By LAURA HAMMACK, guest columnist

Jan. 11 was an exciting day for Brown County Schools!

Our district took a big step forward and implemented a one-to-one deployment of brand new Chromebook devices to all Brown County High School students. Each student received a Chromebook and a security case for their personal use that will allow them to access instructional content both at home and at school.

The Chromebook device looks like a typical laptop and offers everything that a student would want in a traditional laptop while also providing the experience of a mobile tablet via an interactive flip screen. These devices incorporate Google’s Chrome operating system, which integrates many of Google’s services seamlessly into the user experience. This system allows our students to access applications like Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Classroom instantly.

Our educators at Brown County High School have been introduced to using a new learning management system called Canvas. This system connects all of the digital tools and resources that teachers use in one place within the student Chromebook. Canvas allows teachers to build their curriculum in an online format so that students can engage with course content in an interactive way.

It is important to understand that Canvas is a framework for organizing course content and curriculum and is not intended to take away the experience of a student receiving instruction from their teacher.

We have received feedback that families who do not have Internet access at home are concerned that their students will not be able to do their homework. This is a very important concern.

However, I am happy to share that both Canvas and the Chromebook have an ability to provide the user with offline working opportunities. When a student is using Canvas offline, they simply do their work in an offline mode and when they are able to access the Internet, they synchronize their devices for homework submission.

The Chromebook also allows students to use an “offline” mode that allows them to work on their Docs or Sheets using the Google Drive app.

Students will not be expected to have assignments submitted overnight when Internet access may be unavailable. However, they will be able to submit their assignments when they can access the Internet at school the next morning.

Whenever schools make the jump toward integrating more access to technology at school, there is often a concern that the devices will negatively replace quality instruction. Please understand that while we are excited about providing our students with access to technology that they will be expected to know and understand in a collegiate setting and/or in the workforce, we are also committed to always using the technology as one tool in a greater toolbox that allows students to best access their education.

Our teachers are among the finest I have ever seen, and I would never get in the way of their ability to provide our students with the highest quality educational experiences that come from personal connections separated from all digital influences!

I am so grateful to Mr. David Phelps, our director of technology, and his technology team for creating a comprehensive deployment and implementation process of the Chromebook devices.

We are also grateful to our director of student learning, Mrs. Debbie Harman, and a group of teacher leaders who have led the Canvas implementation. When an initiative of this scale takes place, we are grateful to all who work together to enhance the learning opportunities for our students.

If you have any questions regarding this implementation or would like more information regarding this initiative, please visit our website at brownco.k12.in.us or contact me at 812-988-6601.

Laura Hammack is superintendent of Brown County schools. She can be reached at 988-6601 or lhammack@brownco.k12.in.us.