By Kim Walter
WOODSTOCK -- Several teachers from Peter Muhlenburg Middle School have requested the purchase of 200 Google Chromebooks for the school's seventh grade students.
Rebecca Coffman, instructional technology resource teacher, said the seventh grade faculty members have been planning for more than a year for the pilot project. The 200 Chromebooks would replace 50 laptops and desktops for about the same price, she said.
The School Board watched a video made by students and staff at Peter Muhlenburg that listed benefits of student access to the Chromebooks.
Students said the new technology would create opportunities to "design their future."
Additionally, some functions of the devices would allow students to message their teacher privately so as to not disturb the whole class, or the student could simply look up information on his own.
While students wouldn't be able to take the Chromebooks home, they would have their own personal device in each of their core classes.
Deborah Cross, seventh grade history teacher, gave an example of how her students could use the Chromebooks every day. She said students would come to class and log on to a website where they would have to answer a warm-up question pertaining to the current subject matter.
"I can create the questions, and use links to videos or websites," she said. "But what's great is that every student has to participate and answer."
From there, students can see each other's answers and then comment, leading to classroom discussion.
Math teacher Donald Bowers said Google software will make projects and presentations easier to produce. Students can create surveys and receive instant feedback and data. Form there, Google has a number of graphs, charts and spreadsheets that make information sharing easy.
"Normally something like that would take a week," he said. "The Chromebook can get it done in two days, tops. And the best part is, it's student created and student driven."
Other benefits, according to Coffman, include special Google apps for education, no need for updating or maintenance, no viruses and up to eight hours of battery life.
Coffman said faculty members have attended Google webinars and redeveloped curriculum, among other things, over the past year.
School Board member Kathryn Holsinger asked if using the Google Chromebooks in seventh grade would help close the technology gap that some students face after graduating from high school.
"This grade values the use of technology," Coffman answered. "But we want to expose them to as many different kinds of software and technology as possible. The great thing about this project is that the student is at the center, not the teacher."
Science teacher Jamie Nichols said having the Chromebooks in each class for each student would help in that she wouldn't have to worry about scheduling a day to use the computer lab, or a day to use the limited number of laptops.
"It can be tough planning around when things are available because we'd all like to use technology in our classes," she said. "But we will use these every day, whether it be for five minutes or the entire class period."
The pilot program relates to the School Board's goal concerning student opportunity and achievement in that the purchase of Chromebooks will "prepare students for an ever-changing world that sees technological advancements happening at a rapid rate."
Per the School Board's approval, the teachers hope to have the Chromebooks ready for use in the second semester of this school year.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or email@example.com