All that shines isn't Chrome

Random acts of technology in the classroom do not produce a high-quality education. To enhance student learning, a system of support for students, teachers and technology yields the best results for student learning.

Kirk Langer, chief technology officer for Lincoln Public Schools, provided insight into the plan, progress and future of Chromebooks at a recent Learning Lunch at LPS District Office.

By the fall of 2017, all students in grades two through 12 will have access to Chromebooks. They have been and will continue to be rolled out to all middle and high school students this fall, completing a three-year process. Secondary students are able to take their computers home, while elementary students’ computers will stay at school. A smaller number of tablets will be available for students in kindergarten and first grade classrooms.

“Our number one thing in all of this was student learning,” Langer said.

Langer said LPS has seen evidence of students putting together various lines of thinking into a single presentation. The device allows students to use technology they may be familiar with to express their view of what they have just learned in class.

He continued that it was clear early on that teachers and staff would have to be properly supported with training and technology components.

The why, Langer said, officially started in 2011 as part of the LPS Strategic Plan, which included increased need for digital delivery and computer science at all grade levels. If that were to happen, “guaranteed and viable” technology infrastructure would be needed.

In 2013, the Lincoln Board of Education had a work session specifically to consider the resources needed to support the plan. A few Lincoln Board of Education and staff members visited schools in Idaho and Washington to see the first-hand opportunities and challenges of expanding technology for students.

Eventually the Board of Education directed LPS staff to develop a plan for technology, access, professional development and funding.

Curriculum became a driving force in choosing the most appropriate technology. What would curriculum companies offer in print and digital, and how would they help In the transition?

“There certainly was pent-up demand to have greater access to technology so we could be use those (curriculum) parts that were digital,” Langer said.

More and more, print-only textbooks were less available, he said.

“The relationship between technology and achievement is to provide a way to do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do,” Langer said.

The device isn’t the key, he said. Access to the information is the key, and the device - in this case a Chromebook computer - helps students and teachers with that access.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, it matters what it does,” Langer said. The Chromebook met many of the aspects of the plan that teachers and staff asked for.

(Humorously, one of the concerns from students was that the Chromebook had lots of options for school use, and not games, Langer said. That meant it again fit what LPS was looking for in a student device.)

Then, of course, LPS dealt with the professional use. Hapara is a teacher tool that provides an overview and interactive look into what documents and programs are working on at the time, enabling a teacher to - with a quick glance or in more detail - review what students are actually working on.

This tool helps students focus, can speed up transition time, and helps teacher quickly share links and information via the Chromebook.

Physical classroom technology had to improve, with better wiring for wi-fi systems, a video display, and an audio system that enables a teacher to move around or stay in one spot and keep the same speaking level.

Instructional technology tools - reviewed by an ITT committee prior to use - are available based on teachers demonstrating a specific need that enhances student learning.

Published: April 25, 2017, Updated: April 26, 2017