Polk Schools eyes Chromebooks

Published 5:30 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Polk County Schools placed about 50 Google Chromebooks in the hands of students back in October to test the devices’ ability to assist teachers in integrating technology into their instruction.

“We want them to have one more opportunity to use technology daily as part of their learning,” said Polk County Schools Technology Director Dave Scherping.

This is not the first time Polk County Schools has tried to put technology more directly in the hands of students. About 15 years ago Polk County Schools attempted a laptop program; providing laptops to as many students as possible.

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“We were one of the original 100 schools systems that Microsoft identified for its program nationwide,” said Polk Schools Superintent Bill Miller.

Polk County Schools did not encourage families to buy their own laptops, Miller said. Instead the system purchased large numbers of laptops, about 100 a year.

Issues with the laptops were numerous – short battery life, jungles of power cords crisscrossing classrooms, software malfunctions and breakage.

“I don’t think there’s any question it has affected mine and Dave’s view on the one-to-one (one laptop per one child) model,” Miller said of the system’s first run at providing individual computer systems to students.

Miller said the laptops allowed the students to type a paper or create a PowerPoint presentation, but he said they never “went to the point where you could drive learning in your classroom.”

But Miller and Scherping agreed that over the last few years they’ve been frustrated that they weren’t doing something more as they watched technology advance all around the system’s students.

It’s not that the school system hasn’t worked to connect students with technology, Scherping said. When Polk County Middle School was built, computer labs were incorporated in the design for each grade level, and at Polk County High School the media center has grown to include 40 computers. There are also small locations around both of the schools with smaller numbers of computers that students can access. Every classroom has also been made digital with smart boards available to teachers and rolling carts of laptops still available.