Greater Clark County Schools is preparing to roll out its new initiative that will put nearly 8,000 laptop computers into the hands of its students.
“This allows learning to take place no matter where the student is at. No matter what the student is doing they will have a device that they can go to, to help them gain access to the wealth of knowledge that is out there,” says Brett Clark, GCCS technology director.
The one-to-one initiative—which provides students with their own Chromebook laptops—is not new, but it’s a unique way schools are responding to the increased emphasis and use of technology in the classroom. This month GCCS will offer students and parents tutorial and informational sessions at various school locations (see below) to introduce them to the computers, at which point students can also pick them up.
“One of the big things this is going to change for us, I feel, is that communication piece. It’s really going to help our students, parents and teachers be able to communicate more frequently, more openly, and to really help enhance our ability to provide a personalized education,” Clark says.
The district is using a statewide service called My Big Campus, which is like an educational Facebook, Clark says. It’s also called a learning social media site or program and will be used for students to communicate with teachers who can also post lesson plans and other school resources to the system.
The GCCS school board approved the $3 million initiative this year, which gives each third through twelfth grade student their own device. Some school districts have used iPads, others use computers to meet the one-to-one initiative. GCCS is leasing the Chromebooks and has signed a contract for three years.
Parents will pay for their child’s use of the computers and the technology fees this year have increased, but the district has been able to cut costs in other areas like textbook fees, making the total district costs to parents less than previous years, says Clark.
“The general cost to parents overall has gone down even through this portion of the money has gone up,” he says.
Parents will have to pay a $20 annual technology fee, which is an increase from the $8.50 they would normally pay if there were no computers provided.
According to the district, parents and students “cannot opt out of receiving the laptop but can opt out of signing [the] Responsible Use Policy, which would prevent them from taking the unit home or accessing the Internet. Students would still have the ability to use the device as a ‘day user’ during the school day, therefore will be still be assessed the $20.00 technology fee.”
Clark recognizes that some families may not have internet access at home or be computer-literate. But he says the ability to provide a student with a computer is still a plus and he says rolling out 8,000 laptops will be a process with a learning curve.
“There will be some folks that will gravitate like a fish to water to this and will take off and do some amazing things right out of the gate. There are going to be those that are going to require some coaching and professional development. And I think the biggest thing we can preach is patience throughout this whole process,” Clark says.
The school district also spent around $200,000 to purchase around 700 Chromebooks for teachers, which were distributed last school year. GCCS is also holding informational sessions for teachers who may need extra help with how to best use the technology.
GCCS is hosting an e-learning conference on Jul. 25 at Jeffersonville High School, which will include key note speakers who will work with teachers. The conference will also bring in teachers from surrounding districts, Clark says. GCCS is also holding two professional development days on Jul. 29 and 30th.
Here’s information on the rollout, provided by GCCS.
Students must be registered for the 2013-2014 school year prior to attending a rollout night event. Parents may complete this process by visiting the district’s website at www.gcs.k12.in.us. Parents and students must attend the rollout night specified for their school.
• Thursday, July 18 at Charlestown High School – All Charlestown schools and New Washington schools.
• Monday, July 22 at Jeffersonville High School – Bridgepoint Elementary, Maple Elementary, Riverside Elementary, Utica Elementary, Parkview Middle School, and Jeffersonville High School juniors and seniors
• Tuesday, July 23 at Jeffersonville High School – Northaven Elementary, Parkwood Elementary, Spring Hill Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Wilson Elementary, River Valley Middle School, Clark County Middle/High School, and Jeffersonville High School freshmen and sophomores.
Information will be presented in two-hour sessions at the events beginning at 12:00 pm until 8:00 pm. Parents and students must report at the beginning of a session time and plan to stay the full two hours. Parents with students in different grade levels can choose to attend one session time that best fits their schedule. Session times are:
• 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm (elementary)
• 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm (middle)
• 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm (high)
• 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm (elementary)
• 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm (middle)
• 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm (high)