S.S. Seward expands Chromebook program

In Katie Hannon’s chemistry class at SS Seward, a stack of Chromebooks is the newest addition to her educational toolbox — along with the more traditional beakers, Bunsen burners, and Erlenmeyer flasks one might expect to see in a science classroom.

These compact cloud-based laptops are a hit for both students and staff.

“I love them, and the students love them,” said Ms. Hannon, “I now use them every class period, every day.”

A teacher leads a classroom full of students, each using a Chromebook
Chromebooks are compact, durable laptops specially designed for students.

But until recently, finding a Chromebook at SS Seward had been a challenge. Only a handful of teachers were assigned a classroom set that could stay in their rooms. Other teachers have had to share a mobile Chromebook cart and had to hope the laptops would be available when needed.

That’s all about to change. Chromebooks will soon make their way into the hands of all S.S. Seward students, with each assigned a device they can use at school and take home.

“To know that the technology will be available to all my students and I don’t have to worry about looking for it is amazing,” said Ms. Hannon. “Now it will be there whenever we want to use it.”

Leveling the technology playing field

The district began introducing Chromebooks to students several years ago, starting with students at Golden Hill Elementary. For students in kindergarten and first grade, teachers have been using a combination of Chromebooks and tablets. In grades 2-5, every classroom has one Chromebook for each student. But when students moved up to Seward, access to the technology has been inconsistent.

This fall, the district began receiving Chromebooks for Seward students. Come January when the second semester starts, there will be enough Chromebooks for every middle and high school students, ensuring that all Florida students have access to crucial technology.

“This is about leveling the playing field for everyone,” said Dana Castine, the district’s director of technology, math, and science. While some Florida students may have computers at home they can use, others do not. Without access to computers, it can be challenging for students to study or complete homework.

The district initially considered purchasing a full set of Chromebooks for each S.S. Seward classroom, but that would require the purchase of far more devices, Mrs. Castine explained.

“Because students take so many classes and have so many different teachers, it makes more fiscal sense to purchase one for each student,” she said. Each student will be responsible for his or her device in the same way that they’re responsible for textbooks, she said, and the Chromebook will be turned in at the end of each school year.

The laptops, which run on a Google operating system, allow students to create and store work, collaborate, and access the internet. Chromebooks have gained popularity among teachers and administrators because of their durability, long battery life, and resistance to computer viruses. Because they provide storage on the cloud, documents and content can be shared, and teachers can view and communicate directly with students as they work. Students can write, create graphics and videos, research, and maintain a digital portfolio of their work.

“My students are so engaged, and they love what they’re able to do with Chromebooks,” said high school social studies teacher Jena Thomas, who received a classroom set this year. “They’re so excited, and they’re practicing good digital citizenship. They know it’s a privilege, and they take it seriously. As a teacher, I want them to go into the world as 21st Century learners, and this will help make that happen.”

Chromebooks typically cost a few hundred dollars each. Florida will receive state aid to cover about 60 percent of the cost, with the district paying the balance. Designed especially for students, Chromebooks are more rugged than traditional laptops and tablets.

Informational meetings for parents and guardians about the new Chromebooks will be held in the coming weeks.