Chromebook Funding, Fundraising, Moving Slowly

Arlhyn Madrigal checked math homework and Delfina Hernandez played a game called “Buzz Math” on their Chromebooks in their sixth-grade Wyoming Intermediate School classroom.

“It’s easier to check stuff and you don’t need the teacher to help you,” said Arlhyn, on having a Chromebook of her own. She said she prepares at home on the device for the next day’s class with video notes provided by her teacher.

The girls are in one of two pilot classrooms launching the Chromebook program, for which students receive their own devices for use at school and home. Wyoming Intermediate School Principal Kirk Bloomquist hoped to put the laptops into the hands of all fifth- and sixth-grade students this semester, but funding is proving difficult.

An ongoing Chromebooks for Kids campaign, seeking donations from Wyoming businesses to fund 250 of the $245 computers, has resulted in 60 donations so far, including funds for 20 devices from the school’s Parent Teacher Organization. Funding is still needed for 190 Chromebooks.

Bloomquist said the school’s first 350 Chromebook, for school-use, were paid for through district funds, and student fundraisers.

Wyoming Public Schools, like many districts, has faced budget deficits in recent years due to limited state funds and declining enrollment. However, many districts have supported 1:1 technology initiatives through bond issues, parent contributions, or restructuring budgets to implement laptop programs over several years.

“Between myself and the teaching staff, we were looking at different options,” Bloomquist said. “We knew funding through a bond wasn’t possible, because the last bond proposed didn’t pass.”

Also Superintendent Tom Reeder said attempting to fund technology through a bond isn’t something he supports because of the short shelf life of equipment. He said the district has funded much technology including 1,000 devices district-wide with grant funds, but those are limited. Also, many students in middle and high school bring their own devices to school.

Bloomquist said students today are very comfortable with technology, and embrace using it in school positively. Some students however, have no computer at home.

“For one thing it’s a huge motivator. They are growing up in a world where being online is second nature to them,” Bloomquist said.

Sixth-grade teacher Maurine Schneider, whose classroom is piloting the initiative, said she uses the technology in instruction, to provide homework notes, and students use Google Docs, that allowher to view work in-progress.

“For me, with the Chromebooks, the students are held so much more accountable because there’s immediate feedback,” she said. “It’s incredible, especially for kids who don’t have access to computers,” she said.

Students can work at their own pace during parts of class. Students learning English as a second language can stop and review online notes provided by Schneider as much as they need to, when oftentimes they may “get lost” during the fast-paced lecture. The technology is also great for group work.

“They love the collaboration,” Schneider said.

Bloomquist said he is hopeful more businesses will step forward to donate. To make a donation or receive more information, call (616) 530-7540.

Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2012. Read Erin's full bio

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