Chromebooks create change and a new way of learning in the Kettering district

Fairmont+senior+Daniel+Bendel+utilizes+his+Chromebook+during+study+hall.+

Photo: Sammy Lowe

Fairmont senior Daniel Bendel utilizes his Chromebook during study hall.

The Kettering City School District has been abruptly thrown from the saddle that is the Paper Age and is hurtling at high-speed toward the Technological Era. The 2015-16 school year has proven that the district has focused their attention on improving their technology, not possible without the $8 million “Straight A” grant. Students, parents, and staff members throughout the area are adjusting to the changes brought about by the devices, supplied to every student in the district.

Tyler Alexander, principal of Fairmont High School, was happy to discuss his thoughts about the Chromebooks. “I think that the most important piece to education is the teachers and that the Chromebooks are not trying to take away teaching in the classroom,” Alexander said. “It’s supposed to be a resource that teachers can use as an educational tool.”

Kristin Allen, a Fairmont English teacher who has hands on experience with using Chromebooks in a classroom setting, addresses pros and cons that come with the devices.

“There are a lot of pros,” Allen said. “The fact that students who type faster than they write can go ahead and type notes or they can type down their ideas quickly.”

Allen also feels it’s easier to use technology in the classroom without having to deal with scheduling the Chromebook carts, formerly shared between all teachers in the same department.

Allen brings up issues the Chromebooks have presented. “The parents who didn’t sign the contract that ensures the payment of the Chromebook, if it’s broken, is a problem,” Allen said.

The kids whose parents didn’t sign the contracts didn’t receive Chromebooks and therefore cannot participate in classroom activities involving the devices.  “I have to find alternate assignments and/or bring in my own laptops from home or the ones the school has let me borrow to provide for those students,” she said.

Kim Broomhall, Technology Coordinator at Fairmont, is well aware of these issues and how they’re handled.

“Those students have to check one out of the library,” Broomhall said. “We address that issue by saying that they have to check a Chromebook out everyday and return it at the end of the day.”

Allen also said Wi-Fi is an additional problem and getting all the students hooked up to the system has proven to be difficult. Not only have teachers noticed the lack of Wi-Fi connection but students too have first-hand experience with the malfunctioning network.

“I think the money that was given for the Chromebooks could have been better spent  if it was on high-quality Wi-Fi and bandwidth rather than getting Chromebooks,” Fairmont senior Gillian Garland said.

Alexander agrees the school has experienced trouble recently with bandwidth and supporting all 2,500 hundred devices on the network’s Wi-Fi. Despite the recent complications, Alexander said the district is in the process of expanding bandwidth.

Not only is the district trying to improve Wi-Fi by increasing bandwidth, but other measures have been taken to ensure the Chromebooks connect to the internet properly while at Fairmont. Alexander confirmed that the school has cut the Student/Guest Wi-Fi network. Many students connected their phones to the Student/Guest network for internet access during the day.

“Our focus is in the classroom–I would rather your Chromebook be connected and working than your phone,” Alexander explained.

According to Broomhall the Student/Guest network will not be re-instituted. That network was for the purpose of student’s using their phones for classwork, but now that the Chromebooks have been in place there is no educational need for it.

All of these changes would not have been possible without the massive grant awarded to the district for $8 million. The grant is called “Straight A” and Fairmont had to meet specific requirements before they could be awarded the money. Scott Inskeep, Superintendent of Kettering City Schools, explains how the main purpose of the grant is “to create the opportunity to ultimately reduce costs.”

“First the district had to designate what their needs were,” said Inskeep, “ Then how they were going to spend the money and show how there were going to be savings.”

After the district presented its plan to save money, the strategy was reviewed by the Ohio Department of Education where they eventually came to the decision to award Kettering with the money.

Alexander adds that the schools wanted the grant so that every student from grades K-12 would have the opportunity to own a device that would benefit them in the classroom.

“We couldn’t do it without the support of everyone in the district,” said Alexander. “That includes the students and that includes the parents. Without that support, this would be impossible.”