Emerson schools expand use of laptops in class – NorthJersey.com

EMERSON – The school district will expand the number of students who use Chromebook laptops starting Feb. 1, officials said.

Superintendent Brian Gatens said Wednesday that the high school’s ninth-grade and 11th-grade students will begin using laptops on a daily basis starting next month under the district’s “one-to-one” initiative.

They will join the school’s 10th-grade students, who have been using the laptops since September.

The idea, Gatens said, is to have all high school students using Chromebooks by the beginning of the next school year.

“The goal behind the laptop use is not to substitute learning activity, but to augment it in different places to make it stronger,” Gatens said. “More and more schools have adopted one-to-one programs … and we recognized that. [Laptops] enable students to read, learn, study and collaborate in ways that are far more aligned with the way of work these days.”

The district began a “slow and methodical approach” to exploring the idea of starting a one-to-one program two years ago, Gatens said.

District officials visited other schools to learn about existing programs and researched different kinds of laptops they would consider using.

Eventually, Emerson school officials decided to use Google Chromebooks, which they say are cost-efficient and allow the district to use Google Classroom, Google Drive and Google Apps for Education, which every teacher is required to use, Gatens said. Money to pay for the laptops came from the district’s operating budget.

“The pilot [program] has been a smash,” Gatens said. “The teachers’ feedback has been strong, the students enjoy it, and it’s been a huge success with parents as well.”

Alice Opperman, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction, and technology, said the use of the laptops has allowed teachers to bring outside resources into the classroom, enhancing the learning experience.

“With every student having a Chromebook, teachers can make outside resources a more natural part of the learning process, instead of having to reserve time in the library or things like that,” she said.

Since the Chromebook pilot program began with the 10th-grade students in September, Opperman said, district officials have met with teachers to discuss logistical issues – such as whether students are coming to school with the devices charged and whether the school’s Wi-Fi is working – and also how teachers have individually adapted the laptops to their curriculum.

Gatens said the entire district worked to put together the Chromebook program and they are looking forward to having it fully implemented next year.

“We’ll have a one-to-one building in September 2016,” Gatens said. “After two years ago having barely anything of that nature in the building, we are extremely proud of that fact. Two years is a long time, but in education it’s a blink of an eye.”

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