Importance of technology led to laptop initiative

By Drew Stambaugh - [email protected]

The importance of technology in today’s world led the Swanton Board of Education to approve the 1:1 Initiative plan at their most recent meeting, according to Steve Brehmer, board president.

By the fall of 2016, the 1:1 Initiative aims to have Chromebooks in the hands of each district student in grades 5-12. Younger students will use computers inside the classroom which will not be taken home.

“The Board recognizes that students studying and preparing for the 21st century must be capable and fluent in the use of technology,” said Brehmer. “Providing our students grades 5-12 with a Chromebook of their own should provide Swanton students with the skills and resources necessary to compete in today’s global society. The board feels that we have an obligation to provide our students with the best resources available, obviously while being fiscally responsible, and we feel this program does both of those things.”

He said the decision to provide students in grades 5-12 their own Chromebook rather than all grade levels was due to a combination of factors.

The top reason was money.

“If we went with the initial K-12 roll-out, all students grades K-4 would require a third laptop purchase based on our current four-year replacement cycle,” said Brehmer. “That made it cost prohibitive in the eyes of the board. Going with grades 5-12, we only have to make two laptop purchases per pupil which was a substantial savings for the district.”

The second factor was a concern that students in grades K-2 might not be ready to handle the responsibility of owning, transporting, and maintaining a laptop of their own.

However, that does not mean that younger students will not be exposed to computers. “It is the intention of everyone involved in the 1:1 initiative to push as many machines as possible down to the third and fourth grade levels as the new purchases free up existing computers from throughout the district,” said Brehmer.

The Chromebook is a tool to be used by teachers, students, and parents to supplement textbooks.

“It is our vision that, by doing the 1:1 initiative, we will lower the amount of money spent on textbooks in the upcoming years. In many cases, textbooks offer an electronic version of their textbooks to download to the laptops for student use,” Brehmer said. “Using the Chromebooks allows our students access to the most current and relevant information, as opposed to entirely depending on a textbook that is almost immediately obsolete after it is printed.”

The plan is for students in fifth grade and grades 9-12 to be issued Chromebooks by January 2016. The roll-out should be completed in the fall of 2016.

Each year, the new fifth grade and ninth grade students will be issued new Chromebooks, under a four-year cycle. The retired Chromebooks will be issued for sale at a price to be determined based on the device’s market value to the exiting student to keep as their own. Those not purchased will be reused at the K-4 level until they are no longer compatible with the district’s needs.

Brehmer feels that this program introduces exciting times for Swanton Local Schools.

“The Board feels we have an opportunity to provide the students of Swanton with a valuable tool in these Chromebooks,” he said. “As with any new program, we may experience a few hiccups along the way, but the board is committed to this program, and feel we have the personnel in place to make this work.”

By Drew Stambaugh

[email protected]

Drew Stambaugh can be reached at 419-335-2010 or on Twitter @Swan_Enterprise

Drew Stambaugh can be reached at 419-335-2010 or on Twitter @Swan_Enterprise