Maine Township high schools to require laptops
Maine East High School science teacher Aida Awad, center, instructs students who are using Chromebooks, a type of laptop computer, as part of a pilot program this year. | Contributed photo
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:06AM
PARK RIDGE — The way Maine Township high school students read their textbooks is about to change.
Beginning next school year, incoming freshmen and sophomores will be required to purchase a Chromebook laptop computer during summer book sales. It’s a new initiative from the District 207 Board of Education, which recently approved the $1.07 million purchase of over 3,000 Chromebooks for the first year of a three-year roll-out.
The district will be reimbursed when families pay for the computers through their technology fee. The cost per Chromebook, which includes cords and a protective cover, is currently estimated at $319, said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Barb Dill-Varga.
“It’s a device that will allow students to access digital resources, in some cases replacing their print textbook,” Dill-Varga said.
The computers will belong to the students once they purchase them and will be used to download digital books, access Internet resources, share documents through Google, turn in assignments and take exams, Dill-Varga explained.
One of the benefits of the computers is that families could likely see savings, as digital textbooks cost relatively less than printed textbooks, she added.
During January a meeting of the District 207 Education Committee, Dill-Varga explained that digital books can cost as little as $20, while printed textbooks can range from $90 to $120 for Maine students.
“It’s the right time for us to start to shift away from the high cost of printed textbooks,” Dill-Varga said.
The district is floating the option of letting families pay for the computers in four installments over the first year. Theyalso have an existing program in place to help families who cannot afford the cost of the computers, Dill-Varga explained.
Chromebooks run on the Google Chrome operating system and are among the least expensive laptops.
The Chromebooks purchased for District 207 students have safeguards in place that are intended to keep students from visiting Internet sites they should not be looking at during class, particularly when they are taking exams, Dill-Varga said. Teachers will also have the ability to view the computer screens of every student, she added.
Maine East High School science teacher Aida Awad has been piloting Chromebooks in her geology class this school year.
“It’s surprising, but they really do love them,” she said of her students.
Awad explained that some of the advantages of using this particular type of laptop include the speed, eight-hour battery life and ability to resume a project in seconds after closing the computer.
“That’s a really big advantage, that you can seamlessly move from using the device to doing something else,” Awad said.
She also uses the Chromebooks to incorporate online video into her instruction and to have students store reports and research papers in a Google Document file that Awad can access and offer feedback on.
“They have dramatically changed how I teach and how a lot of other teachers teach,” she explained. “We have really moved much more toward student-centered learning.”
But students are not be the only ones who will need to adjust to their new virtual classroom. Teachers will also require lessons in working with Chromebooks.
“There are a lot of details to work out, not the least of which is professional development for teachers,” Dill-Varga said. “Instructively, it will be an important change that the teachers will have to think about.”