Escanaba has goal of computer for every student

ESCANABA — Students in the Escanaba School District will each have a device — either a Chromebook or iPad — to use for school work in the 2020-2021 school year. Starting the 2021-2022 school year, all high school students will be assigned their own Chromebook to keep with them until their high school graduation.

Escanaba Director of Technology Robert Viau is spearheading Escanaba’s 1:1 Chromebook Initiative, a movement to put a Chromebook in every student’s hands.

“The number one request we get from teachers is more Chromebooks,” said Viau. “Far and away from anything else.”

A Chromebook is a laptop, or tablet, that uses the Google Chrome browser to access the Internet, where data and programs are stored.

A planning team, made of Escanaba staff, was created to look at logistics, requirements, and issues that could come into play when providing the devices. Team members are: Tim Bishop, network technician; Tina Marenger, junior high mathematics teacher; Scott Shepeck, senior high english/language arts teacher; Mary DeMerse, senior high special education teacher; Jason Micheau, high school assistant principal; Darci Griebel, high school principal; Matt Oney, senior high science teacher; Marie Young, junior high science teacher; and Viau. The team sent out surveys and questionnaires to understand why the devices were needed and how other school districts were running programs.

A survey went to students asking them what kind of Internet access they had at home. The planning team received 760 responses from the high school body.

“We were excited to find 94% of the students have Internet access at home,” said Viau. “That was good news, and maybe a little bit higher than we thought it would be, but when we dug a little bit deeper into the data we realized less than half have access to their own computer at home.”

The team also found out 80% of students were doing school work assignments on their smart phones.

“I think those two data points are pretty good examples why we need some kind of answer for students …” said Viau.

In 2008 the administration looked at providing students with other devices, but the devices or the annual price of licensing was too expensive. In 2014, Escanaba started using Chromebooks. The price is now at $200 per device, including lifetime licenses. The planning team decided the Chromebooks would roll out over two years in three phases.

“Next year will be year one. We’ll be looking at putting devices in all the eighth-grade classrooms. There will be a cart for each classroom full of devices students can use,” said Viau.

Before the school year starts, freshmen and sophomores will be assigned their own new Chromebook. Students will be able to take the device home weeknights and over weekends. Sixth, seventh, 11th and 12th graders will use existing devices shared on Chromebook carts. All teachers will be eligible to receive a new Chromebook in the 2020-2021 school year.

“By the end of the second year, we’ll have added dedicated carts to all sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade classrooms, and all students from ninth through 12th will have their own individual device,” said Viau.

In phase two, ninth and 12th graders will get new Chromebooks, while sophomores and juniors in the school year 2021-2022 will continue to use the devices they were given in the first phase.

Year three and beyond are planned to be the maintenance years. Every four years Viau said the district would replace devices that need to be taken out of the rotation.

“At the beginning of each school year, freshmen will receive a new device and they will carry the devices with them until they graduate,” said Viau.

Teachers’ Chromebooks will also follow a four-year rotation.

“Many teachers are carrying devices over 10 years old at this point,” Viau said.

Recently Griebel, Viau, and Young went to Marquette Area Public Schools to observe for themselves how the 1:1 Chromebook Initiative is working. Young, who has taught for 20 years, was very excited about the idea of Chromebooks in the classroom. According to Young, textbooks are not updated as often as she would like. The group noticed students were carrying their Chromebooks with the other books.

Griebel sat with students in Marquette High School and asked them what downfalls they saw, and how the Chromebook benefits them.

“It’s become so every day nature to them, to carry one of these devices, to have in the classroom, they said they don’t know how they functioned without it,” said Griebel.

The planning team has decided to use Securly Filter, a Cloud-based Internet filter, to keep students safe while using the device. It checks real-time activity, and reports when the student uses the Chromebook for flagged content. Parents have additional control over their child’s online activities from home.

Griebel said there is a whole variety of positives to having Chromebooks. Students who are home sick will be able to get their work done using the Chromebook, instead of having homework brought to them.

“With Google Classroom teachers will be able to have their activities, video links, sections they want the student to read … all posted into Google Classroom,” said Griebel. “When a student is sick they can look up what the teacher assigned for the day. It takes away the cumbersome, ineffective way of gathering up work. Parents are able to see what students are doing in class, what work is expected of them…”

By each student having the same tool it equalizes computer access, and students will use the device for state testing. A student can sync their Chromebook to their test scores and study through Kahn Academy, a program that aids students in raising their score in areas of testing they are not strong in. Students taking virtual classes will have more opportunities to do their work.

Chromebooks will allow parents and students to view what work is assigned on snow days. Having the devices may reduce the amount of non-productive days due to weather.

“Our third quarter last year was almost nonexistent,” said Griebel.

During class, students are limited to what they view, and the instructor can see what the student is viewing at all times. Securly Classroom provides teachers a dashboard type screen to follow student activity in the classroom. The planning team is still working on policies and procedures.

“By the time we’re up and running for fall we’ll have all the protocols, practices worked out, and information out to parents and students…” Griebel said.

Chromebooks will enhance the direct instruction in the classroom, according to Griebel. Managing students and knowing if a student is off task will be minimized with the Securly features.

“Benefits I see … one, those filters carry over into the home at night. Parents actually have the ability to customize those filters, to add further filters if they want, but the filters we have in place for the school system will still be in place at home at night,” said Griebel. “… and two, full visibility of online activity. …It monitors for signs of bullying, self-harm, and violence across social networking web-searches.”

Testing of Securly Classroom is set to take place during the second semester of this school year.


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