Near the end of April, Augusta Independent received some unexpected, but exciting news. Its $15,000 grant proposal for the Durr Foundation that had originally not been funded received a second look and was deemed meritorious for funding. The foundation added some additional funding and awarded $21,000 to AHS for a Chromebook initiative.
The grant will allow every high school student to have a Chromebook to use while at school. With the addition of some local funding, the district will be able to extend the project so that every student in grades 7-12 will be able to utilize a Chromebook. The current plan also includes providing each sixth grade student with a Kindle Fire, already owned by the district, to use while at school. This will give those students the experience of being responsible for a device that’s a lower cost.
For those unfamiliar with a Chromebook, it is essentially a mini-laptop, with some of the features of a tablet. It is advertised as easy to use, boots in seconds, and comes with the favorite Google apps. It is designed as a mobile and portable device, with a screen size of 11.6”.
How can these devices be valuable in the classroom? With them connecting to the Internet, a wide-range of possibilities exist for how they can enhance the educational experience. Because all Kentucky students have Office365 accounts, students would always have access to programs like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel through their web-based accounts and have cloud-based storage. There is also the Google Suite of tools that will be available, not to mention the vast online resources and texts that will be at their disposal.
Training is an important component in such a project. A digital learning coach from the Department of Education will be onsite in July to train school and district administrators, as well as school staff, not just on using Chromebooks, but on implementing effective digital learning practices.
While an exact timeline has not been established, the goal is to have students begin utilizing the devices by mid-September.