Ely Times Staff Writer
The White Pine County School District has partnered with Google to be the test pilot for the massive tech company’s new laptop, the Chromebook. Known as “the Chromebook initiative” Google looks to not only supply laptops to students, but also work with the teaching staff to best utilize the technology for teaching.
Business Continuity Technologies (BCT), the IT company that handles the schools’ networking is working hand in hand with Google to handle the communication with teachers on a local level. CEO for BCT Lester Kaizer said the initiative means White Pine County school’s will help shape the next generation of education in the country.
“White Pine County School District has helped on a nationwide level with the Google Corporation to revolutionize education,” Kaizer said. “We are in the most remote part of Nevada, and yet, this county had a huge impact on revolutionizing how educational and instructional stuff is being brought through technology in all of North America.”
Teachers from White Pine High School and Middle School gather in the high school’s library on the first two Fridays of each month to work with Google through online training. A Tiffany Kelly from BCT works with the teachers to answer their questions.
“When technology has been rolled out in schools, historically, it has been hard to adapt. What was unique about this was [Google] found a formula that involved educating the educators and troubleshooting in the classroom,” Kelly said.
So far instructors are pleased with the results.
Seventh grade Humanities teacher Kristina Ernest credited the Chromebooks to making her students excited to finish their work, including a writing assignment over the holidays.
“I had a 99 percent turn in rate,” teacher said. “I’ve never had that.”
World literature teacher Rose Melhoff said the introduction of the laptop in her classroom has opened up many new opportunities to help her students learn.
For example, Melhoff starts by making a document she sends to all her students with the required reading attached. She said she bypasses the traditional textbook this way and heavily cuts down on her need to photocopy handouts for the students. From there, she can include video links to make the reading interactive. For those students who struggle with the vocabulary, they can look up definitions on the fly to quickly get back into the text.
All of this adds up to an experience she said is much more engaging to the students.
“It’s like a whole world has opened up. We start with what used to be this flat piece of text and now it becomes very interactive. The students now have all sorts of lenses with which they can view it and this all takes place so quickly because I have this technology right there in the classroom,” Melhoff said.
Google has provided 100 Chromebooks to the high school and another 100 to the middle school as part of this testing initiative.
From there, another 100 laptops will be introduced this year, with the goal being one laptop for every student “in the next two or three years” according to Superintendent Bob Dolezal.
“Our goal is to have a Chromebook for every student grade six through 12. We believe that by having that, we are going to change our instruction to be more in line with the common core states standards and to the learning strategies that need to be utilized in today’s world,” Dolezal said.
One thing has proven to be true so far. The students connect with the new technology and that the Chromebook initiative could be a glimpse into the future of a highly connected classroom.
“The children already have immediate access on their smart phones. They are used to getting immediate answers. Bringing that into the classroom and allowing them to have the tools at their desktops to enrich that experience has changed the whole environment of the classrooms,” Kelly said.