Chromebooks create new opportunities

Students wait in line to pick up their new Chromebooks from librarian Kristi Anhalt.

Students wait in line to pick up their new Chromebooks from librarian Kristi Anhalt.

With the addition of Chromebooks to the technology of Cedar Falls High School and the retirement of Bev Wait from the MRC, many students and faculty are interested to know what changes will take place in the building. Many have speculated what will happen to the various computers around the building and how the old computer labs will be utilized, in addition to curiosity of whether a new teacher will be hired in Wait’s place with possible changes to makeup test procedures.

Chromebooks cost the school $250 each. They were selected for the school because, according to CFHS principal Dr. Rich Powers, they were “the best value with a three-year replacement cycle.” Replacement of Chromebooks every three years will allow students to get better use out of their Chromebooks as the device receives updates and continues to develop and create new models. “They’ll do many things. They’ll never be perfect, but they can do video editing and audio work. Obviously, Google Docs is different for everyone. Anytime you’re used to something, you’re going to prefer that [because a new device] is different. It’s going to take time, and it’s a learning process.”

All CFHS students received their Chromebooks this week. With every student in the building having their own Chromebook in their possession, students and teachers have speculated on what will become of the desktop computers currently in the building. Regarding this, Powers said, “The Chromebooks will do 90 to 95 percent of what we need them to do. We are going to remove some of the computers, such as some in the computer labs in business education and the library classroom. The MRC will stay, minimally, until the end of the year. All of the other labs will stay until a replacement cycle comes up. We aren’t going to take away the other labs until we’re more confident in what our needs are.”

Powers plans to turn the library classroom into a small store/coffee shop that students can relax and study in called “The Tiger Den.” Once the MRC is no longer needed for computers, it will turn into a classroom. Makeup tests will be taken in the library and will be distributed by a new teacher that has just been hired to replace Wait. She will learn the test taking procedures of each teacher and take over all of the responsibilities previously held by Wait. “Mrs. Wait was here for a very long time. Individual teacher requirements, like any relationship, is going to take time,” Powers said, “Any time you’re talking about replacing a long-time employee like Mrs. Wait, there’s going to be a long transition period. It’s going to be hard to fill her shoes.”

In addition to the Chromebooks, students will soon be utilizing a website called Schoology, which is similar to Infinite Campus, but more student and teacher based. This is a site where teachers can post assignments, grades and even quizzes for students to take. It is a website specifically designed so teachers can better assist students in their learning by having them take comprehension quizzes and better keep track of grades and assignments. With online assignment submissions through Schoology, teachers will have an easier time grading and quickly submitting scores. Most importantly, students will receive immediate feedback on their learning and grades with the site. Teachers will facilitate use of the site for students, and the administration plans to try to ease students into use of the site. Powers said, “We’re going to take baby steps this spring, and then we’ll continue to move in the right direction as our needs allow and as our teachers’ skills evolve. Technology is an important tool, but it’s not the end game. The content is the focus.”

Powers believes that the Chromebooks and Schoology will be a very beneficial tool for Cedar Falls High School. “It’s about the student. If you’re taking a test on Schoology, and you get immediate feedback, that helps you as a learner. We’re in business to support students. Our focus is on what helps students, and what helps [them] the most is regular, consistent, accurate feedback on your learning.”

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