The Fairfield County School Board voted 5-0-1 Tuesday night to launch a pilot program that would, if successful, put netbook computers into every school in the district by August. Annie McDaniel abstained from the vote and Henry Miller was absent from the Board room when the vote was taken.
The pilot program, known as “Going Google,” will place a mobile lab of 30 netbooks running the Google Chrome operating system into the sixth-grade science classes at Fairfield Elementary School, Dr. Claudia Edwards, Deputy Superintendent of Academics, told the Board. By August, Edwards said, a mobile lab will be placed in every school in the district. By spring of 2013, if all goes according to plan, a second mobile lab of 30 additional computers will be placed in every school.
The $94,920 necessary to launch to project, Edwards said, would come out of federal Title 1 funds.
Edwards reported from her research that one of the first noticeable benefits of the Chromebooks was their start-up time, which she said was 8 seconds. The computers also contain no internal storage, and instead store everything in the “cloud,” a Web-based storage system. All applications are Web-based as well, she said, and therefore require no individual uploading. Updates to the machines are uploaded automatically, she said.
Edwards said she considered two other options — a traditional Dell laptop and a MacBook Air, both of which can access the Google Chrome operating system. Edwards said her team decided to go with the Google Chromebooks based on cost and efficiency. The school district can control what students have access to using the Chromebooks, she said, and the Chromebooks update automatically, unlike the alternatives, which have to be plugged in and updated individually. The cost difference, she said, was also dramatic.
Google Chrome will provide three training sessions for teachers in the district who have volunteered their services as “Chromies” to lead the transition to the new technology.
“They had to promise me they would commit to a minimum of 12 professional development hours,” Edwards said, “which means they will have to come in on Saturday, without getting paid, for two full days of professional development before I hand them a Google Chromebook. They have to be committed to not only learn Google Chrome, but they also have to be committed to go back into their classrooms and share this with their students.
“The kids are ready,” Edwards said. “We just need to catch up with them.”