MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Board of Education announced the Google Chromebook initiative rolling out at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kyle Arlington presented the supporting research and addressed concerns regarding Chromebooks in the classroom. Incorporating increased technology into the curricula modernizes Millburn schools and provide students with a 21st-century learning experience that includes enhanced elements of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.
Effective September 2017 the district will lend Chromebooks to fifth and sixth-grade students during school hours. Through what is dubbed the 1:1 program Millburn High School Freshman will get their own Chromebooks for use in and out of school.
The Board of Education designed the initiative with the intention that each student uses their assigned Chromebook for the duration of their career in their respective schools. Additionally, the one-year Washington School, a fifth-grade academy, lacks a media center and the incorporation of Chromebooks in the classroom serves to compensate.
The district chose Chromebooks for the built-in Google apps for Education (GAFE) including Google Docs, Google Classroom, Google Slides, and more, all of which have now been instrumental in Millburn education for years. These devices are less costly than Apple products which the district also owns.
An instrumental portion of the trial process was the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) period. The BYOD trial allowed students to use their own devices for the purpose of classroom management using tools like Google Classroom inside and outside of school. The students were able to take notes, organize material in electronic folders, and instantly access multimedia resources.
The designated BYOD WIFI network blocked certain websites which administration deemed to be inappropriate for school.
The network limited students’ access to the internet, but the district plans on taking technology screening to new heights. Using programs such as “Go Guardian for Teachers” and “Blocksi” teachers can monitor student screens and manipulate them from their computers if need be.
Arlington acknowledged the concerns, and objections many raised regarding the effect Chromebooks will have on note taking. “The goal of increased technology access for us has never been, and will not be, to have students take notes electronically instead of by hand,” said Arlington. “Teachers may use devices as one tool to teach possible ways to organize notes.”
One Millburn fifth grade teacher testified that “My goal is that by the end of the year they leave school knowing which tool or method works best for them as a learner.”
Arlington and the BOE subscribe to Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition (SAMR) model designed to help educators infuse technology into teaching and learning. They aim to accomplish “Redefinition,” the top rung of the concept, rather than “Substitution,” the lowest rung. “Redefinition” is reached when educators use devices to create or to complete a task that was not possible without technology, whereas “Substitution” fails to stretch the limits of education.
Screen time was a common concern among the public. There are studies and testimonies from Millburn parents which argue that excessive exposure to screens is unhealthy, especially for children. However, these parents took comfort in Arlington’s reassurance that devices will only be used if the teacher deems it necessary for class.
Millburn Township schools have prepared to make this initiative for years now as GAFE have become very popular in each school. In fact, Amplified IT, a third party researcher, audited Millburn Township Schools’ usage of Google apps for education and found since incorporating Google apps into curricula, Millburn students have created 3,781,269 total Google files.
In preparation for the September rollout, the administration will decide which specific Chromebook model is the best fit to be circulated among the students in the district. The Board will also publish a Chromebook Procedures and Information Handbook, with insurance plans for ninth graders.