The Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools will have technology in the hands of every student this school year via a Chromebook.
District Technology Director Jeff Collett said the district selected a great instructional tool.
Students in kindergarten and first grade will have classroom sets of 10 Chromebooks; grades 2-5 will be one-to-one with Chromebooks, with the devices being stored and charged in their classrooms.
Students in grades 6-12 will each have a Chromebook they will take home with them, according to Collett.
That adds up to 6,700 student Chromebooks. The district also purchased 560 Chromebooks for teachers to use.
"People will say that's a lot of money, but we're getting them for $240 apiece," Collett said. "We reallocated some resources and we're able to do this. I didn't have to go to board to say, 'I need more money.' "
Superintendent Steve Barrett said teachers and students have had access to Chromebooks in the district for years.
"Last year, we were at 1.5 Chromebooks to one student," he said. "Teaching with Chromebooks has grown organically over time."
Barrett said the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation funded a number of teacher grants for Chromebooks in recent years, supporting and growing innovation in the classroom.
"Chromebooks allow teachers to use open source content, which is often more current than even the newest textbooks," Barrett said.
Teachers also are using Google Classroom, a free web-based platform which includes Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Sheets, Google Slides and more, he said.
"These applications make it easier to create and distribute assignments and communicate," Barrett said. "Students can do research, collaborate and share their work easily."
Collett said the goal has been to have a three-year replacement cycle.
"For every laptop, we can buy two to three of these," he said. "We're making a push to provide a device for every student."
He said the Chromebooks will look like a laptop.
"It's all in the same platform," Collett said. "We will have four models and the experience will be very similar."
He said two models are Samsung products and the other two are Acer.
"The trend we see is that we don't install specific software," he said. "It's strong with the Cloud. They (students) will have access to 99 percent of the instructional resources they need."
Collett said he created a technology plan two years ago and he surveyed the community.
"There was a concern students were going to a lot of places with different passwords," he said of the survey input.
Collett said students will go to a portal, and they won't necessarily have a password.
"We will create a streamlined experience for them," he said.
Collett said it's important to note the concept of one device per student evolved as a result of Chromebooks that were introduced through the Gahanna-Jefferson Educational Foundation.
"They built our inventory through a three-year period," he said. "We thought, 'Boy it's a great instructional tool.' This is really teacher-led. The teachers saw the value in the Chromebooks and asked through the education foundation. We moved forward from there."
Collett said the district has plans in place to make sure the students are cyber-safe.
"We want to make sure student presence online is appropriate," he said. "This is about transforming student learning and making sure every student has the same opportunity and the correct opportunity."
Collett said the district would still have devices in lab settings.
"Chromebooks aren't the right tool for art and tech classes," he said. "But this will be their primary learning tool."