Greenfield-Central expands e-learning initiative at intermediate schools

GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central sixth-graders will be equipped with school-issued computers next school year — and the devices they currently use passed along to elementary students — as the corporation expands its e-learning program.

This week, district leaders approved an $83,000 purchase of 340 Chromebooks for the district’s roughly 325 incoming sixth-graders in time for students to begin using them next school year. Each device costs about $225, and each student will be given a laptop bag for storing the devices.

The corporation might use some of the money generated from yearly textbook rental fees paid by parents, but the majority of the expense for the new devices will be covered by district funds already on hand, Olin said.

For the past two school years, the corporation has increased the number of devices made available to students, said Superintendent Harold Olin.

In August 2015, as the district rolled out its take-home computer program, about 1,400 high school students were equipped with MacBook laptops to use both at school and home for classwork. The following year, about 700 students at Greenfield Central Junior High received take-home devices.

Sixth-graders at the corporation’s two intermediate schools already use laptops in some of their classrooms, said Greenfield Intermediate Principal Jim Bever. Students at the school currently share those laptops, but there are enough for only about half the students, so they are not provided for home use, Bever said.

Now, those 200-some devices will be divvied up among teachers at the elementary level to give the district’s youngest students easier access to educational resources found online and through student-friendly software.

Giving sixth-graders their own laptops will enable teachers to use computers more frequently, and it will also help prepare young learners for junior high and high school, where each student is issued a MacBook for class, and technology is a more regular part of classroom assignments, Bever said.

“This will be a great transition for them,” he said. “It gets them thinking about the device, maintaining it and using it regularly.”

In a survey sent to sixth-grade teachers about students’ and staff members’ skill level using digital devices at school and home to complete classwork, the 17 educators who responded said using computers in math and reading helps students better absorb the content. Most teachers also said they feel ready to lead a digital learning initiative in their classroom, survey results show. But they do have at least one request: They want professional development time to learn from other teachers about ways to incorporate computers into their lessons.

The school will ease into putting the devices in classrooms, Bever said. Educators will continue to use textbooks for teaching material in many classes, he said.

“We’re ready to make this happen,” Bever said. “It will be a natural progression for our kids.”

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.