Later this month, along with locker assignments and class schedules, high school students in Cleburne County will receive new laptop computers for the coming school year.
The computers, all Google Chromebooks, are part of a technology initiative to appeal to today’s students, said Superintendent Claire Dryden. Twenty-first century classrooms are much more hands-on, Dryden said, than those of earlier eras. They are more collaborative, require group projects and have real-time resources instead of relying on six-year-old textbooks, she said.
School systems in Alabama adopt new textbooks on a six-year schedule, Dryden said. This year, schools adopted new social studies and English textbooks. Cleburne County Schools bought electronic books for high schoolers that will be loaded onto the laptops and updated each year by the publishers, she said.
The school system purchased the computers in May for $390 each, a total of $391,200. But there is ongoing maintenance for the laptops, and families will help pick up that cost. Students will be expected to pay a rental fee of $30 per Chromebook, up to $100 per family.
With a total of 825 students attending the two high schools, the system should take in about $24,750 in rental fees, minus the families that pay the maximum fee.
“We expect that it will cover the cost of computer repairs and the computer bags,” Dryden said.
Families who might have difficulty coming up with the rental fee can speak to the high schools’ bookkeepers to make payment arrangements, she said. Otherwise, the fees will be due on orientation day.
Students also will be responsible for taking care of the laptops, and are expected to pass their machines on to the next generation of students after they graduate. The school system is counting on students and their families to pay to repair any damage above and beyond normal use, Dryden said. If a student loses a Chromebook, he or she will be expected to pay the cost of replacing it at $390.
Students and parents will get quick training sessions on the laptops at the two high schools’ orientations. Ranburne High’s will take place July 2 and Cleburne County High’s July 28. Students will also spend the first few days of the new school year getting in-depth lessons on the new educational tool, Dryden said. Teachers will be assigned to instruct different subject areas including using school-assigned email accounts, an online calendar, and a system that stores students’ documents online, she said.
Parents will be able to access tutorials on the school system website, Dryden said.
Teachers will learn along with the students, since this is the first time the computers will be used extensively in the classrooms, Dryden said.
In addition, a new service called Google Classroom, which will allow the teachers to create student folders, send notes and assignments to students on their laptops, won’t be available until September, she said. So far, the teachers have only seen demos, she added.
But she and the teachers expect the implementation of the new technology to enhance the students’ education.
The e-books come with online resources such as videos, games, tutorials and biographies, said Ranburne High history teacher Ken Wiggins.
Wiggins is excited about the possibilities that having all his students online will bring, especially to his lesson on the Holocaust. Students may be able to talk to professors at the Holocaust Museum in Washington or collaborate on projects with students of his colleagues in other parts of the country, he said. Wiggins noted that he has friends in Germany and that might allow his students face-time with German students.
“It’s like having the world at your fingertips,” he said.
Kelly Payton, a science teacher at Cleburne County High School, said the laptops will allow teachers to know immediately whether students are understanding a lesson. In the past, Dryden said, students were tested at the end of a subject and then the class moved on. If a student hadn’t grasped the lesson, it was too late for the teacher to go back and re-teach it, she said.
Payton said the Chromebooks allow her to take daily polls to make sure the students understand what she teaches. Additionally, students who may not want to raise their hands in class can send her questions in private messages. Payton is excited about the possibilities, she said.
“It’s going to be a challenge because you have to be more creative,” Payton said.
Staff Writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872 in Heflin, 256-235-3545 in Anniston. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.
Orientation schedule for high schools in Cleburne County:
12th grade: July 21, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
11th grade: July 21, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
10th grade: July 22, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Ninth grade: July 22, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Cleburne County High
12th grade: July 28, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
11th grade: July 29, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
10th grade: July 30, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Ninth grade: July 31, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.