PHENIX CITY, Ala. – Instead of pencil and paper, one can find more Phenix City high school students clicking away on computers. As News 3 has reported, 1,500 Phenix City middle schoolers got to take home i-Pads this year as part of Phenix City Schools 1:1 initiative. Because that experiment worked so well (the i-Pads only had a 4% breakage rate according to Superintendent Randy Wilkes), high school students will now get to take home Chromebook laptops as an extension of the program.
More than 2,000 Phenix City high school students will experience the change sweeping across the Phenix City School District. The school district spent $500,000 to buy about 2,2000 computers.
Librarian Gabriella Dubose works at Central Freshman Academy. The ninth graders already use the Chromebooks on a regular basis.
“This is a great way to prepare our students for the 21st century,” Dubose said.
Dubose will instruct teachers on how to introduce Chromebooks to the classroom.
“A lot of the time, students don’t always like the paper and pencil, the old way of doing things,” Dubose added.
Of course, change can bring some discomfort. English teacher Valerie Borders thought the devices would cause students to get distracted. However, with time, she says the Chromebooks offer her students flexibility in the classroom.
“And it helps too that they can collaborate with one another,” Borders said. “And they keep the volume down and they can work at their own pace.”
The Chromebooks are getting rave reviews from teachers and students, who love the ease of completing assignments. Students can work on applications and projects stored in “the cloud,” and they can even work offline if they don’t have internet access. The Chromebooks also have relatively long battery life (two days), a functional keyboard and protection in case students drop them.
Instructional Technology Specialist Tamara Sanders will train dozens of teachers to use the Chromebooks. She says despite the new technology, the discipline remains the same.
“If there were punishments given for messing up a textbook, writing in the textbook, then those same types of punishments will be given to those who do something to the device,” Sanders explains.
Sanders believes the laptops will get students more engaged in the learning process. The school district is still thinking about what restrictions they will implement on the devices at the district level. Superintendent Wilkes echoes the same train of thought. He says over the next few months, teachers and parents will begin to receive training on the Chromebooks and how they can develop a constantly transforming classroom.
Students in grades 9-12 can opt in or out of the Chromebook take-home initiative. They will have to pay a premium at the beginning of the year so that a student can check out the laptop.