Editor’s note: Schools bought more than 1 million Chromebooks in the second quarter of 2014. Today’s guest blogger, David Andrade, the CIO for the Bridgeport Public Schools district, which serves 23,000 students in Connecticut, shares why they selected Chromebooks. Learn more about going Google and follow our Google for Education Google+ page to see a selection of tips from David.
When I started my role as CIO a year and a half ago, I found that our technology was not up to scratch to meet the needs of our students. We only had a few desktop PCs located in each elementary and middle school classroom, and only a few in our high school computer labs. We definitely needed more machines so students would get more time to work on class projects and do research.
Our district doesn’t have a lot of money for buying new technology, and grants can be hard to come by. Adding to our challenges, Bridgeport Public Schools are based in a working-class community with high unemployment (95% of students receive free or reduced lunches). Most students don’t have access to computers outside of school and, at the time, there was a limited supply in our schools.
|Bridgeport uses a variety of Chromebook models including devices from Samsung, Acer and HP.|
When the technology committee for Bridgeport Public Schools raised the idea of bringing affordable computers into our classrooms, I suggested we consider Chromebooks, coupled with Google Apps for Education. I was a fan of the Chromebook right from the start because of their affordable price and ease of use. In 2010, Google sent me one of the first Chromebooks to review on my blog, Educational Technology Guy, where I write about technology resources for teachers and students.
The affordability and easy maintenance of Chromebooks clinched the deal – we could buy three Chromebooks for the price of a single desktop computer and the district’s small IT team wouldn’t have to struggle to keep up with the repairs and updates on aging PCs. We would also save on support time and costs since Chromebooks update automatically. Initially, we bought 4,000 Chromebooks for our high schools, where every classroom now has a Chromebook for each student. At the same time, we decided to start using Google Apps for Education so every student would have an email address, something we’d never been able to do before. We also used Google Drive to move student documents off of our internal file storage system – another way to save the IT team time and money. So they can now work together and communicate with teachers even while not in the classroom.
When we received some hard-won grant money, we bought more Chromebooks, and we’re now at 9,000 district-wide. Our goal is to bring Chromebooks to every classroom in grades 4 through 12. The Chromebooks have already changed how teachers teach and students learn: there’s less “listen-to-me” lecturing, and more active student involvement in creating their own projects.
Now that we’ve been using Chromebooks for a while, we’ve been able to provide our students access to technology and take the strain off of our IT department, but what makes this truly successful is the what our students say. One of our 12th graders told me she loves that she can “take school work anywhere” or as one of our 10th graders told me, “they make it easier to hand in work and decrease your chance of failing.”