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Northwest Salmon



Chromebooks rolling out at Webster Area High School

by Amanda Fanger

It took a year and a half of discussion and planning to get the one-to-one initiative up and going at Webster Area High School. But by last Friday, school officials were hoping to have the final Chromebooks rolled out to students.
But what is this one-to-one initiative? And what exactly are these Chromebooks? Are they laptops or tablets? Do they signal the end of handwriting and textbook toting?
Student Services Director Amy Miller at WAHS is taking on these questions and says, “More and more colleges are going towards web-based applications. Our goal is to have our students college and career ready when they leave here. Technology is a big part of that next step.”
Webster is just getting started with their first technology based school year. How far they go with the new tech will depend on how quickly students pick up on it and how comfortable teachers become.
“We’re not throwing away our pencils and books. We’re not going to that extreme,” assured Miller.
All kids ninth through 12th grade at Webster – 160 students – were to receive an HP Chromebook.
A Chromebook is a small computer with a minimal hard drive system. It is web-based, running almost completely on internet memory storage. It has about an eight hour battery life.
Internet accounts on a website called Google Drive have been set up for the kids where all their work is done. Because all the work they do is being saved to this system – totally online – their files will be available to them to access any time, anywhere – as long as they have internet connection.
This means that since all of the students’ projects are being saved online, the files can be accessed even without a Chromebook. They can even be accessed from a home computer – all without extra software needing to be downloaded.
One feature Miller says is neat about this system is that students will be able to access the files years later, such as when they’re in college.
At just four pounds, the Chromebook is lighter and less expensive than a traditional laptop. They’re about 14 inches wide and less than an inch thick. They initially cost the school about $300 each. Students pay a $30 software fee, which is for their state email account. Students have to use that email address to log into the Chromebooks. The school has filters enabled via those addresses so students can’t abuse the internet use on the machines.
Because they’re so small, school officials are hoping that it means it will help alleviate the amount of paperwork a student must carry around in his or her backpack, helping the physical well-being of the students.
While Webster Area is not looking to replace all their textbooks right away, Miller says when it is time to update the curriculum – depending on how comfortable individual teachers are with the one-to-one initiative – they may go digital.
“Anyone who has already made the move from paper books to a reading device such as a Kindle will understand,” Miller said. “It will lighten their load.”
For English class, the teacher has already decided to dump the text books and is working with students completely digitally, Miller said.
Students who were issued Chromebooks this year will have the same computer until they graduate – a potential of four years for the freshmen.
Miller says students will take more pride in their individual machines if they know they’ll have the same one year after year.
Webster Area will still have four stationary computer labs for more advanced computer classes, and they still have two laptop carts with 30 computers in each for other more advanced work. The advantage of the Chromebooks is each student will have their own and be able to take them home if they so choose.
Although internet access is needed to do most work with the Chromebooks, minimal concern has been raised about the possibility of a student not having wi-fi connection at home. Miller’s response is that those students have the option of going to a friend’s house or a local business where free wi-fi is available.
“What we’re doing is we’re providing a tool for our students,” Miller said in conclusion. “At least now they have that tool.”

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