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Teaching responsibility with personal laptops

One semester in and by most accounts the addition of Chromebooks at Great Bend High School is a success.

Last August a one-to-one computer initiative provided each high school student a personal Chromebook laptop to use in class and to take home to complete homework assignments.

The computers supplement information provided by textbooks with everything on the internet and in some cases replace them completely. They also allow teachers and their students to stay in touch electronically even if students aren’t in class.

“One of the biggest benefits to Google Classroom (the software that fuels Chromebooks) is when kids are gone, especially the athletes,” said Daryl Moore, assistant principal. “They can do their assignments on the road.

“Chromebooks give a tremendous amount of access to information,” Moore said. “They also help with collaborative assignments and allow kids to easily email their teachers.”

Moore admitted that allowing students access to so much information is a “mixed bag.”

“Inappropriate information not of educational value is blocked, but there’s a lot of other stuff that is just a waste of time,” he said. “They need to learn how to stay focused.

“This is the world they are growing up in,” Moore said. “It’s a positive thing that we are teaching them how to be responsible in a technology-laden world.

“They are learning how and when to use it appropriately,” he said. “When they get into college or the work force, they will already have figured it out.

“There is a series of consequences in place to help them figure it out,” Moore explained.

Being grounded from the Chromebook for a period of time seems to get the student’s attention.

“Doing their work with paper and pencil is a real inconvenience for them,” he said. “They can keyboard faster than they can write and there’s no grammar and spell check.”

Moore laughed as he noted that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“Sure, they can text back and forth (with their friends in class), but that is no different than passing notes. It’s the same problem we’ve always had, just a different format,” Moore said. “It’s mostly girls and they are saying the same kinds of things their parents and grandparents would have passed in a note.”

Only three personal computers have been truly lost. One was in a car that was stolen, which was paid for by the vehicle insurance; one was taken by a run-away student; and one hasn’t been returned by a student removed from his/her home. Another student lost his Chromebook, but paid for it.

Several repairs have had to be made on the Chromebooks, mostly with cracked screens.

“We’ve probably replaced 50 screens, but students have to pay for them,” Moore said. “They are $40 and if they can’t pay for it, they get to work for me vacuuming classrooms. They usually come up with the money.”

From what he can tell, Moore thinks the Chromebooks have fewer screen breaks than with students’ cell phones.

“They are being pretty responsible with them,” he said.

Moore also noted that there has been no problem with theft because everybody has one. If they are reported as lost or stolen, they are immediately disabled.

Twenty have been reported as missing, but all of them have been found, he said.

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