In Vicky Zalewski’s Acalanes High School geometry class, students love their Chromebooks.
“I forgot to give them out one day and you would have thought I was trying to sabotage them. They were so upset. We use them 99 out of 100 days,” Zalewski said.
Thanks to LPIE funding, Acalanes is in its fourth year of the 1:1 device program, an initiative that aims to give each student their own Chromebook or iPad to use for school. This school year, LPIE donated $101,000 for this program.
What is it about these devices that the students find so useful?
Ms. Zalewski’s class uses a dynamic textbook. Though they have the printed books available to them, they prefer to use the version they can access through their Chromebooks. Ms. Zalweski says the online version allows the students to explore what the teachers are trying to show them, providing not only the answer they’re working toward, but also the steps to get there, walking them through the process of the problems so they gain a thorough understanding of the concepts.
In addition to the mathematical software working very well on the devices, Zalewski likes that the Chromebooks gives the students no excuses when it comes to their homework.
“They can access the textbook pages or workbook pages from anywhere. If they tear out the homework sheet from the workbook and then lose it, they can print it out at home or in the library,” she said.
Ms. Zalewski has a cart of Chromebooks for Statistics and Geometry classes for use during school hours. In other classrooms, the students are each issued their own Chromebook for use at school and at home. Students have Webassigns, or on-line homework for that class, but they may also use the computers for work in other subjects as well, limiting the burden on family devices.
As Acalanes High School moves toward its one-to-one goal, Principal Travis Bell has been very strategic about the use of his LPIE tech budget. Because students in the Lafayette School District are introduced to the world of computers through Google Drive and Google Docs, the trend for devices veers naturally toward Chromebooks.
Still, Principal Bell and his team delved into the relative merits of both devices before making a large purchase of over three hundred Chromebooks for Acalanes High School this year. The high school currently has 335 Chromebooks, 124 new Air Macs and 693 iPad minis that are all at least two years old.
"Teachers have found that with the movement to Google Accounts for Education and the increasing shift from device based Apps to web-based programs, Chromebooks have been highly effective in augmenting the learning in the classroom and allowing students to engage in innovative ways,” Bell said.
Acalanes Blueprint staffers, Maya Kanonizado and Marina Carr prefer their Chromebooks to iPads.
“I like them better than the iPads, because we do most of our work using Google Drive and it’s easier to access from the Chromebooks,” said Kanonizado. “Also, I like to use Google Apps.”
Carr finds it helpful that the Chromebooks have both a keyboard and a touch screen.
For some subjects however, such as Design and Fabrication, or 3D Art, Principal Bell said the Apple software is vastly superior, and for those classes Acalanes will continue to provide iPads.
In the digital age, there are many devices educators can use to enhance each student’s learning process, and each has its merits depending upon the end use. As more and more software is written for the both iPads and Chromebooks, students and teachers will be the beneficiaries of a host of useful instructional tools they can utilize to better the learning process. LPIE will continue to support the advances in this technology through funding for computers and tablets at all the school sites in both the Lafayette and Acalanes High School District.