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It's a very Chromebook Christmas at Carlynton

| Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, 3:21 p.m.
An HP Google Chromebook.
An HP Google Chromebook.

A morning fire drill last week at Carlynton Junior-Senior High School ended with a pleasant surprise for students and teachers.

As they stood out in the cold, police chiefs from across the district arrived at the school, followed by a student twirling a fire baton and the drumline performing a cadence.

Teacher Ryan Gevaudan followed in the back of a district dump truck, wearing a Santa hat and tossing out candy to students.

Also inside the back of the truck was an early Christmas gift: 187 Chromebooks.

“At first I was scared — we just had a fire drill,” said seventh grader Naima Turner, 12. “Then I was like, ‘Wait, we got new Chromebooks?'”

The Chromebooks were received from a grant through the Dynamic Learning Project, which is led by Digital Promise and supported by Google and EdTechTeam.

The school previously only had a few mobile carts that were a mix of PCs, Apple devices and two recently added Chromebook carts.

The new 187 Chromebooks will create an environment where there is one device for every three students.

“We're going to have more opportunities to use a Chromebook in class,” said seventh grader Simon Zaletski, 13. “Everybody can access the documents (and) the same things while doing things on separate devices.”

The school is one of 50 across the country that was selected to pilot the Dynamic Learning Project's year long initiative which, according to its website, “seeks to improve education equity and student learning by supporting teachers with classroom coaching in an effort to better leverage technology in powerful and meaningful ways.”

Last summer, Gevaudan, the school's Dynamic Learning technology coach, and Principal Michael Loughren spent a week at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to learn and make connections with leaders from schools participating in South Carolina, Texas, California and Alabama.

“There's an emphasis on the relationships and culture you have within your school. This is just a tool to help celebrate student learning within the school,” Loughren said.

The focus isn't to take pens and pencils out of students hands and just give them a computer to work on instead. It's about creating new opportunities for learning, Gevaudan said.

“It's doing things on computers we never ever thought of doing before,” he said.

The first question he posed to teachers was: “What did you always want to do in your classroom that you haven't done?”

Then he provided resources and motivation to help them do it.

“You can do anything you want to,” he said.

Having a technology coach at the school creates an environment “where people are comfortable taking risks to improve the outcome of the kids.”

Each teacher is at a different level in terms of technology. Therefore, each has a different goal.

One teacher created a digital art gallery to showcase art projects.

An English/language arts teacher started a YouTube channel where she will post short videos to help students transition from sixth- to seventh-grade.

Using technology helps improve collaboration in the classrooms, school and with others across the country.

Everything done always comes back to the district's core values of creating community, character and excellence, Loughren emphasized.

“We have the greatest kids. Our faculty is always looking for ways to improve. This just gives them a tool,” Loughren said. “Our kids are doing things in the classroom that other people want to do.”

For the students, that's exciting.

Seventh grader Taylor Zaletski, 13, sees the added technology as an opportunity to do more projects in class.

Eighth grader LaJuan Turner, 14, agrees.

He recently completed a project in World History where students created a website where students created QR codes to allow others to scan and access pages they made with history and facts about their assigned country.

“Using Chromebooks, there's so many options,” he said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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