After trying out three electronic devices - iPads, Netbooks and Chromebooks - for several weeks in a pilot study, the Estherville Lincoln Central District Technology Team Monday recommended to the ELC Board of Education that the district adopt Chromebooks as the device of choice for one-one-one technology.
While the board did not take action at Monday's meeting, funding for the project was already approved when the physical plant and equipment levy budget was approved.
In presenting the findings, Jenny Nitchals said the pilot project was conducted from the end of February through March by 12 students and 12 teachers. Speaking in favor of Chromebooks were Ciara Minion and Kayla Jensen, students participating in the study.
ELC High School Principal Frank Christenson said three students had been picked from each high-school class along with a variety of staff for the pilot project.
Students and staff took surveys after using each device for two weeks. Nitchals said 60 percent of students favored Chromebooks while 60 percent of staff favored Netbooks.
While Chromebooks don't run Microsoft Office, Christensen said Google automatically updates the machines. And admitting more difficulty in downloading with E-readers with
Chromebooks, he said PCs are not going away anytime soon.
Librarian Lili Jensen said Chromebooks don't interface with library programs and that Chrome, a Google browser, is the only one available on the machines.
Christensen also said a driving force favoring the Chromebook was cost. Along with that was ease of setup. Christenson said the technology department could set up 400 Chromebooks in three days.
Christenson said next year he'd like to purchase Chromebooks for teachers and put labs in different areas.
Board member Kathy Cornwall said she would have liked to have seen more people who favored Netbooks come to the meeting to explain why they did. Superintendent Tara Paul said she believed Chromebooks would serve student needs.
Christensen said the Technology Team had also received recommendations from the AEA. He said a lot of schools had gone from Netbooks to Chromebooks but none went from Chromebooks to Netbooks.
Paul noted the $279 cost as an advantage too, and that Spirit Lake was going from MacBook Pro to the Chromebook. She also said the pilot study showed that students could do anything they were asked with the Chromebook, and that buying the Chromebook offered the opportunity to spend less than what the district had planned.
Christensen said he was not trying to rush the board into any decision and that a year had been spent researching available options.
"We are behind" neighboring school districts in one-one-one technology, Christenson said, adding that he wanted to let teachers have the machines for a year before they were issued to students.
"We are behind our neighbors," Christenson said. "I think we did this (pilot study and recommendation) in a timely manner. I think we were well represented."
Cornwall questioned whether the Technology Committee had been transparent with teachers.
"I think we have," Paul said, noting that extra devices were available for teachers to check out and that everyone knew the pilot study was going on.