Chromebooks: The Advancing Technology at Talawanda

OXFORD, OH– When this school year started, students were pleasantly surprised when we got our chromebooks. Unlike the older chromebooks, the ones we were given this year are not only newer, but have new features such as a touchscreen and a stylus that the old ones didn’t. We were surprised, and intrigued about how, why, and when.

Five years ago, Talawanda High School invested in Chromebooks for all of their high school students. This was the beginning of the program that now includes 1:1 for every high school, middle school, and elementary student in the district. The elementary kids, kindergarten through second grade all have iPads, and third and fourth graders have their own Chromebooks to keep in the classroom. Fifth through twelfth graders all have their own Chromebook. Fifth graders can take them home at their teacher’s discretion. Sixth through twelfth graders can bring theirs home whenever they want, but there are limitations to what they can do with their devices.

We spoke to Joan Stidham, the Director of Curriculum at Talawanda, along with Technology Director Matthew Rand. They were able to give us some insight on how Talawanda has adapted to the new technology being added to our district, specifically the Chromebooks in the high school.

“We’ve just begun scratching the surface of using tools, we’re doing a lot of’s really exciting because it’s not just a replacement, it’s an innovation,” Stidham said.

Mrs. Stidham and Mr. Rand cite the increase in electronic state testing as a need for every student to have a laptop. Mrs. Stidham also goes on to explain that the 1:1 initiative was motivated by the want to bridge the gap between students who had access to technology and the internet and those who didn’t. Rand tells us about the durability testing done to make sure the new Lenovo Chromebooks were right for Talawanda High School, “We did testing that involved closing the device, sliding it off the table. Opening the device, sliding it off the table. We stood on a 6 foot ladder and dropped it.”

Chromebooks can be very useful inside the classroom. Many teachers use educational websites, videos, quizzes, or other online material. Most teachers use google classroom, and if not almost all use google docs, slides, or drive. All have a gmail account through Talawanda. Other teachers use other online resources. All textbooks now have a online version that students can accesses. A lot of work in the classroom, especially at the high school level, is now online.

This increase in use of Chromebooks in the classroom has caused for inevitable problems and difficult decisions as well. Rand explained the process the IT department uses to block websites. Their main goal is to keep kids on track with their education and not get distracted by any other unwanted content. “We have a lot of filters in place because we want to catch any inappropriate content getting to the student…it gets to a point where there are so many things, apps and extensions and sites that it becomes impossible to catch them.” Rand goes on to say that they start with every site blocked, and go through and unblock individual sites and resources. He jokes here that this is “a full time job” and we can see why.

As mentioned earlier in the article, all high school students got new Chromebooks at the beginning of this school year. As of now only the high school students have the new Chromebooks, but the other schools in the district are expected to get the new ones soon. This new model has many new features, such as the ability to become a tablet, a touchscreen, and a stylus, and came at a cheaper price than the old Chromebooks. Stidham said, “…that’s the way technology is escalating, cause now for the same price or less you can get a much better device than we purchased four years ago.” However, the updated devices have the same insurance as the old devices, which covers breakage and replacement of the Chromebooks.

Photo Credit:  Abby Zmuda