Jared Sather at Victor Falls Elementary dreams about having a computer on every student’s desk. That day has come for 50 third- and fourth-grade teachers in the Sumner School District.
Starting today, 1,500 students in those classrooms will participate in a pilot project. They will each have a Chromebook, manufactured by Samsung and supported by Google Docs and Google technology.
“When I found out we were receiving laptops, I was blown away,” Sather said.
The devices were purchased with savings in the district’s general fund. District staff members hope the success will expand district-wide and receive public support.
“The Chromebook is an ultra-portable laptop,” said Sandy Maynard, the district’s chief technology officer. “We’ve moved into the virtual world.”
Unlike previous Netbooks, which were supported with internal software, Chromebooks are linked to cloud technology. They weigh 2 pounds, lighter than the Netbook’s 3.3 pounds.
Maynard said teachers won’t have to worry about powering up the devices every few hours because they sustain a six-hour charge.
The school district made the purchase to prepare students for the online state testing that will be made mandatory by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction starting in 2015.
Nancy Lenihan, a fourth-grade teacher at Daffodil Elementary, said students in third grade and above will take the Smart Balance Assessment Consortium — one of the national tests that meet Common Core standards starting in 2014-15.
“We’re trying to train students to get ready for that online format,” Lenihan said.
Lenihan, who teaches highly capable students, said the Chromebooks will provide them an opportunity to learn collaboratively.
“It brings in the 21st-Century skills, which leads into a collaborative workplace,” Lenihan said. “I’m excited that I get to teach students how to research, how to share and how to create.”
Sather said Netbooks were shared among classrooms and did not allow for seamless learning.
“Sometimes they would take 20 to 30 minutes to load up,” he said. “My attitude was to deal with the downtime.”
Sather said he plans to have the Chromebooks on each student’s desk 100 percent of the time.
Sumner School District Superintendent Sara Johnson said teachers won’t have to pre-schedule the devices because they will be permanent in each classroom.
“Dynamic learning will happen in the classroom,” Johnson said. “Teachers and students will be doing a lot more electronic exchange. We’re going to be more cost-efficient. There will be less printing of documents.”
And because a student’s work will be stored in the cloud, Johnson said they will be able to access their work from home.
“Kids love technology, so we feel it will bolster their learning,” Johnson said.
Tracy Davis, the district’s technology integration specialist, walked the 50 teachers through the myriad ways to use the Chromebook last Friday. She recognized the frustration they may feel as they learn to use the device.
“There will be a great learning curve,” she said.
Davis said teachers may find themselves in a valley of despair.
“If they persevere, their growth of what they know after they’re finished will be substantial,” she said.
Sather expects to learn a lot from his students.
“The cool thing is the students become the teachers,” he said. “They will drive us.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.