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Franklin School District implements 1:1 Initiative for school year

Each student receives Chromebook

Freshman Jack Rathkamp tries out a sample of one of the Chromebook computers that will be issued to Franklin School District seventh- through 11th-grade students following a 30-minute informational session at the high school Aug. 12.

Freshman Jack Rathkamp tries out a sample of one of the Chromebook computers that will be issued to Franklin School District seventh- through 11th-grade students following a 30-minute informational session at the high school Aug. 12. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Aug. 19, 2014

Franklin — Goodbye, textbooks. Hello, Chromebooks.

The Franklin School District will implement its 1:1 Initiatives program this school year, distributing Google Chromebooks to nearly 1,750 students between grades seven and 11.

Google Chromebooks look and function like basic laptops, with a 14-inch screen and keyboard. Unlike laptops, Chromebooks are designed to only access wireless Internet; there are no software programs to install.

The reason for the technological upgrade is that physical textbooks have become obsolete, said Superintendent Steve Patz, and new online resources are being included in the school curriculum. The district has not purchased new textbooks for several years for that reason.

"I think the infusion of technology (in education) is the wave of the future," Patz said. "We've been planning this for a couple of years now. Our district is progressive and this (1:1 program) takes our curriculum to another level."

'Blended' learning

Students will be able to use the Chromebooks to access their school-assigned Google accounts, which include email and document-sharing applications. Students begin to use their assigned accounts around fifth grade.

Using mobile Internet devices isn't a new concept for the school district, said LuAnn Zielinski, district technology coordinator. The school district has used a 2:1 program in the past.

The push for placing one student with one device is "driven by curriculum," Zielinski said.

"This program personalizes learning for students and provides them with digital resource tools that can be used outside of the classroom," she said.

The district is interested in a "blended" learning model, which integrates online resources with face-to-face instruction, Zielinski added.

The 1:1 program has been implemented by several schools district in the Milwaukee area, including the Pewaukee School District and, more recently, the Whitnall School District. By providing each student with an electronic device for educational purposes, districts expect better results in and out of the classroom.

"Our kids are already so skilled in technology … and they need immediate access to information," Patz said. "The 1:1 program helps our students hone those technological skills they need for higher education and the job market once they graduate."

Costs

Chromebooks for students in grades seven to 11 will cost approximately $570,000 — $325 per device — from the district's technology operating budget, Zielinski said.

The technology operating budget is typically used to upgrade school tech equipment, she added, but some of the older computers can be reallocated to the district's elementary schools to help finance the 1:1 program.

The goal is to extend the program to grades five to 12 over the next three years, she said.

Due to budgetary restraints, seniors will not receive their own Chromebooks this year, "but they are still welcome to bring in their own device as they have been for the past few years or use one that the district provides. Existing laptop carts will be available for seniors who need access to a device as well."

Parents will be held financially responsible should the Chromebooks be damaged. The district provides a cost list for possible repairs to the devices.

The assigned Chromebooks come in protective cases, which differ for high schoolers and middle schoolers. High schoolers will be permitted to carry their Chromebooks from class to class in a backpack — a new school policy.

Zielinski said she's confident most students will enjoy the resources provided by the Chromebooks but also acknowledged there may be a need for some alterations to the program down the line.

"As with any change, some things are going to work for the kids and some things won't — it's just a matter of adjustment," Zielinski said.

There are other software programs and alternative options for students who have trouble learning through the 1:1 program, she said.

Three days of "Chromebook Camp" will be offered the first three days of the school year, which begins on Tuesday, Sept. 2., to teach students how to use the new devices.

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