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Beaverton students logging into the future

Scholls Heights Elementary is one of district's first 'Future Ready' schools

TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Scholls Heights Elementary School fifth-grader Andy Lang and teacher Mehreen Krueger workr on one of the new Chromebooks that Scholls Heights has received as part of the Beaverton School District's Future Ready schools project. Scholls Heights Elementary School first-grader Brooklyn Klug chose a high little voice when she wanted to give words to the penguin featured on a presentation she created with one of the school’s new Apple iPads.

“I’m a baby Emerald penguin,” the voice squeaked as Brooklyn gave a gap-toothed grin.

“It’s cute like that one,” she said, pointing to a fluffy penguin hatchling on the tablet computer’s screen. “We got to make three penguin reports and we got to choose the one we thought was most good.”

Her classmate, Ethan Ihde, decided that his own penguin report would detail the animal species in the birds’ diets for one simple reason: “Because I wanted to have a picture of a squid.”

“We’re laying the groundwork in the first grade,” said their teacher, Karen Wold. “They learn so much faster than we do.”

Scholls Heights is one of the Beaverton School District’s 'Future Ready' schools launched in this pilot year. Those first 15 schools hired new library instructional technology teachers (LITTs) and committed to weaving technology more strongly into how teaching and learning happens in their buildings.

With the 2016-17 school year, the district’s remaining 40 schools — including traditional and options programs — also will begin taking steps to adopt the Future Ready model.

Elsewhere at Scholls Heights, fifth-graders used their newly assigned Google Chromebooks for more sophisticated tasks, including research projects about explorers and salmon life cycles.

“Now they have encyclopedias, they have the Internet, they have a number of resources at their fingertips,” said Carrie Kunert, the school’s LITT.

Ella Irving, for example, used a voice-over program to narrate the report she wrote for their “Diary of a Salmon” assignment. She included pictures detailing the stages of development for the fish.

Ella said having the Chromebooks at their desks for the past few weeks has been far more useful than trying to find time in the school’s computer lab, which in the past was often unavailable because it was being used by other classes or students taking tests.

“They’re a lot more helpful” in the classroom, she said of the new Chromebooks.

“They’re very motivated and they learn so fast,” said Mehreen Krueger, Ella’s teacher. “We’ve used many of the little gadgets here, but they’re always for a purpose.”

Krueger said fifth-graders will enter middle school next year better prepared as upper grades further integrate technology with their lessons.

“It’s fun and I think it’s easier to do things with school work,” said fifth-grader Claire Hansen, who is a member of the Digi-Knights, the school’s technology club, which helps other Scholls Heights students learn about technology through games and robots. “It can help us when we’re older.”

The students showed off their budding technological prowess during the school’s recent science fair, where parents checked out coding robots that help teach students basic programming and fiddled around in the Maker Space, where first-time engineers can solve problems, Kunert said.

At Scholls Heights, the district purchased enough Chromebooks to assign one to every fourth- and fifth-grader (and the school’s parent group added money to buy enough for third-grade classrooms) while younger students share iPads.

Parents of students at Future Ready schools also can log in from home computers or smartphones to see what their children are learning. And parents who aren’t up on the latest tech have been invited to get a bit of tutoring of their own, Kunert said.

BSD's Future Ready rollout

Districtwide, more than 8,900 Chromebooks and about 2,200 iPads were delivered to the 15 Future Ready pilot schools in recent weeks to better bring technology into classrooms instead of the old model that largely confined computers to a lab.

The program cost about $6.5 million in equipment, new LITT positions and district-wide professional development for the 2015-16 school year, according to John Peplinski, the administrator who oversees instructional innovation.

Pending budget approvals, the district plans to continue rolling out the Future Ready program to all schools over the coming two years.

For 2016-17, the district plans to hire another 11 LITTs for the remainder of the district's traditional middle and high schools.

Also during the next year, all district students in grades eight through 12 will be assigned a Chromebook.

Additional technology will reach all schools next year, but it will be limited at lower grades. A larger rollout of Chromebooks and iPads for younger students is planned for 2017-18, Peplinski said.

Also that year, the rest of the elementary schools are expected to hire LITTs, he said.