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Chromebooks: Year Two

August 4, 2014, 10:00 PM by Hailey Higgins

Chromebooks: Year Two
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

In two weeks, the Sioux Falls School District will begin classes. For the second year, most students will be using district-issued Chromebooks as part of the 1:1 Student Technology Initiative.

Workers at Robert Frost Elementary are busy setting up the final classrooms before the first school bell rings on August 18.

"With changes every year, there are always new things you can try," Nicole Valnes said.

Nicole Valnes is preparing for another year with Chromebooks in the hands of her 4th grade students. She says the first year was focused on finding ways to utilize the new technology into her teaching, which she admits was a struggle at first.

"You want to make sure that you have something that's purposeful and you're not just forcing it into your lesson plans. You don't want to plan around it. It's truly a resource," Valnes said.

But after looking online and asking around, she says the technology was an effective learning tool in her classroom.

"Throughout the year, it just kept getting better and better. Towards the end of the year, I would say we had them out all day," Valnes said.

"For the first year, it went well," Bob Jensen said.

Expanding the use of Chromebooks is the biggest change in the upcoming school year, according to Bob Jensen, who says teachers will further utilize the technology in their lesson plans.

"It's a work in progress. A lot of teachers have experienced (embracing the technology) while others are moving along at a little slower pace," Jensen said.

18,000 Chromebooks were in the hands of all 3rd through 12th grade students at a significant investment to the district.

The Information Services Director says the rollout last year was an overall success. He says little will change with the deployment and repair procedures.

Last year, 3,200 devices were damaged, much less than what Jensen was expecting.

"I would have to say it went better than what I anticipated. With the volume of technology, that we rolled out so quickly, in such a short amount of time, I think it went very, very well," Jensen said.

Starting this year, the district is bringing in seven iPads to every classroom in the youngest grades. That number is different from the original proposal meant to give every student the new technology.

"A lot of it had to do with screen time," Jensen said.

Concerns over the amount of time, kindergartners, first and second graders would spend with the technology was the reason for the scale back. It also will save the district nearly $2 million in costs.

But Jensen says the school board is closely watching the 1:1 Student Technology Initiative to make it as successful as possible.

"We will watch the use of the Chromebooks and we will probably look at it and review it every year," Jensen said. "Same way with the iPads."

"I think they're great. Anyway to enhance learning is wonderful. I don't think anything was wrong with what we used to do, but any resources that can continue to help us grow as educators is wonderful," Valnes said.

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