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Transition to Chromebooks 'easy,' Quaker Valley Middle School principal says

Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

After more than five months into a transition from Apple computers to Google Chromebooks, Quaker Valley Middle School Principal Sean Aiken said the switch has gone well.

“It's been easy — functional and easy,” he said. “Our students have adapted seamlessly to the Chromebooks.”

Board members last March spent $193,500 to purchase 500 Chromebooks with carrying cases, replacing Apple laptops students previously had used.

Students use the laptops during the school day, returning the devices before they leave.

“Not only was it just economically a good deal, but I think it was extremely functional for what our students do in the classroom,” Aiken said.

Even before moving to Google's computer operating system, teachers and students placed heavy emphasis on Google products, including Google Drive, which offers word processing, spreadsheets and other resources. Those files are saved to a Google server, allowing access and editing capabilities on any computer, tablet or smartphone.

Since the switch, teachers have increased the number of projects to be turned in electronically, Aiken said.

Some tests have been administered via the Chromebooks, too, he said.

Chromebooks offer a slimmed down operating system compared to Microsoft and Apple.

“At this point, when we talk to the teachers and the principals and students at the middle school and high school, the Chromebook fits what the teachers and students do at the middle school,” technology Director Karlton Chapman said.

While the devices work for middle schoolers, Dells — part of a four-year lease board members approved — support the needs of high school students, he said.

“Because of some of the applications — especially some of the java-based applications — that are used at the high school … the Chromebook does not support those right now,” Chapman said.

The four-year lease included 490 Dells, 428 MacBook Airs, 205 MacBook Pro devices and 50 iMacs. Board members approved that agreement for $296,000.

A decision has yet to be made on what device current eighth-grade students will use as first-year students at the high school next year, Chapman said.

“As soon as we were distributing systems, we began our discussion on what's going to happen next year,” he said. “We're still looking at how the Chromebooks are working and where they fit and how the Dells are working at the high school.”

Chapman and Aiken said iPads were considered for middle-schoolers.

“The iPad and the installations where we saw them worked well for those districts and where they were and what their objectives were,” Chapman said. “But coming from a district where we've had over 10 years of a full laptop, the iPad would not — in our opinion — have let the students be where they're at right now. Not that the iPad is not good technology, but for where Quaker Valley was, it wouldn't have been a good fit.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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