$50K grant helps buy 1,500 Chromebooks for Tahoe-Truckee students | SierraSun.com

$50K grant helps buy 1,500 Chromebooks for Tahoe-Truckee students

Jessica Weaver
Special to the Sun

Now in its second year, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s one-to-one technology program has experienced exponential growth thanks to funds contributed by the school district and grants provided by the Excellence in Education Foundation.

Designed to get technology into the hands of students and integrate it into how they learn, the program continues to shed light on the fact that this style of learning is the way of the future.

The program started during the 2013-14 school year when roughly 265 eighth-grade students attending North Tahoe School and Alder Creek Middle School were issued Chromebooks to use in class and take home to complete assignments.

This year, 1,500 Chromebooks have been issued to grades 8-12 at both middle and high schools.

“Last year, we quickly recognized that the one-to-one program provided teachers with the ability to enhance curriculum with interactive learning opportunities that fostered collaboration, creativity and independent thinking,” said Rebecca Maas, teacher technology specialist at TTUSD. “This year, we’re continuing to see how the incorporation of technology is changing the way teachers are preparing their curriculum and the students are engaging with it.”

Teachers and students continue to use the Google Apps for Education suite, and this year, have access to Google Classroom, providing students with a one-stop-shop for information.

Teachers are able to post resources and assignments, and communication between teachers and students has increased as a result.

“Use of this technology allows me the ability to comment on a document while students are working in order to provide encouragement or redirection before the task is completed,” said Katie Jamison, eighth-grade teacher at North Tahoe School.

Students have their own Google Apps account so they can collaborate with other students only within the district, as well as the ability to work offline on projects, making it unnecessary to have an Internet connection at home.

The use of cloud-based applications such as Google Apps has also made it possible this year for the district to be able to allow students to use a device of their own choosing, should they not wish to check out one of the Chromebooks available to them.

Personal laptop computers and iPads are often the personal devices of choice, and are able to be used to easily access content and tools being used in the classroom.

“There are three incredibly significant benefits that have come from the Chromebook program,” Jamison said. “Students are learning how to manipulate technology through applications, extensions and Google, fostering 21st century problem-solving skills.

“The collaboration between students and teachers has taken an entirely new shape, becoming visual and tangible to multiple parties simultaneously, and the potential for instant feedback has completely altered the way in which students complete assignments.”

Annie Stefani, English teacher at North Tahoe High School agrees, saying the Chromebooks have played a large part in allowing students to collaborate with one another through online peer editing, blogging and sharing resources.

“They are also great tools for inquiry-based lessons when students need to do research, look up a question they have, or share something they’ve found relevant to our class discussion,” Stefani said.

When the program was introduced last year, eighth-grade students used the Chromebooks primarily within core content areas.

This year, Chromebooks are being used in nearly every class to some extent.

Alder Creek Middle School teacher Lori McMullen noted the change in how the classroom works, saying “we have made the shift from the ‘sage on the stage,’ where the teacher provides all the information and directs the flow of work, to where (the teacher is) now the facilitator, which puts the responsibility of learning on the student.”

Students use the Chromebooks to access the web to check for assignments, read articles and print out assessment sheets.

“The way we think about how we learn has changed, and so has the amount of copies I make,” McMullen added.

The program has also benefited students who may be out of the classroom. It has opened opportunities available for independent study and the ability to continue to be connected to the classroom.

Students can keep up through video and access to assignments online, are less likely to get behind in their work, and have been able to continue collaborative projects with other students in the classroom while off campus.

“Our board is thrilled with the tremendous progress the school district, teachers and students have made with the one-to-one program, and we’re pleased to continue to support the program with another $50,000 grant to expand the program for the 2015-16 school year,” said Laura Brown, executive director of the Excellence in Education Foundation.

Maas says the district’s next steps include rolling the one-to-one program out to sixth- and seventh-grade students next year.

Long-term, the goal is to continue funding the program in order to extend it from grades four through 12, although the type of device to be offered to fourth- and fifth-grade students is still to be determined.

Jessica Weaver is an Excellence in Education Board Member. Visit http://www.exined.org to learn more.