Helper's small student population is good for the test run.
Robert Bradley gives students an overview of how to use their Chromebooks.
Helper Junior High students get their own Chromebooks
They are bright, shiny and new and they were at Helper Junior High as of Tuesday.
They are Chromebooks and every student in the school will be assigned one this week as the move to technology in the classroom goes up another step.
"These machines are going to be good for our students," said science teacher Robert Bradley on Tuesday morning in between sessions where he was introducing the new machines to the students a few dozen at a time. "When a student has a question that I don't know the answer to, we can use them right here in the classroom to answer that question."
The Helper introduction of Chromebooks is an experiment of sorts, yet a tried one. Some other school districts in the state have been using the machines for some time and Carbon district officials have traveled to see their use and spent time determining which kind of system would be best for the students in Carbon County. For now the machines will just be at the one school.
"There will be some little problems to fix along the way, but they will be used well," said Bradley.
The ideas to get into this came from the districts IT department and administration, who all thought some kind of quick electronic device system would be a good idea.
"Carbon School District has been working for the last six to eight months on trying to incorporate a 1:1 computer initiative in our school district," said Superintendent Steve Carlsen in an email on Monday. "In order to do this correctly we have had several key people doing a lot of research and visiting different schools and school districts in our state that have incorporated 1:1 computers. This is a pilot project for our school district."
Carlsen said that the district selected Helper Junior High for the test for several reasons.
"Principal Mika Salas has a good understanding of technology and has been very supportive and excited about this project," said Carlsen. "Two of the faculty of Helper Jr. High (Robert Bradley and Chris Sweeney) have been incorporating technology into their current classroom settings and have a good understanding of the needs of the students in light of going with a computer for every student."
Carlsen also said that the smaller population at Helper Jr. High was also a factor.
"We feel like we can test this situation with 200 students much easier than 600 at either Mont Harmon or Carbon High," he said.
Carlsen also said there are some specific reasons the district decided to go with the Chromebook.
"It is a laptop. It uses Google Chrome as its operating system and passes all of the requirements that our tech department stated would work with our network and our particular monitoring system," stated Carlsen.
Bradley said that the machines will add a whole new dimension to education of kids at Helper Junior High. They work for the individual and for the group as well.
"If you had a group project you wanted to do and put six kids at a table with a piece of paper it wouldn't work very well," he stated. "But with this they can each work on the project with a lot more organization."
Chromebooks are basically small laptops with a lot of features and great connectability.
"I like these because there is no time waiting for startup," said Bradley. "Open the machine up and three seconds later we are in and can get started."
The Chromebooks use Google Apps for Education, including the well know Goodle Docs application.
The machine uses the cloud to store information. The students have folders for each class they are taking and can access their work anywhere they have connectability. The system also allows teachers to enter into students work. Best of all parents can have access as well. This will help in keeping track of school work and assignments.
Students take the machines home at night and they must charge them in the evening. If they leave the machine home accidentally or a the machine is low on charge then there will be loaners at the school they can use.
Students are responsible for the machines, much like they are with textbooks. Students who have the machines to take home had to pay a $15 insurance premium for the students to do so. The district has decided to go with a self insurance model rather than go through a company for that insurance.
The machines will be used to replace textbooks in some cases, and if the program works eventually they may replace all text books.
"It's important to remember that these machines will replace some of the standard textbooks in a PDF format but it's also good to remember that they add a new dimension to text books when we can download the interactive book systems," stated Carlsen on Wednesday morning.
The district has more goals for the machines eventually. Depending on how things go next year students at Mont Harmon will get Chromebooks. Also it is projected that the students at Carbon High will get them associated with their language arts classes.
"We are hoping that by the 2015-16 school year they can be district wide in grades sixth through 12," said Carlsen.
The big point of the machines is not only learning, but accountability by all involved.
"There will be no more 'the dog ate my homework' excuses with these machines," stated Carlsen.