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Grand Haven students gain experience with 1-to-1 technology

Krystle Wagner • Feb 9, 2016 at 10:00 AM

As Gary Knights’ sixth-graders discuss their group projects, they seamlessly update their PowerPoint presentations on their Google Chromebooks.

Knights said his White Pines Intermediate School classes use technology for almost everything.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools has implemented 1-to-1 technology throughout the current school year. Students in grades K-4 have been issued iPads, while students in grades 5-12 — like Knights’ sixth-graders — were given Chromebooks to use.

In May 2014, Grand Haven school district voters approved a bond that calls for $19 million for staff and student devices, infrastructure and device replacement cycles over a 10-year period.

Doug Start, the Grand Haven school district’s technology director, said the device rollout has gone well. He said that giving teachers a year of planning, preparation and chances to pilot and test devices in 2014-15 “was critical in ensuring the devices were successfully implemented.”

“This preparation reduced anxiety and created a culture of possibilities for staff and students,” Start said. “While not everyone is at the same level, we can say that technology is being used daily where appropriate and effective for each student.”

By incorporating the technology into classroom lessons, Knights said it’s helped with efficiency. Instead of photocopying, Knights is able to send the information electronically in a matter of seconds. He said it makes time in class more meaningful, and the most significant change is the ability for students to collaborate on projects.

In groups, the students in Knights’ extended learning class are using the devices during their 35-minute period to work with the U.S. Coast Guard to find a way to compete with local businesses for its crew members. Through the project, students are exploring options currently available to crew members and developing new ideas to present to the Coast Guard.

“That workload wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for technology,” Knights said.

Sixth-grader Tucker Kooi said the Chromebook helps him stay organized and work with classmates.

“It’s pretty fun and it’s easier to do work,” said Kooi, 12.

Sixth-grader Annelise Williams said she especially likes using the Chromebook because using Google documents and presentations allows her to see what her group members are working on. Williams, 11, said the technology also helps make researching easier.

With students using Google Drive to store their assignments, Knights said it’s “almost like a portfolio of learning for them.”

Nate Mihalek, a seventh-grade teacher at Lakeshore Middle School, said he sees students being more organized with the help of electronic assessments and a calendar.

In the mornings, Mihalek spends the first half of his day helping classrooms overcome challenges and provide assistance for other staff members. In the afternoons, Mihalek uses the devices in his science classes, which he said has allowed his students to be more creative because they can choose different ways to complete projects. For example, students can make a video, write a paper, or choose other ways that interest them.

Mihalek said the technology also allows himself and other teachers to provide faster feedback on assignments.

Knights said the job market has also changed as technology is becoming a required skill.

Mihalek said having the 1-to-1 devices helps open students’ eyes to tools and how they can get information if teachers or other students aren’t able to help them.

“It empowers them to go out and seek the information themselves and be a digester of information,” he said.

The technology also allows them to take their learning to a global perspective. Instead of staying within Grand Haven, Mihalek said students can learn about different parts of the world without having to travel there.

By approving the bond, Start said the community gave the district “an incredible opportunity to provide an amazing resource” into classrooms.

“The technology part of the bond is providing the tools to individualize instructions and engage kids with content,” he explained. “Combining a highly effective staff with motivated students and giving them a way to present content in an engaging way leads to success.”

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