Textbooks To Tech Books
● By Robert Frey
New Technology Welcomes Iberia Parish Students
By Sherise Henry
Fifth through twelfth graders in Iberia Parish will start the new school year with exciting new technology that will take them far beyond their usual textbooks. Chromebooks are complementing traditional textbooks in most social studies and history classes this fall. It’s an opportunity for students to take research to the next level and combine their generation’s love for technology into practical learning sessions.
A Chromebook looks like a mini laptop. Its durable form and high raised keyboard will give students a chance to search the Internet for information that can enhance what’s in their textbooks.
“For example, if students are studying the Declaration of Independence, they usually only study things like the date and who wrote it. They now will have the access to pull and study the actual document along with a reference Dr. Martin Luther King made to it in one of his speeches,” explains Heath Hulin, supervisor of instruction for Grades 7-12 in ELA, Foreign Language and Social Studies.
“We have been dreaming of this type of technology for about four years”, states Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Carey Laviolette. “The state board wants students to go beyond the textbook by studying primary and secondary sources and be engaged with them on a daily basis. It’s a burden on teachers to find and make copies of the added sources. This way is much easier,” she says. Laviolette says this new technology helps students develop a deeper love of history rather than just memorize facts as they search out sources that supplement their now digital textbook. “There will still be a textbook; it’s just now in digital form,” adds Laviolette.
Students will use their new Chromebooks inside the classroom. There is not enough funding just yet to allow each student to take one home. However, everything done in class can be accessed at home on anything from a cell phone to a laptop. Although this type of classroom technology is advanced, the assistant superintendent assures parents that no student will be in jeopardy of falling behind in class or not advancing if they don’t have compatible technology at home. “If a child doesn’t have access at home this won’t inhibit their ability to learn or be successful. We’ll provide the resources,” says Laviolette.
The classrooms search engine will be one many are familiar with, Google. “Google will give the platform for research and interaction between teachers and students. Teachers are going to be trained in Google Docs, Google Forms, Google Drive and teaching with Google and Chromebook in the classroom,” explains Hulin.
Parents don’t have to worry about students searching for things unrelated to schoolwork. These classroom generated Google searches are more restrictive than the normal search range. “We have our own Google domain and its sort of a gate around our searches, our cloud so to speak, so they won’t send or see documents outside of that restricted area.” Laviolette adds that teachers will have their own monitoring system to see what students are pulling up on their Chromebooks. There will also be new teaching techniques to keep students engaged. “When students are deeply engaged in the learning process it’s less likely that they’ll wander off,” says the assistant superintendent.
Laviolette says now that the pilot year for Chromebooks has arrived, she expects increase usage in the future. “It’s going to start off in social studies, but if a teacher teaches multiple subjects they can definitely use them. Technology is the future of education. It’s hard for textbooks to keep up with all the info that is available.”
Laviolette says that the digital textbooks and all the resources that are available on the Chromebook are aligned with state expectations and standards. “We plan to quickly expand to 3rd and 4th grades, our testing grades begin at 3rd grade,” she says.
Dale Henderson, Superintendent of Iberia Parish Schools agrees. “We want to continue to embrace this type of technology and expand it to other grade levels and other parts of our curriculum. The school board has been very opened to accepting the idea of this new technology. The Principals and teachers have also been accepting of the chance to embrace this new way of educating our students,” says Henderson.
Students and teachers are buzzing about the new technology. There are 91 teachers in the parish that are being trained to use the new Chromebooks. “Each teacher received a Chromebook in May, when they were introduced to the Chromebook and the training,” says Hulin. “We had to develop a strategic plan on training the teachers some of it is being done in training sessions, some on their own, and some will bring them in and have frequent Chromebook collaborations,” continues Hulin.
Teachers will have a chance to ask as many questions as necessary and administration will travel to schools to make themselves available and monitor the process as this first year gets off the ground. “One teacher emailed me and said this is the most exciting thing she has done in her entire teaching career,” says Laviolette.
“From an instructional perspective, this is a really big deal. This is probably one of the most exciting new opportunities for our students in regards to teaching and learning. It’s really a great leap forward with our school system as we continue to make all of our schools true 21st century learning centers,” says Henderson.
Chromebooks arrive in the Iberia school district in July for use this fall. Laviolette said they’re cost effective. The school board can purchase 5 Chromebooks for the cost of one laptop. She credits community support for bringing the district this far in technological advancement. “The bond funds help support the purchase of the Chromebook, so community support has played a key role.”