iPads and Chromebooks Become Critical Component of Student’s Classroom Success

While Bonny Slope Community Organization funds a variety of programs, from family events to science and art enrichment to teacher grants, one of its biggest outlays is for classroom technology. Over the past four years, BSCO has funded the purchase of 60 Macbooks, 60 Chromebooks, and 120 iPads, all split into carts that can be moved to any classroom.

Technology has become more and more important across the school spectrum. Annual exams are now conducted on computers. Students need to be prepared not only for the academic rigour of the exam, but also be comfortable with the technology before starting the tests.

These computers become vital as students approach middle school. Two years ago the fourth grade teachers applied for a grant that awarded them one Chromebook per student and one iPad for every two students. These computers have been integrated into their daily curriculum.

“The value of technology in the classroom is priceless,” said Aliyah Taylor, fourth grade teacher at Bonny Slope. “It allows me to diversify and differentiate at a much higher level, it elevates student engagement and level of work and allows for a much deeper level of collaboration between students, students and teachers, and the classroom and home. Additionally, it opens the door for us to access a much broader range of resources for our units of inquiry and learning engagements.”

This grant was a test pilot for the District, which is rolling out one computer per every two students across Beaverton elementary schools over the next two years, as a part of its Future Ready program. These computers will supplement the annual purchases made by BSCO, filling in necessary devices for all classes.

“Buying iPads and Chromebooks is one of the few ways BSCO can help in the classroom and our teachers really wanted to integrate them into the curriculum,” said Elia Freedman, Technology Advisor for BSCO. The District does not allow parent organizations to purchase teachers, aides or many other classroom resources, and until recently, the District was not able to purchase classroom computers.

While BSCO now has multiple carts available, it has become clear that teachers can not leave the class to track them down. It is important to have computers designated on a class-by-class basis.

“BSCO’s goal has been to get computers into each classroom,” said Freedman. “ By the end of the 2016-17 school year, between BSCO’s funding and those from the District, each teacher in the school will have computers in their classroom available for use at any time.”

Computer use in the classroom is integrated into the curriculum on a grade-by-grade basis and thus the number of computers in each class varies. For example, fourth and fifth grade use computers daily. Students are taught digital citizenship and complete projects using Chromebooks. In third grade, students are just learning how to use computers, conducting research and other computer-based tasks. In addition, third grade students need practice typing, especially in preparation for state exams. First and second grades use iPads for supplemental learning, research and helping students who have fallen behind.

Kindergarten has a unique set of needs. While iPads are often used for free-time academic activities, the Kindergarten teachers felt that more hands-on manipulatives were needed to improve child dexterity and learning. This year BSCO purchased two light tables and hopes to have one per Kindergarten classroom for next school year.

“Light tables have brought an important sensory experience to Kindergarten, really their first step in the inquiry process,” said Debra Henely, Kindergarten teacher. “Kindergarteners inquire about their world best when they can manipulate and experience it first-hand. For example, the magna-tiles are used daily as students learn to construct buildings and blend colors as well as strengthen creativity, motor skills and language skills.”

“Our teachers have done an exceptional job of working together to integrate technology at an age-appropriate level into the curriculum,” said Janet Maza, school principal. “They are excited to know that as of next school year they will have computers available for their use whenever needed. It is a critical step in helping our students prepare for the next grade and their future outside an academic setting.”

Beaverton School District will fund some iPad and Chromebook purchases for the next couple of years through the same bond that is paying for new schools and school upgrades in the District. Unfortunately, these funds were only designated for a few years and only cover computers for half of the students at Bonny Slope. BSCO’s funding covers the remainder and enables teachers and students to have the needed technology during and beyond this bond window.