Students explore ‘fully digital learning environment’ with Chromebooks

A group of approximately 40 Wilton High School freshmen received touchscreen Yoga Chromebooks and were placed in special classes as part of a new 1:1 pilot this year.

As part of the pilot, the freshmen are “exploring a fully digital learning environment” at the high school, said business teacher and technology instructional leader Amy Korn, who is leading the program with Associate Principal Richard Sanzo.

“Each student in the pilot received a Yoga touchscreen Chromebook for use in all of their classes throughout the school day and to bring home with them to complete schoolwork,” said Korn. “Everything on the Chromebook is stored online in the cloud.”

The program was funded through the school budget cycle, said Korn, and included five curriculum days for each of the teachers involved to work together and “prepare to transition the curriculum to a fully digital learning environment.”

“The cost of the devices was wrapped into our lease for computers and other mobile devices, so it would be very difficult to decipher the exact dollar amount,” she said. “The touchscreen Chromebooks with extended warranty and domain management are $472.98.”

Last fall, Korn said, she and Sanzo spent a lot of time researching other school districts that have 1:1 or bring-your-own-technology (BYOT) programs and becoming familiar with best practices.

Last spring, Korn and Sanzo worked with technology director Mathew Hepfer to develop “policies and procedures for the pilot that also aligned with best practices in the education field,” said Korn.

Teachers and students


As part of those best practices, Korn said, they selected teachers and courses that would provide the “best measurement as to whether a fully digital environment with a device in each student’s hand would work for the future of Wilton High School.”

Students who registered for courses included in the pilot program were randomly selected using a random number generator, said Korn.
“The classes these freshmen are currently taking include algebra 1-2, biology 2, Western Civilization, freshman English, Spanish III, and a semester course in computer skills that has been redesigned around the Chromebook,” she said.


“This group of freshmen all have the same teachers, [who have] spent a lot of time together this past spring and summer planning for a fully digital learning environment and how the technology can transform the learning process in a student-centered classroom.”

In addition to Korn and Sanzo, other staff members involved in the pilot are:


  • Barbara Lyons, library media specialist.

  • Cindy Cherico, algebra teacher.

  • Ken Dunaj, Western civilization teacher.

  • Matt Hoyt, biology teacher.

  • Lauren Kantor, Spanish teacher.

  • Liz McLoughlin, English teacher.


Korn said the main goal of the pilot is to see what a fully digital learning environment at Wilton High School would be like on a small scale.

“Best practice and research strongly suggest starting out with a smaller cohort to work out the kinks before introducing this learning environment schoolwide,” she said.

Transformations


Although the teachers in the pilot developed the same goal statements, Korn said, the classes will be transformed in different ways with the implementation of the Chromebooks.

For example, in McLoughlin’s English and Dunaj’s Western civilization class, students will use the Chromebooks to:


  • Learn how to manage and organize digital files that are no longer stored on a hard drive or flash drive.

  • Use Google Docs to take outline notes using digital tools.

  • Collaboratively share work via Google Docs to edit, revise and suggest changes to formal pieces of writing.

  • Access handouts and articles in PDF format or through links.

  • Use cloud-based presentation software like Prezi and WHS Library Learning Commons digital sources and cloud-based applications to develop informed conclusions and present to their classmates.


“In English class, Mrs. McLoughlin plans to expose students to a significant amount of writing and peer review,” said Korn.

“Having the Chromebooks will allow students to have more complete writing, but she would like to focus more on the quality.”

The Chromebooks will provide McLoughlin’s students with access to “excellent writing resources with the click of a button,” said Korn.

“While other available resources may present some temptation to pull ideas for essay writing,” she said, “Mrs. McLoughlin has already begun discussing integrity with the students and the value in struggling through an assignment, as compared to simply looking up analysis or answers.”

While the Chromebooks are primarily for school use, the students are encouraged to use the devices outside of school “to become more comfortable” using them, “as long as they are being good digital citizens,” said Korn.