CCMS may change policies for Google computers

Even though the machines are vulnerable to wear and tear, the benefits from the “cloud” technology will provide learning benefits for years to come

by: RAMONA MCCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County Middle School was the recipient of a grant from Google, Inc., in 2011, for the newly-developed Chrome Notebook computers. CCMS is coming up with some new policies to check out the computers to students.

As the 2012 school year came to a close, it also marked the timeline of the second year of the grant for the Google Chrome computers at Crook County Middle School.
   Principal Stacy Smith of CCMS has been happy with the utilization of the technology provided by Google, Inc., but he is also seeing the strain on some of the machines due to expected wear and tear.
   “There’s a comfort level that is different for some teachers than for others, but overall in the school, I am pleased with the use of them,” Smith said in a recent interview.
   The challenge with any technology grant is the sustainability of the equipment over the long term.
   Smith commented that with finances being stretched and some machines needing repair or replacement, they are looking at some changes in policy in regards to the use of the student Google computers. Smith noted that several of the machines have become damaged, due to the fact that the machines don’t have carrying handles or carrying bags for them.
   “Kids are dropping them in the hallways,” said Smith. “Fortunately, they are pretty darn durable and they keep working.”
   He said that some of the computers have become damaged in varying degrees, however.
   “We have done really well, all things considered, with almost 700 kids carrying them daily from class to class.”
   He added that the teachers have done a good job in teaching the students on how to keep the machines safe. Smith said he is looking at having the computers stay in the classroom as a class set, so students wouldn’t necessarily have their own individual machine.
   “The teachers will have to check out their computers to five students, and each of those five students will have their own log-in,” noted Smith. “The difficulty will be when and if there is trouble, making sure the teachers are aware of it immediately so the student that has the problem — not four others — is the one that has to take care of the problem.”
   Google, Inc. announced in March 2011 that CCMS was to be awarded with a large batch of their newly-developed Pilot Chrome Notebooks (model CR48). According to Google, CCMS was one of five schools in the entire country to be chosen for this honor. Crook County was selected as a test site due to their strong district leadership, track records of adopting and sustaining classroom technology, strong district-ESD relationships which enhance their technology programs, and their readiness to use the Google Notebooks in classroom instruction.
   Early in the program, sixth-grade instructor at CCMS, Zach Fleming, said one of the advantages in using technology was the increase in the comfort level the students have had with the computers. He said that students became more adept at troubleshooting problems without outside help. He and many staff members saw the quality of work from their students change for the better.
   This is still the response of many staff members, such as CCMS science instructor Charlene Walker. The science department has utilized the Google computers extensively for all aspects of their curriculum. They use them for making templates, graphs, data tables, and spread sheets. The students can also access Google Docs anywhere.
   Students also have used them to create a website that allows them to store their vocabulary words, essays, and a variety of their work from any of their classes.
   “It’s an amazing resource,” said seventh-grade science instructor Tawnya Lane.
   “The finished product looks so much better,” said Walker in relation to some of their big science projects. “When they go to the computer lab or when they are at home, they can still log in and have this software program. When they are freshmen doing a science inquiry for one of the science teachers at the high school, they can take their work home, log into their Google account and print it out.”
   Although the benefits from the Google Chrome computers will be sustainable for years to come, Smith said he is looking at ways to protect the machines, so they can be used for student learning as long as possible.
   This would require them to adjust their policies to accommodate any changes. He said they will continue to work on staff development for use of the computers and the Google Apps.