GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central School Corp. is buying nearly 200 computers for its fifth-grade students in hopes of providing better technical support during online testing.
The purchase of 192 Chromebook laptops for students at Greenfield Intermediate and Maxwell Intermediate schools will resolve a resource issue created when the state moved to primarily online standardized tests, Superintendent Harold Olin said. Instead of shuffling students to and from computer labs with limited space, teachers may administer tests from the comfort of their classrooms.
Both schools’ computer labs currently have about 60 computers each, and those facilities are pushed to the max when teachers have to give tests to about 200 students a day. The purchase of 96 computers for each school will ease that burden, educators said.
The district brought laptops in temporarily last year for students to use during the ISTEP test, but the new equipment put undue stress on the young test-takers, Olin said.
“Students had to test on computers they weren’t familiar with,” he said. “It was quite a burden, and we want them to be as well-equipped as possible to succeed on those tests.”
Fifth-grade classrooms will have first access to the new laptops, said Greenfield Intermediate principal Jim Bever, because those teachers have received more technology training than the other grade levels. Fourth- and sixth-grade students will still have access to the computers as needed, he added.
“This will be a great advantage for us because before this point, teachers had to go through challenges of trying to schedule time inside a computer lab and getting all of their kids from the classroom to the lab,” Bever said. “This way, they’ll be right there in the classroom, ready for them to use.”
School board president Retta Livengood said it only makes sense to put devices in the hands of young students who are already familiar with technology.
“Students today are so used to learning digitally,” she said. “Education isn’t contingent on that, but it certainly helps.”
The Chromebooks were chosen in favor of other options, including the MacBook Air, which all 1,500 Greenfield-Central High School students will receive this year as Greenfield-Central phases in its take-home computer program.
The Chromebook’s price-to-performance ratio made it a great option for students’ needs, Bever said.
“The beauty of the Chromebook, while they’re not nearly as powerful as MacBooks, they’re only $250 each and provide Internet access,” Bever said. “Once you connect to the Internet, you open a virtually unlimited network of resources.”
The Chromebooks come at a cost of about $51,000 and are being financed by the district’s general fund. As additional funds become available as the school year progresses, Olin said, he anticipates purchasing more laptops for the intermediate schools.
Teachers received training last spring about integrating technology in the classroom. One of the tools teachers plan to use, Olin said, is Google Classroom, an app designed to ease the process of creating and organizing assignments, providing feedback and communicating with students.
The new technology will also allow teachers to video-record their classes, which presents several advantages to students, Bever said.
“That video will be available for students from home, so that way, they can have the teacher repeat the instructions for as many times as each students sees necessary,” Bever said.
The computers will come with several charging stations, and Olin anticipates needing to hire a new technical support position to accommodate the technology, he said.
Teachers are eager to get their hands on the laptops and share their capabilities with students, Bever said.
Among them is Kristin Evens, who teaches fifth-grade math and science at Greenfield Intermediate.
The Internet is full of resources and educational activities teachers can take advantage of, given access, she said.
“Things I wouldn’t have been able to do because maybe there wasn’t a computer lab available, now I can because we’ll have these laptop readily available,” she said.
Staff writer Caitlin VanOverberghe contributed to this report.