With a Google Chrome Cart with 30 new Samsung Chromebook laptops in each of the city’s schools, the Warwick School District is taking steps toward providing valuable and necessary technology to students of all ages.
Denise Bilodeau, Warwick Schools’ technology applications assessment coordinator, has been going from school to school to instruct students how to use the new laptops, even though she jokes many of the older students don’t need a lesson.
Last Thursday and Friday, Bilodeau visited Cedar Hill Elementary School to show students how they will be able to use the Chromebooks for practice tests for assessments, including the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), research projects, and other educational apps they currently use in the classroom.
“It was a good device, an adequate device, to get in the hands of kids for that testing [PARCC]. At the same time, they can do research and get to all the apps they use in the classroom,” said Bilodeau.
The laptops were used at schools that took part in the computerized PARCC field-testing; other schools took part in a written version of the field test.
Students in grades kindergarten through 12 will use these new devices in their classroom for various reasons, including educational apps, computerized testing or research projects. Each student will also have an account to save any work to the cloud to access at home. Apps will be loaded onto the computers, and the students have access to the Internet and programs they currently use on classroom computers.
“Anything online, they can do,” said Bilodeau.
At the elementary level, Bilodeau is training students in grades three through six; those students will then train kindergarteners, first graders and second graders to use the technology. The older students have received training that included practice in PARCC assessments, which will be implemented next year and have to be completed on a computer.
Also, there will be some apps accessible before the student even logs in, which was the case during the recent field-testing.
“The app takes over the computer. They can’t go anywhere else,” said Bilodeau.
During training, Bilodeau went over safety rules for using the Chromebooks. Because of their design and size, the laptops are delicate and can be easily damaged. Chromebooks weigh only 2.5 pounds with an 11.6-inch screen, and have over 6.5 hours of battery life. The Chromebooks are valued between $200 and $250, with the entire cart (30 Chromebooks, the cart and technology) costing about $11,000.
For their training, the students in Ann-Marie Scotti’s fourth grade class logged into the system as guests, had the opportunity to take a practice version of the PARCC English Language Arts test for their grade level, then had the opportunity to browse the Internet and get used to the system.
“I love them. We’re going to do so much with this,” said fourth grader Sam Noel. “Our wired Internet, we can’t do much with. [The Chromebook] is so much faster.”
His classmate, Taylor Gibb, agreed.
“It’s awesome,” she said.
“I love having a computer. It’s so much easier having a laptop,” added Sophia Romano.
Bilodeau explained the next step will be to get additional carts for schools with multiple floors so the carts can be used throughout buildings easily.
With most elementary classrooms only having a handful of computers, Bilodeau said the advantage of the Chrome Cart is that teachers will be able to sign out the cart for a certain period and each student will have their own Chromebook to use instead of having to take turns on the classroom computer.
The Chrome Cart can be moved to any classroom in the building, and the laptops will work as long as they are in range of the Cart’s wireless receiver.
While each school does have their Chrome Cart and training is almost complete, there are still some networking and account set-up to be completed.
“It’s a huge shift to go from First Class to Google apps for education,” said Bilodeau.
A full pilot program has been enacted at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School.
The Chromebooks operate on the Google suite, but Bilodeau explained that students would not be able to use Google accounts they may have at home.
“If you have a Google account at home, you won’t be able to use that account in school because we have to live by different rules, different regulations,” she said.
Training has been completed at all but two elementary schools, then the district will work on completing the transition to the Google educational program and establishing Google profiles for each student.