Middle schools plan computer upgrades

District to spend $40,000 on Chromebooks, iPads to help broaden options, ensure equal opportunities

Right now, students at South Meadow School frequently use iPad tablet computers to work on assignments, both in the classroom and out in the field. Meanwhile, their counterparts at Great Brook School are using Chromebooks, a type of portable computer that relies on Internet-based applications. But the technology divide between the two schools is about to change.

Based on a recommendation from the ConVal district’s two middle school principals — Anne O’Bryant of South Meadow and Jim Elder of Great Brook — the district will be spending about $40,000 budgeted for technology upgrades to purchase more iPads to go to Great Brook and additional Chromebooks for South Meadow.

“Both schools will now have two different platforms that students will be able to use,” O’Bryant told the School Board on Tuesday. She said purchasing more mobile devices is a better use of available funds than adding to or replacing desktop computers in the computer labs at the two schools.

While computer labs are still useful, Elder said the goal is to have multiple platforms for students to use. The schools have mobile carts that can be used to bring computers into classrooms, rather than forcing students to go to a lab, he said, and both schools have robust Internet access.

The purchases will provide enough of both types of portable computer for a full classroom of students, Elder said.

The choice of which computer to use would depend on the requirements of a given assignment. The iPads, Elder said, are excellent for field trips, where students can use the small computers to gather and analyze data. The Chromebooks, on the other hand, have a keyboard and access to a variety of Internet-based applications.

“There are things a Chromebook can do that an iPad won’t, and vice versa,” O’Bryant said.

Elder said comparing the two computers isn’t quite like comparing apples and oranges, but having choices will allow students to experience the full range of technology available.

“It will be an opportunity to taste an apple and to taste an orange,” Elder said.

The plan will also ensure the same opportunities are available to students at both schools.

Cathy Higgins, ConVal’s technology director, said Wednesday that four computer carts will be purchased. Each middle school will get a cart of iPads and a cart of Chromebooks to go with the computers already at the school. Each cart will hold 25 to 30 computers. The exact number to buy is still being determined, Higgins said.

O’Bryant and Elder stressed that computers will not be given to each student. During last year’s initial budget process, ConVal administrators had suggested a plan to provide iPads for all sixth-grade teachers and eventually all sixth graders at both middle schools, which they would keep during their middle school years. That did not become part of the final budget.

“These are not going home,” O’Bryant said about the additional iPads and Chromebooks. “They will be staying at the schools.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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