Meramec Valley R-III Middle School students had a lot to say about the new one-to-one program that gave a Chromebook laptop computer to each student.
“Having a computer to take home means I can look up stuff and learn how to do things any time without having to ask the teacher,” one student wrote on the end of the semester questionnaire.
“This is the best way to do homework because if I forget my math book, it’s on the website,” another student said.
Not having to carry around heavy books, the ability to play computer games, seeing spelling mistakes and a calendar that automatically puts in assignments, also were plusses that students saw in having their own Chromebook.
The five pages of students’ comments was the favorite part of an oral report that Debby Haley, technology director, made to the school board Dec. 21.
“It wasn’t all positive but we expected that,” Haley said. “But this was my favorite thing to report to you.”
Purchasing and distributing 750 Dell Chromebooks to every sixth- through eighth-grader in the district in August is just a fraction of the activities and budget of the technology department.
The five-member technology team includes Haley, Scott Kovis, instructional technology facilitator; Doug Howard, network support specialist; Mike McAtee, network infrastructure specialist; and Joyce Walker, administrative assistant.
Another 40 educators make up the technology committee that assist the technology team. They represent every school in the district, as well as libraries and computer labs.
The department supplies technology to approximately 3,200 students, 252 certified staff and 213 building support staff. These individuals use more than 3,900 devices, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, Chromebooks, copiers/printers, projectors and interactive white boards.
The tech team also tracks the professional development classes and workshops that are available to teachers, staff and administrators who need to be proficient in the constantly changing software programs used for classroom lessons, district data management and intra-district communication.
The team also maintains Google accounts for all students in grades K-12.
The primary role of the department is to facilitate the integration of technology into all areas of the district, including technology for teachers for delivery and improvement of instruction, Haley noted.
“This focus on technology is not just about what tools are provided, but how those tools are used,” she said. “Instructional technology should enhance and expand the learning environment, engage students, and enable them to create, communicate, collaborate and think critically.”
In a 29-page report, Haley reported total expenditures for her department this year will be $1,415,133, which includes $181,136 for capital outlay.
While the goal of the report was to inform school board members of the scope and progress of each segment of technology it was especially rewarding to report what the kids had to say, Haley said.
“We were even happy to hear the negative comments,” she added.
Among the not so positive things students thought about their Chromebooks was that too much is blocked on the website, there should be Netflix, the district should try to get some new ways to study and one student would like to listen to music while doing homework.
“It was all good,” Haley said. “It gave us some things to consider to improve the program and maybe communicate to the students that the Chromebooks are learning tools, not for entertainment.”