New laptop computers, iPads part of $1.6 million grant in Clinton

By: 
MARY KAY MCPARTLIN

On Thursday many students at Clinton High School gathered in the media center at lunch to explore their new Chromebooks, which were handed out that morning. Every student in Clinton Community Schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade has been assigned his or her own computer or iPad that can be used both in school and at home. Photo by Mary Kay McPartlin.

For six months, students in Clinton Community Schools have been waiting for the fruits of a $1.6 million technology grant, and on Thursday, Dec. 10 the high school students finally connected with their Chromebooks. The Robert and Ellen Thompson Foundation officially awarded the district a grant designed to make technology a 1:1 ratio for the students.

“The students are ready to go,” said Clinton High School Principal Kevin Beazley. “They are going to start using the Chromebooks right away.”

The school district used grant money to purchase computers or iPads for every child in the district. Although the grant paid for the electronic devices, families had to pay for the insurance on the devices assigned to their own children.

To remove the Chromebooks from the school and take them home, there had to be coverage for any accidents or damages to the devices. Families were expected to pay $35 for insurance on one Chromebook or iPad, $50 for two devices and $75 for three or more.

Insurance covers 100 percent any damage from theft, liquid spills, and screen issues. Any student whose family does not pay the insurance will not be allowed to remove his or her computer from the school.

With some families unable to pay for insurance, community organizations stepped up to make donations that covered the costs. “United Church of Christ in Clinton donated $1,500 towards insurance for students in need,” Beazley said. “This grant will be for students in grades six through twelve whose families are not able to afford insurance designed to protect their devices. The Clinton Women’s Group is also donating two hundred dollars to help. United Church of Christ and the Clinton Women’s Group are putting out a challenge for other groups to donate as well. On behalf of Clinton Community Schools I would like to thank both organizations and say how supportive this community is to people in need. Thank you to other groups that may donate in the future. It truly takes a village to raise a family.”

Distribution of the Chromebooks started on December 9 with third graders. High school students followed on December 10. On December 11 the fifth grade students received their Chromebooks, with the fourth graders being assigned their computers on December 14. Middle school students receive their Chromebooks on December 18.

Students in grades kindergarten through second grade will receive iPads in January 2016.

The district has been preparing for distribution since August. “It’s been a lot of prep work,” said Beazley. “You can give students a device, but they need to know how to use it.”

Teachers have had multiple in-service training days, including selecting and navigating a learning management program. The cost for training was covered through the grant.

Students have also been working since the beginning of the year on how to navigate the Chromebooks. Digital citizenship instruction taught students how to use the device properly and appropriately as well as how to care for the computers.

All the computers in the district use Schoology. The learning management system allows Clinton Community Schools to share content and resources throughout the district. Beazley said a big benefit is the ability to block inappropriate websites and social media for the students, both in school and at home.

“It’s the same Internet as at school,” Beazley said. “Parents were very relieved.”

Teachers can utilize Google Docs for writing assignments, which has the ability to provide instant feedback to students even when the students and teachers are in different locations.

Learning can even carry over into summer with teachers at the high school planning to have discussion boards set up for students who can participate using their Chromebooks, which go home with them for the summer. Participation is not required, but the opportunity to keep academic skills sharp all summer will be available for students.

Technology in the classrooms was also upgraded over the summer. LCD displays were replaced and servers upgraded to prepare the district for state-of-the-art technology for students and teachers.

“The Clinton Community Schools board and administration wish to thank Bob and Ellen Thompson for making this technology dream a reality,” said Superintendent David P. Pray. “The spirit of family and of giving was also evident when other Clinton community groups donated funds to assist in the payment of insurance for families with limited resources.”

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