By MARINA WATERS
It’s only February, but for Ridgeview Elementary students and teachers, it sure felt like Christmas morning when Principal Kelley Harrell rolled a cart full of brand new Chromebooks into the school’s classrooms.
Ridgeview first grade teacher Lindsay Carpenter was, along with other K-8 teachers throughout the Washington County School District, taken by surprise by the new technological additions to her classroom.
“I’m thrilled,” Carpenter said, smiling. “This is exciting because I love having students on the Chromebooks and using them. They’re so motivated by the things they can do. And for each one of them to have one is so exciting for me and for them.”
Washington County K-8 schools received a total of 1,325 Chromebooks along with 53 mobile Chromebook carts on Monday. The total cost of the technology rollout was $640,000 which was approved by the Washington County Commission. But it didn’t just add to the number of Chromebooks at the K-8 schools — it also cut the student-to-device ratio from 33-to-1 at some schools to 3-to-1 and 2-to-1 at some schools in the district.
“This gets us much closer to having all of our K-8s being a one-to-one device school, meaning every student will eventually have a Chromebook,” Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said. “So if the schools continue to use their PTO dollars strategically, in addition to the generosity of the county commission, and with the approval of the school board, we could potentially, this time next year, be a 1-to-1 device school system.”
And with this added technology comes nearly unlimited online-program opportunities.
For one Ridgeview teacher, Alana Street, who is a proponent for classroom technology, programs such as IXL and EarPods allow students to learn through working at their own pace.
“It opens up a whole new world to the students because they have access to different websites where they can work at their own pace. They can submit their answers to my device, they get immediate feedback and we can share the work with the students and discuss it,” Street said. “They love it because they can actually see the lesson on their Chromebook and they can use the drawing tools and see other students’ work.”
The K-8 schools aren’t the only ones in the district that are soon to see a decrease in student-to-device ratios; Halliburton said the school system is also currently working towards providing each junior at David Crockett and Daniel Boone High Schools with a Chromebook.
“What that will entail is we’re going to add Chromebooks to every junior class each year,” Halliburton said. “So these juniors next year will be seniors and will take their Chromebook with them. So the new juniors will receive a Chromebook next year. And when the existing juniors graduate, they’ll pass that down to the sophomore class.”
As for Carpenter, who’s class of first graders jumped for joy at the sight of the Chromebook-surprise on Monday, her appreciation for technology in classrooms was something she had thought on well before the mobile cart’s arrival in her classroom; Carpenter submitted a grant in December in hopes of obtaining technology for her class — so the sight of brand new Chromebooks being shuttled into her classroom was more than a pleasant surprise.
“I wanted to take that step because technology is such a growing thing in our world today,” Carpenter said. “Our county is heading towards technology and the earlier we can expose them and get them headed in the right direction, the easier it’s going to be in second grade, third grade, fourth grade and so on. It’s nothing but a positive thing for them and nothing but a positive thing for our county.”