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Preparing Students for the 21st Century

By Staff | Oct 2, 2015

JT Pelt/PCT Ely sixth graders (left to right) Ethan Musser, Noah Wright, Abby Ortega, Abby Klein and Amber Harmel show off their new Chromebooks.

On Monday, Oct. 19, the Rugby Public School District will be going through a huge transformation with the implementation of classroom-based personal student learning devices over a scheduled roll out. The program is known as the 1:1 Chromebook program and will begin with students in grades 6-8. Each student in these grade levels will be provided a Chromebook to be used in the classroom. Teachers will be using computer technology for instruction, assignments, projects, research and assessment.

Superintendent Mike McNeff commented on Rugby utilizing current technology to further advance the student’s education, “This is an exciting time for the students, our families, and our district. We believe these devices will help develop 21st Century Skills like creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. We are exploring additional devices in grades 5-12 in subsequent school years.”

According to Jennifer Zachmeier, technology coordinator for Rugby Public Schools, this roll out has been in the works for some time. Zachmeier shared, “This past summer, I upgraded the entire district’s wireless infrastructure (which had been installed in 2005), to prepare for the increased network traffic that would come with adding so many devices.” She continued, “We made the decision to go with Chromebooks as the 1:1 student device. Chromebooks are cost-effective (under $300 each), fast, cloud-based, and I can manage them remotely with the Google Management Console. I can easily install the state assessment app or the NWEA Map testing app on ALL Chromebooks in as little as three clicks with my mouse – as well as any other application. With Google Docs, students are able to create and save their work in the “cloud.”

With Google Classroom, teachers can create classes, give assignments, collect assignments, and see everything in one place. The decision was also made to keep these devices “classroom-based” – meaning they will not go home. One of the features that Zachmeier liked about Chromebooks is that they should not have to go home since everything is universally accessible on the cloud from any device, anywhere, through their school-issued Google account.

As personal technology becomes more and more integrated into day- to- day life, it is imperative that students get a hands on experience as soon as possible and the best way to do so is to bring it into the classroom seamlessly according to Zachmeier. “With each student having their own Chromebook, we are hoping for more individualized and effective learning at Rugby Public Schools”, said Zachmeier. She continued, “For 21st century learners, it is such an instinctive and normal way to engage. The students and teachers are very excited to get their devices – but not as excited as I am to give them to them! They have been dreaming of this for a while.”

That dream came early for sixth grade teacher at Ely Elementary Mike Santjer, who was able to breakout the Chromebooks this past week in his class. When asked why he thought this leap into technology was so important Santjer said, ” With the world progressing on a daily basis, on a technological basis I think it is important for our students to have a hands-on experience as soon as possible.” He continued, “With this program we can start them in sixth grade and work them all the way through until the time they graduate. By doing so now they will be more comfortable using it in the real world after their schools have passed.” Santjer also stressed, “I am confident of the success of this program and we are hoping to get where we can get to use the Chromebooks in every subject all the way through. Using these as another tool, but we are not going to be putting the pencil and paper away all together, this will just be an added tool to an all around education.”

Zachmeier is not only the Technology Coordinator for Rugby Public Schools, she is a mother of a student and she says this about Chromebooks as a new educational tool, “I am so proud, as the Technology Coordinator, to work in a district that promotes and supports personalized learning and technology innovation the way that they do at Rugby Public Schools. However, I am even more proud, as a parent, that my children go to such a great school and get to experience and benefit from all of this, too.”

If the enthusiasm of the students and faculty are a barometer of the success of this program, then the success will be resounding. As Noah Wright, a sixth grade student in Mr. Santjer’s class shared, “Being able to type is really great, writing on paper is boring. So this makes learning more exciting.”

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