Next semester, every Brown County High School student will receive their own Google Chromebook to use in class and at home.

There are already 300 Chromebooks at the high school in various departments, which students can use in class only.

Those will be gathered and distributed during the second semester to the junior high and intermediate schools for each student there, Superintendent Laura Hammack said.

However, junior high and intermediate students will not bring home their devices this school year; they will keep them at school on charging carts.

Story continues below gallery

The brand-new Chromebooks, all with protective cases, are funded by a Common School Loan worth $193,900. The loan will be paid back over five years, Hammack said.

The global connection

Hammack sees going “one-to-one,” pairing students with their own device, as a way to allow students to participate in the global society.“We are, more than ever, needing to be able to engage across the world. Only through these devices are we able to kind of realize that connectivity,” she said.

Some students may take college courses completely online after graduation, and Hammack believes this better prepares them for that.

Universities where students are physically in class are also starting to use online class organization systems, like Canvas. Canvas is already used at Brown County High School to post assignments and other resources for students.

“Any way we can empower them to know and understand the ways to interact with these devices is, I think, a real requirement on behalf of a school district,” Hammack said.

Students will carry their Chromebooks with them like a textbook and use them in some way in each class.

If they have questions or problems during school, they’ll be able to call on some fellow students for help.

Noah Seidle and Tyler Poling are two of the high school students who will be working in the district’s tech center.

They will run the tech center’s new help window, near the high school’s auditorium, to help solve problems students are having with their devices.

“With one-to-one deployment, it’s really important to have a student squad to assist with the really low-level but time-consuming fixes. A cracked screen is something we can absolutely teach a student how to replace,” Hammack said.

The seniors are up to the challenge.

“There’s going to be a lot of people that aren’t familiar with the Chromebooks, so we’re going to have to answer a lot of questions, but it’ll be good,” Seidle said.

As students, they’re also excited about what the technology can bring to their learning experience.

“It makes it personalized, whereas now I work on several different Chromebooks a day,” Seidle said about getting his own device.

If students have questions after they leave class, they also can use the Chromebook to message teachers through the Skyward system.

“It gives you more opportunities to work outside of the classroom,” Poling added.

Use policy

Parents and high school students will be required to sign a technology use policy to ensure students will be responsible with their Chromebooks, which are small laptops designed mostly for using the internet or related programs; the devices have very little onboard memory compared to other full-feature laptops.Still, accidents do happen.

If a device is damaged accidentally, there would be no cost to the family. The district will have insurance on the devices, Hammack said.

If a device is damaged due to a student using it inappropriately, then the student’s family may have to pay to replace the device, depending on the situation, Hammack said.

Hammack believes having a Chromebook will teach students responsibility.

School staff will talk to students about not leaving their device out in the open as a theft target and urge them to charge it every night for school the next day, Hammack said.

Parent information nights will be scheduled during second semester to inform parents about expectations for the devices in class and what homework assignments will look like.

The device will also have safety features, Hammack said. One of the insurance carriers the district is considering would allow parents to log in and run an analysis report on their student’s Chromebook to see what the student has been viewing online.

“If a student knows that their parent is going to be looking at it, then we don’t need to worry a lot of times,” Hammack said.

The devices will not replace human interaction in class, Hammack said. Students should still expect to participate in teacher-led debates and discussions.

“There are ways in which we want our classrooms to not be 100 percent focused on the device and we want students to engage in debate, to be able to talk to each other and reason and problem solve together through human connection,” she said.

“The power of the teacher delivering a lesson is very, very important.”

Teacher training

The goal for second semester is to make sure teachers understand how to use the devices in their instruction. Teachers will need to know how to use Canvas, where they can post their assignments.“I think a lot of school districts have failed with the one-to-one implementation because they haven’t given the educators the professional development support of how to incorporate these devices into their classrooms,” Hammack said.

For students who don’t have access to the internet at home, Hammack said there are ways to work around that during the school day.

If there’s a homework assignment, teachers will be encouraged to stop class a few minutes before the bell to have students drag assignments from Canvas to the desktop so that they can access it later without internet.

The next day, the teacher will ask students to open their device and “turn in” their homework by moving their work to Canvas via the building’s internet.

“What we want, ultimately, is for all of our students to be able to have that access, so that they can just be done with their assignment and submit, but the reality of what we’re experiencing is we have limited connectivity across the county,” Hammack said.

Devices for younger students

After Chromebooks land in the hands of high school, junior high and intermediate school students, they’ll be given to third- and fourth-graders, and students in kindergarten through second grade will eventually get iPads.

Chromebooks for third- and fourth-graders could appear as soon as this spring, depending on whether or not the district receives a waiver from the state to do ISTEP tests with paper and pencil again.

“No matter what, the rest of the state is having their third-graders test online, so we have to get those kids ready for extended responses on a Chromebook,” Superintendent Laura Hammack said.

If students are required to take the test online in the spring, Hammack said that would require the district to tap its capital projects fund to pay for more Chromebooks.

After Chromebooks are distributed for second semester, iPads that are not being used by teachers in the junior high and high schools will be gathered up to be distributed to the youngest elementary grades, Hammack said.

Many young students are already familiar with touch-screen technology, Hammack said.

“We actually had some kindergarten students who were looking at a book, and they were pushing on the book to make it come alive. That’s the world that we’re living in,” she said.

Learning on the job

Last Wednesday afternoon, Noah Seidle and Tyler Poling stood at a table in the school district’s technology office covered in wires and devices, looking at the inside of a dusty computer tower.

They are two of the four Brown County High School students earning elective credit by working in the school district’s tech center. It was expanded this summer at the high school.

They mostly fix the small issues. They had returned to the center after helping set up new computers in the high school’s special education classroom.

Earlier, Poling had fixed a teacher’s speakers. “It was just outputting audio to the wrong place,” he said.

That afternoon, they were removing the RAM data storage from an old computer, replacing it, taking the old accounts and data off, setting up network settings and adding new software.

The students are also extra hands for the district’s tech department. One day they went to the intermediate school and helped set up a public address system for a meeting.

Their jobs are about to get a little more interesting come second semester, when the school puts a Chromebook laptop into every high school student’s hands. They’ll be responsible for helping their peers troubleshoot problems.

Next school year, the tech center student workers also will be able to earn career technical education vocational credits for their work, or CTE.

“That’s an expectation for next year, that we will have these vocational opportunities for students so that they can really get some high-level, sophisticated training that they’ll be able to move into the workplace or help in their college plans as they continue,” Superintendent Laura Hammack said.