NEWMAN - The growing initiative to put technology in the hands of every student is continuing to expand across the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District.

The district recently invested in the purchase of 1,000 Chromebook computers, which will supplement existing technology inventories to put a classroom device in the hands of every student in grades 1-8.

Orestimba High went fully 1:1 after the semester break, when Chromebooks were checked out to every student.

At the lower grade levels, the devices will be available for classroom use rather than assigned to students - although officials said that it is possible that eventually some Chromebooks may be available to be checked out and taken home as needed for specific projects.

Superintendent Randy Fillpot said that the new devices will be configured by high school students and then distributed.

“I think we will be able to get a few out before the end of the year,” he commented. “The plan is to make sure that they are fully deployed to classrooms in grades 1-8 by that start of the next school year.”

Technology is already embedded in the classroom learning.

A number of teachers at sites across the district agreed to pilot 1:1 Chromebooks this year. Orestimba made the transition to full 1:1 at mid-year, and partial classroom sets of Chromebooks were assigned at lower grade levels as well.

“We had issued about 10 Chromebooks per classroom in grades 3-8,” Fillpot noted. “Teachers would find that it was difficult planning (projects) where they needed 30 at one time. I think this will solve a logistics issue.”

“Teachers were getting very creative in coordinating when they needed to have a full classroom set,” said Rosie Briones, the district’s instructional technology coordinator and leader of a technology committee.

When the new Chromebooks are distributed, the sharing arrangements will no longer be necessary.

The pilot programs proved valuable in paving the way for the full transition to 1:1, Briones noted.

“We wanted to make sure that when we go districtwide 1:1 that we had thought about all the little things that teachers will need support in. As they have been piloting, we have met monthly to discuss what has worked, and what tools they see a need for.”

Teachers have varying comfort levels and proficiency when it comes to incorporating 1:1 technology, Fillpot and Briones acknowledged, which makes professional development a critical component of the roll-out.

“This is an evolution of instruction over time,” Fillpot commented. “The teachers who are further along are those who understand that all kids don’t need to be on the computer all the time. Some students might be reading or working on a different project (while others are using the Chromebooks).”

Having 1:1 devices in the classroom will broaden learning opportunities available to students, they emphasized, and will in many ways change the face of learning in a way that embraces problem-solving skills and critical thinking.

“The teachers are giving students the purpose of their learning. They let the kids decide how they are going to achieve that. They are choosing what they want to use to demonstrate their learning,” said Briones.

“Kids are becoming more and more in charge of their own learning,” Fillpot stated. “Because the younger kids are picking up things so quickly, they are almost going to drive the instruction as they move up through the grade levels.”

Teachers are going to have to have the flexibility needed to adapt as well, Briones said.

An elementary teacher who taught pupils how to use a webcam and keyboard one year might find the following group of students already fluent in those skills.

“Teachers know that what they taught this year may not be what they are going to teach next year. They are going to have to bump it up,” she said.

The cost of the Chromebooks is slightly over $200 each, said Finance Director Caralyn Mendoza. One-time money from the state is being used to purchase the devices.

Ultimately, they said, that investment will pay dividends in producing students who are better prepared for college and careers.

“We have very creative students,” Briones reflected. “I think getting them devices earlier opens a lot of doors for them later on.”