The first year of the district’s effort to modernize and further incorporate technology into the classroom has come to a close, and a review was presented to the Board of Education on June 20. The results suggest that year one has been a success. Marc Marin, the district Director of Instructional Technology, spoke about the year and the tools that have been made available to teachers and students.

The one to one technology rollout featured the distribution of 1,600 Chromebook computers to middle school students. This also include a pilot program in which iPads were distributed to a small group of five teachers and 87 students at Darien High School. Teachers across the district have also begun using Google Classroom and other sites to distribute assignments, offer feedback, and add accessibility for students. This constitutes taking “steps towards a paperless classroom,” said Marin.

“Ultimately, this is a personalized learning environment for our students,” Marin added.

The program includes education and a course called Digital Citizenship for all students who will use chromebooks or iPads, along with a parent meeting about responsible use and care. The chromebooks themselves were distributed in November. DHS staff members received iPads with a guide and online courses of “how to” type programs.

Professional development for the technology rollout is extensive, as it is offered over the summer, and teachers and library media staff both take part. There are also sessions scheduled to take place in an Apple Store for staff and parents, along with team meetings in July and August to further develop and design education and support for staff using technology.

Students have, according to Marin, responded incredibly well to chromebooks. Superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner added that another important part of the success is the effort of staff. “The chromebooks have been so successful because the staff has embraced them. There has been a unified feeling about the usefulness of chromebooks,” Brenner said, adding, “There is an excitement among teachers at DHS about how this can stretch what they do.”

As for the actual hardware, Marin said it was treated very well. “120 iPads went out, 120 came back in good working order,” said Marin. The chromebooks distributed to 5th graders came back in excellent condition as well according to Marin, saying they need, “only minor repairs, if any at all.”

The middle school chromebooks were, according to Marin, a bit, “more challenging.” The chromebooks sent to middle school students were an older model than those distributed to the fifth grade, and were not, “ruggedized”. However, as the older models are turned back in, they are swapped out for newer models, and the new models that the fifth graders used will stay with them as they move up to sixth grade. “Overall, we have sufficient inventory to be able to swap (older models) out,” said Marin.

Of course, preparedness of students was another question. A student arriving without a charged chromebook, ready to use it, was told that they had to use a pencil and paper for the day. Marin said there were a few instances where a student said their chromebook was broken when it simply wasn’t charged. “Part of digital citizenship and being prepared means coming to school with chromebook charged and ready,” said Marin.

The chromebook and iPad rollout seems to simply offer students a way in which personalize their learning experience. More than that, the technology rollout strives to keep all different kinds of learners and students in mind. Over time, the use of chromebooks or iPads is to become totally seamless in the classroom.

According to Brenner, “very quickly they’ll just become a textbook in the backpack.”

darestia@darientimes.com