Chromebooks at UHS

UHS students set up their Chromebooks during registration.

The Union R-XI School District kicked off its first week of classes with a Chromebook for each student in grades three to 12, and reached an important milestone in its technology initiative.

District Technology Coordinator Matt Jones said the school district now has roughly 950 devices for its students and has reached 1-1, or a device for each of its students grade from third grade up. He said the district is ahead of schedule on its One-to-World technology initiative.

When the Chromebook plan was first proposed and approved in 2015, the laptops, which run Google’s Chrome operating system, cost roughly $352 per unit. The plan was to phase in the devices over a period of three years for students in fourth through 12th grades.

At a meeting earlier this year, the school board approved extending the Chromebook roll-out to third graders, moving the district ahead of schedule.

Jones said as the district moves forward with the One-to-World initiative, academic life for students will get easier and easier. He said there is an advantage in having academic resources bundled into one device.

“I think as we start to transition away from some of the text resources it will be easier for students to manage their daily activities,” Jones said. “They’re not carrying six or seven books in a 30-pound backpack. Being able to have access to their resources anywhere they have internet access is a big advantage.”

Jones said the district’s next challenge will be deciding whether devices are a good fit for its younger students. He said a determination on whether there is a need for those students to have devices has not been made.

“Our next hurdle is determining what the best fit is for kindergarten through second grade,” Jones said. “It’s not a topic we’ve spent a great deal of time on and we’re not sure if 1-1 for kindergarten is a path we need to or should go down. We just haven’t made that determination yet.”

He said the district wanted third graders to get familiar with the Chromebooks because MAP testing is done on similar devices.

“It was important for us to familiarize them with the technology throughout the year so when it comes test time they’re familiar with the devices,” Jones said.

As for the near future, Jones will be presenting on a renewal with Securly, a company that provides content control software to Union’s Chromebooks.

Jones said a new parent portal will be part of the renewal.

“A new feature is the ability to allow parents to have access to all of their students’ daily activities through a parent portal,” Jones said. “That will help ensure that parents are aware of what their students are doing and it gives parents a little more insight into how their kids are using those products.”