Classrooms have come a long way from the days of chalk and a chalkboard, and the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees recently approved a purchase which will put students at the forefront of campus technology.
As part of TUSD’s Technology Plan for the 2017-2020 school years, the ratio of students to Chromebook devices is increasing from 3:1 in 2017 to 1:1 in 2020. Currently, TUSD is at a 2:1 ratio. Approval by the Board for a purchase of almost 6,000 new Chromebooks in 2019-2020 for Phase 3 of this plan means that by next school year, there will be a device for every student in the District.
“In the 1:1 environment, all students will have access to a key 21st century tool, mastery of essential standards and the development of digital citizenship skills,” TUSD Director of Technology and Innovation Jay Brem said.
Chromebooks are key for learning in the classroom, Dutcher Middle School English/Language Arts teacher Jenny Bowerman said, with students in her class using the devices to better their reading comprehension, complete assignments and participate in activities that Bowerman can watch in real time on her own computer.
“I can pose questions to the class, then see in real time their responses on the screen,” Bowerman said. “It’s very interactive for the kids.”
According to Brem, Chromebooks are much like any other laptop, providing a wireless internet connection. While it’s most useful for working on the web, students can also use the devices to perform other tasks, like typing documents. Chromebooks differ from a home laptop in that there’s no software to run and they have limited internal storage.
With the upcoming purchase of more devices, classrooms at TUSD elementary sites will each have its own Chromebook cart. At secondary sites, students will have a take-home model checked out to them like textbooks at the beginning of the year.
Taking home their Chromebooks can provide a myriad of additional opportunities for students, Bowerman said. This will benefit all of her pupils, but especially those who don’t have a computer at home.
“When they bring the Chromebook home, they can have more time on assignments. Right now, I have to limit what I do in class to being finished by the end of the class, because it’s not fair to say, ‘Go home and finish this for homework,’ when only some of the kids can,” Bowerman said. “It’s going to be wonderful when we’re at 1:1 and they’re able to take their Chromebook home, because whatever we’re doing in class, it’s then easy for them to do that at home.”
All students have TUSD Google accounts and access to Google’s GSuite of tools. Many teachers use these tools to support collaboration through practices like sharing and responding to documents, creating presentations and researching topics. At Pitman High and Turlock High, music teachers and students use online tools to digitize and annotate sheet music.
“With 1:1, teachers have more flexibility in planning and adjusting lessons that require technology access,” Brem said. “Students will have access to the web and other digital resources at their fingertips. This kind of access helps support teaching and learning that involves the 4 Cs- Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity and Communication.”
Students in grades 9-12 will receive the first hybrid touch Chromebooks in the district, described by Brem as 2-in-1 hybrid devices with a touch screen which work just like other devices, but have a keyboard that can be folded back to create a tablet-like device. This will allow for additional mobility while using the devices, as well as better compatibility with digital tools that rely on touch technology.
In a world where some say the youth of today spends too much time on technology, Bowerman believes they could spend even more.
“I think we need to adapt to changing times,” she said. “The fact is that kids are on technology more these days…it’s just an extension of their education.”