Several area schools are implementing the use of computer and Internet technology to enhance their students’ learning experiences and further advance their knowledge and skills as they prepare them to enter the world of the digital workforce.

While regular textbooks and pen and paper are still highly visible in use, the trend is growing where schools are utilizing computer notebooks and the Internet to help engage students with interactive lessons.

Chromebooks have taken the lead as the notebook device of choice being used at schools.

With the combination of high performance, low cost, and custom web applications, they are quickly becoming the device of choice for schools across the United States, including locally at Quapaw, Wyandotte and Commerce schools.

“We actually are in year three of full implementation of Chromebooks in our schools,” said Wyandotte superintendent Troy Gray. “We are a 1:1 school system, so our kiddos from second grade all the way through seniors have their own devices. In our sixth through 12th grades they actually have them with them 24/7. They take them home with them and everything.

Gray said students pay a small user fee that is charged only to students who take the laptops home.

“It’s just been fantastic,” he said. “It’s the way kids learn today. It’s a virtual world and there is so much information out there. We still have textbooks, of course. We are always going to make sure that we hit all our objectives. But it’s just a better way for this generation to learn, it seems. We all are becoming married to technology so it keeps them engaged.”

There are so many resources out there and all teachers can use them, Gray added, saying it’s exciting to be able to prepare the students for the world and the workforce they are preparing to go out into.

The process has been pretty seamless for Wyandotte schools, according to Gray. “We sent our teachers out to make sure they could be successful on it before our students began learning. Just because you put a Chromebook into a student’s hand doesn’t mean they are going to go learn on it. Your teachers have to master that,” he said.

“But our staff really dove in and attended multiple professional development events and this summer we sent a group of five teachers to Philadelphia to a Google conference. They came back and trained the rest of our people, and then even trained people at other schools in the area. We really have a great staff and we just want to help out where we can.”

Chromebooks are less expensive and easier to use, maintain and support compared to traditional notebooks. The result is budget savings that continue long past the initial setup. They do away with the need for large hard drives in favor of centralized or cloud storage of data.

With a lightweight operating system, this allows for fast boot times, web browsing, and installation of updates.

By bringing Chromebooks into the classroom, schools can dramatically reduce paper needs and teachers can manage tests, textbooks requirements, homework assignments, projects, and student reporting online.

As the number of schools using Chromebooks increases, there will be a considerable impact on the environment because of the reduction in the amount of paper used each year, which will, in turn, lead to a reduction in the need for printer ink, printed books, and printed teaching materials.

“I really think it’s a great tool for our kids, especially in writing skills, communicating back and forth with their teachers, doing their assignments, and research,” said Quapaw superintendent David Carriger. “There are so many things that the Chromebooks can be used for. From the research capabilities it provides to learning problem solving skills. It’s just endless.”

Carriger said Quapaw schools have been using Chromebooks for approximately four years, and now students from the fifth grade all the way through their senior year use them.

“It’s really a great tool. Of course, we still have books, we still have paper and pencils because that’s a part of life, too, but Chromebooks have really helped us in a lot of the research-based practices for education, but also for research in general. It opens up a whole avenue where kids can find things for science and social studies and different areas to help them in their classes,” Carriger said.

As demands for skilled science, technology, education, and mathematics workers continue to rise, computers in classrooms help students develop the skills of critical thinking, analysis, and scientific inquiry through connection to real-world contexts and active engagement and participation.

Even though some educators initially feared that technology in schools would prove to be a distraction to students, it has instead been shown that the use helps engage students more.

There are some tools and applications designed specifically for education using Chromebooks that are helping students sharpen their skills and knowledge by teachers pulling from their interests to help make lessons more memorable and engaging.