One-to-one Chromebooks getting rave reviews in Fairview Ind. high, middle schools; teachers becoming facilitators, students becoming more self-sufficient

Independent, Ashland, Feb. 21, 2017

At Fairview middle and high school, everybody gets a computer

By MIKE JAMES

Every one of the Fairview Middle School sixth-graders scurrying into their afternoon STEAM class is carrying a notebook computer, and before the final bell rings they’ve opened the machines and turned them on.

Seconds after the bell, teacher Holli McClelland helps them navigate to the day’s lesson, and in less time than it takes to say “the dog ate my homework,” they are discussing kinetic energy and viewing examples in the form of computer animations of bowling balls knocking down pins.

More important, their eyes are locked on their screens, except when McClelland makes a point and they look up at her. Their fingers are poised over keyboards, waiting for the cue to type in answers.

Also important is what they are not doing: fumbling for pencils, flipping noisily through notebooks, and writing quiz answers McClelland won’t be able to correct and hand back until the next day.

Fairview has invested some $80,000 in federal grant money to buy 240 Chromebook computers, enough for every students in sixth through 12th grades to have one.

Students will use the computers in class and after school will take them home, where they can complete assignments, continue research and perform other academic tasks.

“We’re not changing what we do, we’re changing how we do it. We’re equipping our kids with 21st century skills so that when they walk out of Fairview High School it will be with more than just a diploma,” principal Eric Hale said.

The computers are especially valuable tools in STEAM class — which is science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, the all-in-one package of today’s most in-demand disciplines.

Among projects already planned, the Chromebooks will enable students to produce stop-motion videos, prepare college-prep essays and practice budgeting, spreadsheet skills and meal planning, McClelland said.

Students will learn more and better because they can research questions right there in class, review lessons, access lessons at home, and see assignments and quizzes. “It makes them more self-sufficient,” McClelland said.

Teachers can make the transition from being classroom lecturers to facilitators, assisting students in learning rather than trying to cram facts into their heads. If students can read on line and watch instructional videos at home, they can do more productive work in the classroom, McClelland said.

Students who are absent don’t have to miss work because they can access assignments and quizzes from home, she said.

The computers have not been on campus long, but if the condition of machines she issued earlier this year to some of her students is any indication, they are likely to remain in good condition. “They treat them like gold, like their own personal cell phones,” McClelland said.

Introduction of the computers is another step on the path to an eventual paperless campus, she said.

Students are embracing the Chromebooks. “I think it’s going to be a lot easier for students to do their work because some kids have messy handwriting,” said Naomi Wessel, who spent the first few minutes of class scrolling through pictures of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Also, some kids don’t have computers at home, she said. There’s one in her house, but she isn’t allowed to use it much, she said.

Students will use the same Google Classroom and Google Docs platforms widely used in college classes, preparing them for the day their postsecondary careers begin.

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