Laptop initiative going ‘well’ for Allendale students –

Early returns on the school district’s 3-week-old Chromebook initiative indicate Allendale middle school students are getting the most out of their new laptops, but preliminary concerns are emerging over how and how often the devices are used.

Allendale launched the technology initiative this month, giving Google Chromebooks to every student at Brookside Middle School as the first step in creating a Google Applications Education School District. Thus far, the computers have been a hit.

“The Chromebooks are going extremely well. It doesn’t matter where you walk in the building, sixth, seventh and eighth graders are using them. Not only are they using them in the classroom, they’re using them outside of the classrooms,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Barcadepone said.

In conversations with several students, Barcadepone said many prefer to use the laptops to take notes in class, “but others like to use pencil and paper for certain things.”

“That’s exactly what we were talking about – we’re not forcing the students to do anything. We’re allowing them to use the Chromebooks where they’re comfortable,” he said.

The school board on Monday endorsed the initiative, including the 1:1 Chromebook plan high on its list of goals for this academic year.

The board intends to “support the Chromebook initiative in grades 6 through 8 and the implementation of Google Apps for Education through offering of personal development, resources, parental feedback and opportunities for enhanced academic applications,” according to the second point on the 2015-16 BOE goals list.

Trustees noted positive feedback from staff members, who are using the Chromebooks as enhanced teaching tools. Board member Gwen Keeble said some teachers intend to use the laptops to supplement traditional instruction methods, such as putting “pen to paper.”

Despite the upbeat attitude toward the laptops, BOE President Melissa Duncan cautioned education leaders and parents on the amount of time students spend on their computers.

“I do want us to be careful about how long we’ll be using them. The students use them in the classroom, then go home with them,” Duncan said. “I don’t think it’s always healthy to be on a computer six hours a day at school and then [use them at home].

“There needs to be a balance. It’s not good for your eyes; it’s not good for your posture,” she added.

The state Department of Health suggests a limit of no more than two hours of screen time, either television or computer, for school-aged children. Some Allendale parents believe the implementation of Chromebooks might encourage the overuse of electronic devices.

Other parents have said children are using the Chromebooks for reasons other than school work.

“What they’re not doing is their homework,” resident Michael Flom said, noting that he has seen and heard of students playing online video games on the school-issued computers.

Board members told Flom that the district’s IT department has put measures into place that prevent students from downloading games and other inappropriate material to the Chromebooks. District officials said they would investigate ways to prevent access to free video games available on the Internet.



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