The middle school's one-to-one program provides each student with their own laptop

by: KEVIN SPERL - Dallas Bean, (left), and McKaden Zirbel work on their Chromebooks in Dave McKae's eighth-grade math class.

Editor’s note: Part three of this four-part series will explain the use of portable technology in use at the middle school's one-to-one program

Crook County Middle School has adopted the concept that each student should have ownership of their own personal technology.

Known as One-to-One, the school’s program assigns a Chromebook computer laptop for each student that they may use any time during the school day.

Signed out when students arrive and, as required, signed back in before they leave the building, the Chromebooks have become an integral, and expected, part of student learning. The program allows students to take technology with them throughout the school, as opposed to requiring them to go where the technology is located -- usually a dedicated lab room.

Dave McKae teaches eighth-grade math, advanced math, algebra and health and thinks it is extremely helpful to have students not only become familiar with technology but learn to use it productively.

Middle School Technologist Casie Allen agreed.

“This program is all about preparing students for the real world,” she said. “Any job they get in the future is somehow technology-based and they need to be able to send emails, create a document, and type.”

Andie Sangston, middle school technologist and webmaster, explained that the one-to-one program was started by a generous donation, in 2011, from Google of close to 700 Chromebooks, when the high-tech company asked the school to beta test early versions of its products.

“Google wanted feedback on how their computers would hold up,” said Sangston. “The shell of the beta machines were inexpensively made but they were mostly interested in testing the software environment -- the whole idea of the collaborative cloud and its new operating system.”

As can be expected, the beta machines took a beating at the hands of the students. Over 30 percent of the machines have since been retired and the school has begun replacing them with new Samsung model Chromebooks, as Allen explained that three to four years is a typical life span for technology.

In McKae’s class, part of the student’s technical education is learning how to do research on-line and recognize the credible from the not-so-credible internet sources.

One-to-one also guarantees student access to current information without the need to replace heavy, expensive text books every two years.

“When a new version of a text is published online, our students have up-to-date information by simply renewing a subscription, as opposed to purchasing a textbook,” said McKae. “As far as math is concerned, there are interactive websites that offer fun video games involving math. The students don’t mind playing them, and it is a fun way to reinforce skills.”

Sangston added that more and more teachers are migrating to an online environment, further decreasing the need for students to carry books.

Chromebooks also make it easy for students and teachers to share work and turn in assignments.

“Teachers can publish templates, notes or reports in a certain template to the students for conformity,” explained Allen. “Everyone has access to a variety of Google websites for assignments and if a student can’t come to school, assignments are available on-line for access from home.”

McKae also likes students being able to get instant feedback on their work, and he can get a quick snapshot of how his students are performing as well.

“I can present the main concepts of a lesson followed by a short online quiz,” he said. “It is instant feedback for the students to keep them engaged.”

Student testing is another area made easier by using Chromebooks.

“We are now beginning to administer OAKS testing on Chromebooks,” explained Allen, “Students are able to be in their everyday environment, as opposed to going to a testing lab, and be comfortable as they begin to take tests.”

Maintenance, idea sharing and portability is a huge advantage for Allen and Sangston, as they are charged with administering the program.

“With a collaborative sharing environment, the school doesn’t pay for individual licensing,” said Allen. “Portability and ease of use is huge, with students being able to sit at their desk, pull out their Chromebook and be ready to go.”

The school has also discovered that having easy, portable access to technology has made learning more accessible and less intimidating.

“I think about a student we had a few years ago who was very quiet and always had an assistant with him,” said Allen. “But, when we put a computer in front of him, he was able to do his work on his own. Technology has made him a more independent learner.”

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