MILLBURN, NJ - With the first day of school less than a week away, incoming freshman and their parents attended Millburn High School’s (MHS) annual freshman orientation. Seniors led tours around the school, and MHS Principal Dr. William Miron spoke with the parents about the ins and outs of MHS. But this year, a revolutionary addition highlighted the day, the distribution of Chromebooks.
The Millburn School District has discussed including this technology into the curricula for many years. The district evaluated 18 different Chromebooks, as well as some PCs and Macs, before deciding to move forward with the HP Chromebook - X360 11 - Education Edition.
Director of Technology of Millburn Schools Evan Abramson believes these devices are going to be able to push the limits of yesterday’s education. “Students themselves are going to be able to collaborate more” Abramson said. “We are trying to foster an anytime-anywhere learning environment. When our teachers are using new programs that we have for the district, and our students are going to be able to immerse themselves in the virtual reality world, and physically get into the lessons, it’s going to increase the learning experience.”
Abramson expects the teachers to utilize the Chromebook’s classroom capabilities to enhance their everyday lessons, using a program called Nearpod. Nearpod allows teachers to create interactive presentations for the students to access, and pose questions for the students to respond to on their screens.
With the excitement that new technology brings, though, comes skepticism. Parents of the Chromebook recipients － fifth, sixth, and ninth graders － worry that the Chromebooks may serve mainly as a distraction and that it may take away from the learning process.
“This is not a 24/7 device” Abramson assured the parents. “It is a tool to make education better. It is not a tool to replace education.” Miron and Abramson made sure to emphasize to the teachers that they are not expected to implement the Chromebooks into 43 minutes of each period. However, they are encouraged to use them if they will enhance the day’s lesson.
“My expectation for the Chromebooks this year is pretty low” Miron said. “We want students and parents to get used to it. We want teachers to get used to it.”
If the teachers choose to use the Chromebooks, they will have complete control of the class. As is, students are unable to download applications or programs that are not pre-installed for them; on the student Wi-Fi network, many “non-educational sites” are blocked. Using GoGurdian, a popular program that provides “Chromebook management solutions that keep students safer online and make teaching easier” teachers can monitor their students’ screens while they are in class, and review the screen recordings after the period. For the ninth graders, the only grade who will be permitted to take their Chromebooks home, the same search restrictions in school apply at home.
“I think I’ll just use the Chromebook for school, and that will help me stay focused on my academics,” said incoming MHS freshman Alex Marx.
The ninth graders claimed their Chromebooks waiting for them in the cafeteria, along with the corresponding power cord and carrying case. All that was required was a signed handbook agreement and a $50 payment to Millburn Township Public Schools.
The $50 payment covers two accidents, including spills, broken screens, electrical surges, and keyboard damage. However, the district will not cover intentional damage, power cord damage or loss, case damage, or a lost device. Students must show the school a police report for the Chromebook to be deemed stolen rather than lost.