Several years ago, members of the Big Walnut Board of Education and district administrators wanted to go one to one with laptop computers at Big Walnut High School – each student in the school having identical laptops for their four high school years.
The concept was attractive, considering the digital world today’s students graduate into, but the cost was prohibitive.
One solution the school district did adopt was a “Bring Your Own Device” model – students could use personal tablets and smart phones to access digital content and store homework and other projects on the cloud via Google Docs; but that option was not ideal because different devices have different operating systems, some have limited capabilities, and screen sizes are often not adequate for many projects, like typing lengthy reports and papers.
During the January school board meeting, district Director of Academic Achievement Jen Young announced that during the 2016-17 school year, Big Walnut High School is moving to a one-to-one Chromebook ratio: Each high school student would be issued an identical Chromebook at the beginning of the school year.
A Chromebook is a laptop-style computer that runs on Google’s web-based Chrome OS. Designed to be used with an Internet connection, most of Chromebook’s documents and apps exist in the cloud; and Google automatically provides 100 gigabytes of cloud storage for every Chromebook.
An email sent out by Big Walnut High School Principal Andy Jados last week confirmed that all high school students will receive a touch-screen Chromebook that they will use during their time as students at the high school.
“The device will be one more tool for our staff to prepare our students for college and career options in the 21st century,” Jados said.
Jados said Chromebook distribution days would be from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 28; and from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3.
“A parent or guardian must be present with their student and sign-up is required,” Jados said. “A postcard will be sent out shortly with additional information on the event and also how to sign up for your time slot.”
At the January board meeting, Young said the one-to-one Chromebook model would also move to grades 5-8 during the 2017-18 school year.
A committee of teachers of administrators has been working with dozens of districts around the state that have already adopted the model, Young said, and the district is partnering with the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio to help with the transition.
“There will be an education piece with parents; they’ll be brought in during the Chromebook distribution,” Young said. “There will be talk about internet access and safety, and we’ll have teacher training about Big Walnut’s use of Google Docs, and a teacher certification course.”
Young said Chromebooks would also reduce textbook costs.
“We can use online textbook adoption,” Young said. “A hardback textbook adoption is $100,000 to $200,000; and Chromebooks have advanced calculator capability that can be taken off the school district’s fees.”
Also at the January board meeting, when asked how much the one-to-one Chromebooks would cost for the high school’s entire student body, Assistant Superintendent Mark Cooper said a standard Chromebook is $200; a Chromebook Flip is $270 to $280.
“With all students having devices in hand, there would be less need for computer labs at the high school,” Cooper said. “Many computer-lab desktops would no longer need to be replaced when they reach the end of their life cycle. We have a good solid infrastructure for wireless access in the building already, with 25 wireless access points. We plan to double that, and that’s federal reimbursable at 50 percent.”
Young added that there would also be teacher training about general cyber-citizenship.
Young also noted that students without internet access at home would be able to store current projects on their Chromebooks and complete homework assignments without logging on the Google Docs or other cloud service.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093