First year of Chromebook program sees both advantages and challenges
This has been the first year that every student at Atascadero High School has been issued a Chromebook by the school district. While the use of the Chromebooks in class has presented both advantages and disadvantages, the devices have definitely impacted the ways students operate in the classroom and how they retrieve information.
According to Assistant Superintendent of Education Services, E.J. Rossi, “AUSD has fully implemented a 1:1 Chromebook to student ratio in grades 3-12. Additionally, we have worked towards a 1:2 ratio of 1 Chromebook to every two students in grades K-2. Thus far, the roll-out has been very successful in making sure every student has access to a tool that can help them both access information as well as produce evidence of learning.” Rossi added that the greatest successes have been in widening student access to current information, using the Google Suite programs, providing access to course material and education programs, and giving students ways to connect to school.
Some students and teachers also think that the Chromebooks are useful tools. Freshman Lorenzo Spencer said, “I believe it helps the students learn, but it’s also a big responsibility. It also gives a lot more possibilities for them to lose them.” Freshman Layla Faber said, “I think they are useful and a positive way to save money for kids who don't have computers, but for kids who do, they are pointless. I also think it's good that the school provides them.”
English teacher Ms. George offered some positive comments about the Chromebooks as well. She said, “Chromebooks have given students equal access to online platforms. They are an important tool that students should know how to use. After high school, it will be a necessity to be computer literate. Having students with 1-to-1 access has made some things in the classroom easier. I found Chromebooks especially useful when students need to do research or work on collaborative assignments like Google Slides.”
Despite these advantages, there are also some negative consequences of every student having a computer in the classroom. “Perhaps in some classes they are useful, but I do not think they are as helpful or important as many want to believe,” said math and science teacher Mr. Wilkie. “There may be some ways to use them in math, but with our limited time to actually teach, I find them to be more of a distraction. They seem, at times, to be a large problem.” He cites having to monitor student activity on Chromebooks as a major downside. Because students have access to websites like YouTube, it is very easy for them to be watching inappropriate videos or playing games on their Chromebooks rather than doing what the teacher wants them to do. That requires a lot of supervision.
Library technician Ms. Gonzalez, who handles the Chromebooks being loaned out, said, “The biggest problems are students not turning them in and the keys of the Chromebooks can be missing. Some students return them with missing keys, and I have to put new ones on.” Ms. Gonzales also explained the loan-out process. She said, “When students check out a Chromebook, it is on their account, and until they return it, they cannot check another one. Students have one day to borrow the Chromebooks, and then they must turn them back in.” The library has a total of 49 Chromebooks to loan to students who do not bring theirs to school, which is another common problem. Since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year to April 2019, students have checked out library Chromebooks 5,244 times, and chargers were checked out 723 times.”
Sometimes students also lose or damage their Chromebooks. According to the district’s
Director of Technology Candy Smet, “A replacement screen is approximately $40, but it depends on the brand and the age of the Chromebook. Overall, districtwide this year approximately $5,000 has been spent repairing or replacing Chromebooks at this point. Students who lose Chromebooks must file a police report. They don't get another device until the district receives the funding. Also, all students have their assigned Chromebook serial numbers in Aeries, the computer system that handles attendance and grades, as well as other student data.”
Mr. Rossi attributes the disadvantages of Chromebook distribution to the cost to replace damaged and lost Chromebooks. “As with any educational tool, we have seen some loss with our Chromebooks, much of which is similar to other tools we use, such as textbooks.” It costs $150 to $200 to replace Chromebooks, although the district often repairs rather than replaces the devices. AUSD Technology staff are certified to repair Chromebooks, and they are able to repair these tools in-house, sometimes for less than $75. Mr. Rossi concluded on a positive note, however, saying that, “Ultimately teaching and learning must be facilitated between teachers and students.” To him, Chromebooks are one of many tools that can be used to enhance learning and allow for student personalization of their own learning.