In a single day, Arvada K-8 student Nicolas Sanchez logs onto his Chromebook in almost every class. The eighth grader accesses online resources during his reading and history classes. He uses his …
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In a single day, Arvada K-8 student Nicolas Sanchez logs onto his Chromebook in almost every class.
The eighth grader accesses online resources during his reading and history classes. He uses his Chromebook to keep a digital journal in writing class and to translate phrases in Spanish class. He ends the day with science class, where he and his classmates use online tools to create presentations and complete projects. Whatever work he hasn’t completed during the day, he can do after school when he brings his laptop home, he said.
For Sanchez — as is the case for many of his eighth grade classmates — “I’m on my laptop for six to seven hours a day,” he said.
Arvada K-8 was one of dozens of Jeffco schools to receive school-issued Chromebooks, known as 1:1 devices, in the 2019 semester. The district devices are issued to students to be used for classwork at school and home.
Jeffco’s 1:1 initiative will see every fifth and ninth grader receive a device by summer 2020, said Mary Beth Bazzanella, educational technology director at Jeffco Public Schools.
As new school years begin, the next class of Jeffco fifth and ninth grade students will receive devices, while students who received a device the previous year will keep their Chromebook. In 2023, all students grades five through 12 have a device.
“Our students increasingly have access to devices. We wanted to use technology to transform learning in the classroom,” Bazzanella said. “We want them to be creators, collaborators and critical thinkers.”
How it works
The initiative is the first district-wide effort to uniformize technology from school to school. Some schools like Arvada K-8, Alameda International Jr./Sr. High and Golden High School were already issuing devices to students, independently of the district initiative, and will continue this until the district rollout is complete in 2023. Then, schools will repurpose the older devices, Bazzanella said.
The 1:1 initiative is partially funded by the mill levy override passed by voters in Nov. 2018, known as ballot measure 5A. Families also pay a technology fee when their student receives a 1:1 device, although certain students are exempt, such as those at Title I schools or those who qualify for free and reduced lunch, Bazzanella said.
Additionally, the district has purchased subscriptions to eight digital tools including WeVideo, a video editing site, and EquatIO, through which students can complete complicated math problems.
Those tools have allowed teachers to evaluate students in real-time and allowed students more opportunities to collaborate, said Brian Conroy, principal at Golden High.
“Even though we’re teaching kids who are essentially digital natives, they don’t necessarily know how to use technology for research,” he said. “Everybody having a computer allows us to address that need.”
At Alameda, STEM teacher Bobby Mangiameli said 1:1 devices and the digital tools have allowed his curriculum to evolve. In his STEM classes, students have used 3D building simulators; created websites; and made their own podcasts with the digital tools.
“Ideally, STEM classes include project-based activities that are as realistic as possible,” he said.
While shared school computers could support these projects, relying on them can lead to inequity, said Alameda digital teacher librarian Dorina Miller. Students with personal computers could work on projects at home while the many Alameda students without home computers would only have access to projects in class, she said.
Further, said Mangiameli, “there’s more ownership when it’s yours. I see less damage because the devices aren’t being shared.”
The goal is not for students to use technology every day for every assignment, but for teachers to have those tools available when they will be more effective than pen and paper, Bazzanella said.
‘Expandability in our education’
Arvada K-8 students Amanda Donald, Carleigh Bentley and Bailey Bleskin have noticed that the take-home devices make learning easier in multiple ways. Their grades have improved since they received the devices, they said, and they are now able to check their grades regularly online.
With their laptops, it’s easier to complete unfinished classwork at home and “if you’re going on vacation for a week, you’re able to take the device with you,” Donald said.
Alameda senior Jackson Davis likewise highlighted these practical benefits, saying most of his teachers rely on the devices; he only has one class in which he regularly receives paper assignments, he said.
He added that “this allows for a little bit of expandability in our education,” as the devices have transformed everyday projects. He pointed to a previous English class in which students were asked to create movie trailers for books, as opposed to a written book report.
The devices come into play even in his band classes, when students record their performances and send them in for evaluation. Classmate Stephanie Gonzalez, a freshman, said the computers are used in her choir class when students send in self-evaluations after concerts.
All students said the devices allow them to be more organized by reducing the number of papers and folders they need.
“It’s so much easier because it’s yours,” said Arvada K-8 seventh grader Jalissa Gamboa. “You’re taking care of it. It makes you a more mature person.”
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