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In West Warwick, Kindergarteners Have Chromebooks

EG is contemplating putting Chromebooks into the hands of older students, but Wakefield Hills Elementary School has been WW’s test case.

Unwrapping a new Chromebook last September at Wakefield Hills Elementary in West Warwick. Credit: Jim Monti
Unwrapping a new Chromebook last September at Wakefield Hills Elementary in West Warwick. Credit: Jim Monti

The East Greenwich School Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on giving Chromebook computer tablets to all students in grades 6 through 12. West Warwick, meanwhile, has already pioneered such a program – for kindergarten through grade 4.

“When the Rhode Island Department of Education put together its 1:1 techology grant three years ago, Wakefield Hills Elementary School put together the most impressive proposal and seemed to be the most committed,” said Jim Monti, West Warwick’s director of educational reform, compliance and technology.

In February 2013, Chromebooks were given to one WH classroom, picked at random. It turned out to be a kindergarten.

“It’s not what I wanted to do initially,” Monti said, referring to giving Chromebooks to kindergarteners. “But I’m really glad we did because it showed us if these kindergarten kids could use 1:1, any grade could.”

He offered an example.

“We want students who are engaged learners,” he said. “Right away, we had kindergarten kids involved in communicating, collaborating, and creating content.”

They were learning about zoos – ”why we have them, what you find in zoos.“ They were figuring out what they wanted to learn about zoos, Monti said. After they developed a long list of things they needed to find out about, their teacher arranged for a video conference with staff from Roger Williams Park Zoo.

The technology wasn’t being used just for the sake of having the technology, Monti said. Rather, it gave the students the tools to explore the topic more fully, independently and creatively.

“They could go in and start writing some of their own writing about what they had learned,” he said.

In September 2013, 400 more Chromebooks were distributed at Wakefield Hills.

“The devices go home with students and they come back to school the next day,” said Monti. “Kids really pay a lot of attention to that. Our kids have been phenomenal, to be honest with you – we’ve had very few problems.”

Rather than by $50 insurance policies for each Chromebook, West Warwick decided to just buy 20 extra devices. When a screen breaks (which has happened a handful of times, Monti said), the student gets one of the extra devices. The broken Chromebook is sent out for a new screen, which costs $30, he said.  

Fourth grade students at Wakefield Hills will take their Chromebooks with them when they leave for middle school. That means WWSD will need to buy 100 more Chromebooks next year for incoming Wakefield Hills students. At $250 a piece, that’s doable, said Monti.

“You make an investment choice that’s sustainable,” he said. “For our school district, Chromebooks were that choice. You look at multiple funding sources … and you put together a sustainability plan to go forward with that.”

"We're pleased with the progress of the initiative at WHES. All teachers and students are using their devices on a daily basis for authentic purposes. Students are creating content, communicating and collaborating with their peers and teachers," Monti said.

West Warwick, which as a community faces significant financial challenges, is looking at more grants and partnerships with local businesses. East Greenwich, so far, is looking at financing 1:1 implementation through the regular budget process. 

Read about EGSD's 1:1 proposal here: 

School Committee To Vote On 1:1 Proposal For Grades 6-12.

EG January 20, 2014 at 05:55 PM
Shouldn't we compare the curriculum vs the tablets?
Elizabeth McNamara January 20, 2014 at 06:01 PM
EG, I'm probably being dense, but can you elaborate?
egparent January 20, 2014 at 08:10 PM
I am not sure why it always comes down to one issue vs another. If something else is equally or more important than another than that issue should be brought up far before the budget is being introduced without it. I believe EG should also have all day K- but not instead of 1 to 1's - if both were in the proposed budget for this year you could argue one over the other -but only the 1 to 1 initiative is being put forth. It seems as though all day K only comes up as a rebuttal to getting the 1 to 1's. I do not have students going into K, but I do have one going into 6th grade next year.
EG January 20, 2014 at 11:34 PM
Elizabeth, Curriculum(the academic program offered to the student) is the most important part for any school system. If our 1st graders are learning 1+1=2 while the 1st graders from rest of the world are learning 25*60, tablet does not make any difference. None of us moved to East Greenwich because East Greenwich will offer a tablet to every 6-12 graders in 2014. We moved to East Greenwich because we expect it offers better academic program(unfortunately it is not...). We need to spend the money wisely on most important item vs wasting the money on nice to have item. East Greenwich school system is behind on academic programs in the nation. It is important to compare our academic program with the programs offered by Barrington, CA, Barrington, IL and Barrington, RI. We need to fix our academic program as the first priority.

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