technology exposure for the school’s youngest students (kindergarten through third grade) in a community where many students have inconsistent home Internet access.

The recent purchases have allowed Woodglen to knock down some of those barriers. The new devices allowed the school to move to a 1:1 device ratio at the fourth- and fifth-grade level and expand device access at lower grade levels, especially third grade.

For Drobney and staff, the arrival of the expanded amount of Chromebooks was preceded by plenty of thought and analysis to make sure the school would make the best use of the new devices, even seeking guidance on appropriate amounts of student screen time.

“We don’t spend all day on the computers just because we have them,” he explained of the school’s strategy. “We use them as a tool just like a pencil.”

Teachers are intentional about how they incorporate the technology into their lesson plans with an emphasis on giving students the opportunity to extend and deepen their learning.

As he passed through a classroom hallway recently, Drobney pointed out typed student animal reports covering a third grade class bulletin board as an example of the new opportunities unlocked for students with more access to technology.

The use of Chromebooks, however, extends far beyond use as a word processing tool. In the case of the animal reports, students used Chromebooks to research the topic in a more thorough way, collaborate with classmates and publish their work, thus providing them with a more authenitic, innovative educational experience.

As part of the 2016 bond program, each district school was allotted a specified amount of money that they could use to upgrade physical aspects of their building or the learning environment through improvements such as technology upgrades. Stukey Elementary in Northglenn and Thornton High School also recently used bond money to add additional devices with Stukey purchasing 100 new Chromebooks, Thornton High adding 360 Chromebooks and 108 new Chromebooks headed to Northglenn Middle School.