A few weeks ago I read a great article from E Missourian.com
The article was about a report written by Debbie Haley, technical director for the Meramec Valley R-III Middle School. In the report, she outlined that through a district initiative, each student from grade 6 through 8 had received a Dell Chromebook.
The students were able to bring their new machines home while the teachers received training on how best to use the Chromebooks as a learning tool in the classroom.
The comments of the students speak volumes about programs like this:
“Having a computer to take home means I can look up stuff and learn how to do things any time without having to ask the teacher,”
“This is the best way to do homework because if I forget my math book, it’s on the website,”
What I noticed about these comments is that the students in our school have been saying exactly the same thing for the past two years.
I recently retired as principal of a small low-income urban school. We made the decision over two years ago that to give our students a greater chance of success, they needed to have their own Chromebook and the juniors (grades 4-6) needed to bring them home every night.
The program had its hiccups and nay sayers, but it was a success. Teachers received good quality PD and the freedom to learn more on their own. Students were expected to bring their machine home every night and continue work on digital programs, including Google apps for Education and Hapara that they had started at school.
It became the expectation that a computer would be available at all times and if one broke down, it would be replaced immediately.
Our school board did some things to make it feasible to become a 1:1 school. Chromebooks were cheap to buy, we were a Google board, so students and teachers had access to all the great apps available through Google. Training was available to students and teachers on some of the programs that we were using every day and we did receive some computers from the school board as we were considered a high needs school.
While we never did a comprehensive report, I feel that the program was a success.
As part of my ‘good-bye’ from the students and the teachers, a video was created that allowed many of the students to say something they were thankful for that had taken place while I was principal. Many of them said they were thankful for their Chromebooks and the freedom it gave them to learn independently.
I was surprised by this especially because we had just completed a major school yard renewal – with play structures – and I thought this would be what meant the most to our students.
It wasn’t – it was their Chromebooks.
To me this is really important. By providing powerful computers to our students we were giving them a voice, we were allowing them to control their own learning. By training the teachers, we are giving them the confidence to use the machines every day in class.
The major drawback to all this is that this was a school initiative not a district-wide project like the Meramec Valley students were part of. Sadly, because our district cannot yet see the value in 1:1 programs, our effort to provide computers to most students will not be sustained.
It is sad to say that most administrators do not see the value in having a computer for every child. Our district no longer gives out computers and has recently gone with a new Chromebook that is twice the price of the ones we used to purchase.
It is very hard to understand why people do not see the value in these programs and why they do not listen to the students who have been empowered by these sophisticated tools. There now is ample evidence that 1:1 makes a real difference when done properly. I look forward to the day when small initiatives become district priorities.