The Sumner School District is doing its part to make sure every student has access to technology — both inside and outside the classroom.
This month, the district launched its Chromebook Take-Home Project, in which all students between sixth and 12th grades take home a Chromebook to keep through all four years of high school.
The Chromebooks, similar to laptops, are meant for educational use and are all connected to GoogleDrive, a Google storage service where students, connected through email, can create and save documents and presentations all on one account.
“It makes group projects a lot easier,” said Lan Allison, senior at Sumner High School. “Our whole day is (spent) on laptops.”
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The district had laptops available for use before, but this will be the first year that some students can take them home. Kindergarten through fifth grade will also have laptops available, but the computers have to stay in the classroom.
The project is part of the district’s “one-to-one initiative,” which provides access to technology for every student. There are 5,500 secondary students in the district, which includes two high schools (Sumner and Bonney Lake) and three middle schools (Lakeridge, Mountain View and Sumner).
Every four years, the Chromebooks will be replaced with a new model. Currently, around 8,500 Chromebooks have been distributed.
“We have enough Chromebooks for every single student to have one,” said Bryan Slater, a social studies teacher at Sumner High. “It’s completely revolutionized the way that I teach.”
It’s hard to remember how he taught before using Chromebooks, says Slater, who uses the internet and technology all the time in his classroom.
“I’ve gone paperless,” said Slater, adding that thanks to the Chromebooks, he can communicate to students even when he can’t be in class.
With the Chromebooks, teachers can send emails with homework attachments or instructions detailing how to prepare for next day’s lesson. That way, when students get to class, the teacher can spend less time catching students up, and more time enriching their learning.
In GoogleDrive, teachers can also tell how many students are working on certain assignments, and can make sure they stay on track — even from home.
“Before, we’d have to build in class time for kids who don’t have the internet,” Slater said. “Now, even if they don’t have internet at home, they have that laptop.”
While the district aims to keep students engaged with technology and use it as an educational resource, both pros and cons exist with the program.
We have enough Chromebooks for every single student to have one. It’s completely revolutionized the way that I teach.
Bryan Slater, teacher at Sumner High School
Damage is one issue. Upon receiving a Chromebook, each student must sign a form agreeing to take care of it. For parents, a $30 device coverage program was available to lessen the financial burden should a laptop be broken.
There’s also the matter of usability.
Some students will get the most use out of their Chromebooks, said Allison, and some might put them into their lockers and never use them again.
For the students who choose not to take advantage of their Chromebook, she added — that’s on them.
“There’s no reason that you should get behind in class when you have (the work) right in front of you,” said senior Emma Froembling. “It makes us a lot more accountable for our work.”
For the most part, though, says Slater, the district has done a great job of anticipating many of these problems, even down to Wi-Fi.
“The district had to think far in advance,” he said. “You can’t just place 1,700 computers in a school and say, ‘Okay, get (logged) on.’”
To prevent overloading systems, the district has been slowly increasing its infrastructure to keep up with online growth and monitor wireless capacity. Wi-Fi is now accessible from Sumner High School’s courtyard and Sunset Chev Stadium next door.
The district began Chromebook distribution on Sept. 8 at Lakeridge Middle School and continued for two weeks. At Sumner High, classes arrived one by one. Students were handed laptops and three stickers with their names for the computers, chargers and cases.
The district plans to monitor the success of the program by analyzing three areas: proficiency in understanding computers, hardware, software and connectivity; responsible use of technology and understanding of media safety; and ability to use technology for critical thinking, communication and creativity.