Chromebooks to SDA Primary

Laptops for learning

by Glen Herbert

Felicia Frederick approached us with a proposal around augmenting the literacy resources at SDA Primary. After some discussion with her of the various options, we decided to get a few Chromebooks, which are laptops that are designed for in-class use. They’re used extensively in Ontario schools, including the one that my sons attend.

We didn’t have the budget on hand for these, so I found a donor, Allison Nielsen, the owner of Dan’s Welding, a welding and fabrication company here in Burlington where I live. With her support, and a nice discount offered by Dell computers, we were away. They were delivered to the school on October 2. 

What’s a Chromebook?

Chromebooks differ from typical laptops in that they don’t have any onboard memory; rather, they are terminals to access internet applications. So, while you can’t install programs, given the wealth of online resources available, there isn’t really much need to. Students can use Google Drive (typing up essays, making slideshows, using spreadsheets, doing some graphic designing, etc.) and other internet-based programs (Dreambox; Raz Kids; Starfall). You can print from a Chromebook as well. Some literacy and numeracy resources are paid products, though very many are free. Raz Kids is a particularly good one—it’s a levelled reading resource that includes 100s of ebooks. We’ve purchased a one-year site license for use in the school. (You can learn more Raz Kids by clicking here.)

Some of the advantages of Chromebooks are their speed (they start up in a few seconds since it’s not loading installed programs), their price, and that they are very low maintenance–Chromebooks update themselves so you don’t need technicians to service them).

Onward and upward

The Chromebooks will augment the reading and numeracy programs within the school, allowing kids to access reading materials, math games and tutorials, and to create their own documents and presentations. They’ll be able to research people and places that are of interest to them, and then to share what they learn with others in their own online space. As such, they’ll not only be improving their facility with the basic curriculum, they’ll also begin growing the technical skills necessary for success in an increasingly digital world.

We’ll check in with Felicia from time-to-time to see how it’s going, and to get any feedback on whether she feels this program is one that might be worth building out to other schools on the island.