‘Our students are tech savvy’

WAIMEA — Soon, every Waimea Canyon Middle School student will have their hands on a HP Chromebook.

As part an initiative to expand technology in the classroom and get the school into the 21st century, Melissa Speetjens, principal of WCMS, spearheaded an effort to make technology available to all 410 students.

“Our students are so tech savvy, in order for them to accelerate in school, we needed to give them the technology they’re savvy with,” she said.

So, last year, Speetjens, along with five other staff members, started working to get the school “future ready,” a proposed Hawaii Department of Education program that offered professional development for teachers, so they are as tech savvy as possible. In addition to teacher training, the program offered high-speed connectivity and access to an array of devices.

All of the schools on Kauai are Future Ready schools, said Bill Arakaki, Kauai Complex Area Superintendent.

“Last year was the preparation year,” said Diane Foulks, media and yearbook teacher. “HIDOE gave us professional development to help plan and prepare for the 21st century.”

It took about 6 months to get teachers up to speed and to do the necessary homework, Foulks said.

In the end, WCMS put in an order for 440 Chromebooks for the 2016-17 school year. But because WCMS is a small school, there was little funding opportunities from HIDOE to get the Chromebooks, Speetjens said.

“My faculty decided to take less classroom supplies last year, so our teachers got less supplies. It was really a whole staff and community effort.” she said. “We just really looked at where we can cut the corners that technology will fill in once they get their device.”

Speetjens didn’t disclose the final price of the Chromebooks. It will cost $210 to replace a broken device, Speetjens said.

The Chromebooks arrived at WCMS in July, and they will be passed out in September. Before they can be given out, students have to pass a three unit computer safety and skills test, get a case and sign a parent/student contract.

Once given out, the student will be able to take the device to every class, and use it as a resource for class assignments and homework. It comes with the Google suite, so students will be able to collaborate with each other using Google Docs, Slides, Sheets and other programs.

“It broadens their world, rather than having a textbook from 2006,” Speetjens said.

Foulks, who serves as tech coordinator for the school, agreed.

“The Chromebooks are a wonderful tool for education. It adds a resource for leaning, and gives students a chance to connect to places off the island,” she said. “The world is at their fingertips.

The Chromebooks will be turned back in at the end of the day, giving them time to charge. Once assigned, the student will keep the same chromebook through eighth grade.

Allowing students to have their own Chromebook instills responsibility and gives them a sense of pride and ownership, Speetjens said.

It also gives students a chance to express their personality, Foulks said.

“They can make it their own by changing the desktop and picking their own cover,” he said. “It gives them a way to reflect their personality.”

WCMS is the first school on Kauai to have a Chromebook for every student, Speetjens said.

The next step to push the school into the 21st century is implementing a coding initiative, where students code for an hour a day, expanding the media lab and creating a “maker space” with Lego models and computer stations for kids to take a part computers and put them together.

WCMS also held a “Community 2 for Tech” campaign to raise money for the move-able carts to store the Chromebooks. It costs about $2,000 per cart, and after reaching out to businesses, like Westside Pharmacy, the school now has enough carts to house every device.

“The whole school and Westside community came together to make this happen,” Speetjens said.

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