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As Chromebook distribution nears, West Jefferson Hills students learn to be good digital citizens

| Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

When Bree Kibe has a paper due for class, the eighth-grader at Pleasant Hills Middle School uses her smartphone to write and save the text, before printing it and handing it to the teacher.

Classmate Tony Sparta, 13, also an eighth-grader, has a laptop at home that he uses to write papers.

However, at times, he will use his phone to make quick corrections or updates on class assignments.

All fifth- and eighth-graders in the West Jefferson Hills School District will be receiving a Chromebook computers this year they can use in class and take home to work on school assignments, as the district begins to roll out a one-to-one technology program for students.

The district plans to distribute the Chromebooks in the next few weeks, so students will have them by the end of October. “I think it's cool. You won't have to print papers out anymore,” said Kibe, 13.

Students said they're excited to get the technology, as it will help them stay organized and give them an added resource to help them in class and with homework assignments.

In preparation for the program's start, the district has launched digital citizenship training for all fifth through eighth-graders where students are learning about cyber bullying, online scams, their digital footprint and how anything they post online will never go away — even if they no longer see it.

“We in law enforcement can and will obtain it if it comes to that point,” school resource officer and Pleasant Hills police officer Ron Porupsky told the students as he talked about the dangers of online bullying, creating fake social media profiles and the harm that can come from it.

That's an important lesson to teach students, district leaders said.

“Some jobs and schools consider how a student's conduct themselves while using digital media as a determining factor in whether or not they get accepted into a school or get offered job positions.”

“It's serious stuff,” Vice Principal Adam Zunic told the students. “The way you treat each other says a lot about who you are. We want to be sure that when we give you that Chromebook. That's yours, that you're using in your classes, that you're making the right choices. That you're thinking before you type. That you're using empathy.”

Matthew Patterson, assistant superintendent of elementary education, said all fifth through eighth-graders are receiving digital citizenship training so that as the one-to-one program is rolled out into other grades during the next few years, students are prepared.

“The big takeaway is that we want them to be safe and responsible,” he said.

Adding this level of technology to the classroom is “huge,” Patterson said. “We are making a major investment in this education system.”

The district purchased 500 Chromebooks for the rollout at $349 each. A portion of the purchase — $45,370 for 130 computers — was funded through a Ready to Learn block grant. The remainder were purchased through the district's technology budget for 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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