So far, so good response to frosh Chromebooks

chromebook--jinny thelen and stephen willis

Besides adjusting to high school classes and making new friends, members of the Class of 2017 have each been given a Samsung Chromebook from Carmel Unified School District. This marks the beginning of what CUSD hopes becomes a 1-to-1 student-to-computer ratio at CHS.

According to Colin Matheson, CUSD’s tech specialist, the Chromebook models given to freshmen cost about $250 each, but the total cost ends up being $300 because of a management fee, soft case, tax and shipping. The freshman class has about 230 students, but 250 laptops were purchased to help non-freshman students in classes like Algebra and Biology. Matheson says the total cost is about $82,000, which is close to the annual technology budget. The plan is that each incoming class will receive laptops, and the Computers on Wheels (COWS) will not be updated.

Even though the year has just started, teachers and students are finding them to be helpful classroom resources. English I teacher Hans Schmidt says the laptops are more efficient and the troubleshooting is easier.

“I think deeper in the year they will become more of a tool. In these early stages what I just want to do is see how does it work in terms of the logistics,” Schmidt says. “Do they consistently have them? Do they consistently work? How quickly can we pull them out? Are kids distracted by them?”

Fellow English I teacher Pat Robel agrees that they are a reliable resource.

“I really like them,” Robel says. “They have made a lot of things teachers traditionally do ranging from informal writing assignments, like daily journals and responses, to formal writing assignments…. They have expedited [the process].”

Freshmen have been using the Chromebooks in almost all their classes, such as Biology, English, AP Human Geography, Algebra and even language classes.

“I take sign language, and there is an online dictionary for American Sign Language so I use that a lot,” freshman Julianna Farmer says. “It is most helpful in science and language arts.”

Another benefit that comes with the Chromebooks is less competition for library and computer lab space.

With technology, however, there are almost always logistical problems. Robel says he often has students come to class with their laptops uncharged.

“Charging is frequently an issue,” Robel notes. “I would say every day in almost every class I have one of two students that need to charge their Chromebooks.”

Biology teacher Kevin Buran says his classroom has been having issues with connection, but recognizes that the problems are being resolved.

“I am a bit hesitant to use them,” Buran says. “But those problems are being fixed as we speak.”

Although it is an inconvenience, Robel notes that the glitches that have occurred are not significant enough to be seen as an obstacle, and Buran says that when the connection is fixed, he will use them more often in his classes.

Before this program, there were about 600 computers on campus for 800 students, according to Matheson, so CHS was close to a 1-to-1 ratio.

Many classrooms currently still have COWS, a large cart that holds about 30 laptops that students can use during class. The one-to-one plan was originally part of CUSD’s 2005 District Tech Plan, but planning, logistical concerns and budgeting pushed back the implementation until this year.

-Edie Ellison