Classrooms in the Connellsville Area School District have gone digital after each student in the district was given their own personal computer this school year.
As part of the district’s ongoing technology initiative, every student recently received a Lenovo Chromebook to supplement their learning both inside and outside the classroom.
The practice, known as one-to-one computing, or 1:1, is an initiative by school districts to put an electronic device into the hands of each enrolled student.
Superintendent Phil Martell said the Chromebooks allow for two-way instruction between teachers and students so they can collaborate in real time when the devices are used in conjunction with Google applications.
“It’s just an electronic exchange. It’s becoming a paperless classroom,” said Martell.
The devices put information at the students’ fingertips, providing internet access, digital course materials and, potentially, even digital textbooks.
Students can use them to access Google’s G Suite for Education — which provides teachers and students with applications for email, calendars, word processing, cloud storage, communication tools and classroom portals, among other features — and other web-based tools.
Boxlight interactive display panels have replaced whiteboards and projectors in Connellsville classrooms, creating interactive classrooms when paired with the new Chromebooks. Teachers can use the Boxlights and Google apps to conduct their daily instruction and to assign coursework, said Martell.
Students can turn in their work electronically and receive immediate feedback from teachers.
While students in all grades received devices, the use of the laptops extends beyond the classroom for grades 3-12. Students in those grades are permitted to take home their Chromebooks to complete projects and homework assignments.
“Getting something into the hands of every student regardless of social status brings equity and allows us to better prepare our students and compete,” said Martell.
Other area school districts have implemented similar programs.
Frazier School District started its Chromebook initiative two years ago and now equips students in grades 3-12 with a personal laptop for classroom use. District teachers have trained on Google Classroom for managing assignments, said Superintendent Dr. Bill Henderson.
“Our teachers should be applauded for embracing it. They’ve taken it and run with it. [The Chromebooks] are great tools for education and they make their job easier,” said Henderson.
Laurel Highlands School District recently kicked off the first phase of its 1:1 initiative that will equip all district students with a laptop within four years.
Chromebooks arrived at Laurel Highlands High School this school year to be used in every math, English, science and social studies classroom. Next year, the devices will be introduced at the middle school, while high school students will receive take-home devices. The program will eventually trickle down to the elementary level, said Superintendent Dr. Jesse Wallace.
“It provides students access to a greater depth of knowledge beyond just a textbook,” said Wallace. While information in textbooks can quickly become outdated, with internet access at their desks, students “can find that knowledge in real time,” he said.
In total, Connellsville distributed 4,400 devices to students during informational sessions throughout the second week of school.
The district’s the 1:1 initiative was made possible through a larger, energy saving initiative the district has undertaken in partnership with facility management provider ABM Industries Inc., said Martell. Money saved through reduced energy consumption was redirected to educational programs and technology initiatives.
Students will return their device at the end of the school year. The devices will last three to four years before needing replaced, said Martell.