The technology here in Van Buren is always changing, and there are new plans for improvement currently underway. Due to the inability of the current netbooks to keep up with the demands of teachers and students, new devices are undergoing a testing process by select middle schoolers to see which machines would be best fitting for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year.
One of the prospective devices is the $280 Google Chromebook, which is a fast machine designed to integrate well with Google Docs and Google Chrome apps. According to network administrator Mr. Bostdorff, another benefit to this device is the attractive, thin appearance, which also makes them quite fragile.
“The other thing is that for most of the things that you need to do on the Chromebook, you have to have an internet connection,” said Bostdorff. “So, when you’re here at school, there would be no problem at all. Most people have wi-fi connection at home.”
He said that although being without a wireless connection would diminish the ability to do things on these devices very quickly, managing the devices is easy due to everything being under the Google system.
The Chromebooks are undergoing testing by several middle schoolers right now, before adding them to the current technology.
Bostdorff ordered 10 Chromebooks to give to a varying group of students, from kids who were tech savvy, to some that weren’t, to see how the devices would suit a wide range of users.
“There have been some issues in the classroom watching a video that didn’t quite work on the Chrome devices,” he said, “so we kind of had to work around that. It’s a trial period right now to see how the teachers and the students would react to this. But so far, so good.”
The other device being looked at is an Acer miniature laptop, costing around $300, and this is what will most likely be issued in the upcoming school year. This is a Windows 7 device, slightly larger than the Acer netbooks currently issued to students, and is also much faster, thanks to having four times the RAM of the current netbooks.
“The idea here is that each kid can do more,” said Bostdorff. “It wouldn’t take so long to open up Word or Openoffice. It’d be a little more fully functioning machine instead of the inherent limitations of the netbook.”
About a hundred Acers will be ordered next school year, according to Bostdorff, which will cost about $31,000. These devices will be funded by the permanent improvement money set aside for the school. These are funds for tangible improvements that the school needs that are to last more than 5 years, such as bus garages, refrigerators, and technology.
As far as what will happen to the current netbooks of the senior class post-graduation, the plan is that they will be issued to the upcoming fourth graders after refurbishing them and adding some memory.
The Chromebooks may be added into the school’s technology in the middle of next year, and will probably begin in the middle school.
“Right now the middle school is the only place where the Google Apps and Google Docs are consistently used,” said Bostdorff. “I know some of the high school teachers are using them on and off but right now the middle school has a much better grasp on the use of the technology, just in general, too. If we were to start, we would start there.”