FOUNTAIN LAKE, Ark. (AP) — An infusion of 900 Chromebooks at the Fountain Lake middle and high schools has led to a shift in how students and teachers approach each day at school.
Fountain Lake School District purchased 900 Samsung Chromebooks for students in grades five-12. Enrollment at the middle school and high school are about 400-420. The extra computers purchased can be used for new students and specialty classes.
Fountain Lake Middle School has had one Toshiba netbook per student for the past three years. The new computers were purchased to help the school move forward in the process of being a 1:1 Google School, according to The Sentinel-Record.
The middle school's netbooks and other netbooks from the high school are now used by elementary students. Teachers in grades two-four have a class set of netbooks for their classes to use.
"Mr. (superintendent Darin) Beckwith said, 'Hey look, this is something we need to make sure happens.' He got with our school board and they said, 'Yes. We need to make this happen.' And here we go," said middle school principal Frank Janaskie.
The netbooks were more limited in their classroom capabilities. Files could be downloaded to the computer, but that could also have an effect on its performance.
The new Chromebooks work through Google. Students use Google accounts to access Gmail, Google Docs and Google Drive, which is a cloud-based storage system. Their schoolwork information can be stored, saved and shared online.
"We aren't as limited as we used to be," said seventh-grade science teacher Kim Richard.
Richard said students are still in the process of learning the system, but she expects it to speed up the processes of class work for students and grading for teachers.
"It saves a lot on paper, for one thing, and I just graded some assignments this weekend — I was able to just grade it right there and sent it to them," Richard said. "I don't have to handwrite it and pass papers back.
"I just shoot it right back to them in their email and they have their grade. I put the grade in the gradebook, it's done. So it's easier."
The Chromebooks are labeled with bar codes like a library book and checked out to the students from the library media centers. Each computer is labeled with the student's name that checks it out.
Seventh- and eighth-graders have been allowed to take their computers home with them for the past two years. Grades seven-12 are now able to take their Chromebooks home with them, but fifth- and sixth-graders must still leave the computers at school.
Janaskie said the response from the students has been positive because they are interested in the new technology. He said the students enjoy the digital capabilities and being able to use the computers as a resource at home for homework and projects.
"You have a textbook — an algebra book costs us $120," Janaskie said. "Why not a $200 Chromebook that eventually you know it is going to come that textbooks are not going to be the way the kids are learning.
"It is going to be online or through some sort of digital means."
Ginger Henson, an eighth-grade English teacher at the middle school, said it allows her to find new ways to keep students involved. Students studied an online lesson on Monday instead of a worksheet, played an educational basketball game program and then charted results of active and passive sentences on the board.
"Having the technology allows them to do that with more fun, instead of pencil and paper, constantly," Henson said. "And they're active. I feel like they are learning more when they are active."
Janaskie said teachers no longer have to worry about scheduling time to go to a computer lab or have a class set brought to them. Chargers are also available.
The district has taken measures to increase its wireless capabilities on campus. Each classroom in the middle school and high school have wireless access points.
"Kids are going to college, kids are doing things in vocations and looking at careers that have something to do with technology, whether it is auto mechanics, graphics or engineering." Janaskie said.