Chromebooks in the Middle Schools

A great opportunity or a missed opportunity?

Last March, when Academy brought students back in person, they gave each 6th and 7th grade student their very own Chromebook. The students could use the Chromebooks in school, but they had to leave them in their advisor’s room to charge at the end of the day. This year, students received Chromebooks again. The same rules apply. In class, Chromebooks can only be used for academic purposes. During study hall and break periods, students use them for gaming and watching YouTube. But are these Chromebooks a good idea? Students seem to like them, but some teachers think that they are being used in ways that they didn’t want them to. So why do we have Chromebooks anyway?
“The students in the six-seven division did not have equitable access to technology during all of their classes, and we wanted to make sure that they all had a similar type of device, one that could be used throughout all of our classes,” says Tia Turner, the 7th grade STEAM teacher. Ms. Turner thinks that Chromebooks have helped her class, as she is a technology teacher, and the Chromebooks have Bluetooth, which has helped change the way she teaches some subjects, such as coding robots. “Also, Chromebooks have a big advantage: they do not cost a lot of money. So it made it cost feasible for us to be able to purchase a Chromebook per student,” Ms. Turner added.
However, students have to buy their own laptop starting in 8th grade and use it until they graduate. What is the difference between those and Chromebooks? Ms. Turner said, “We felt like in 8-9 they are starting to be a little bit more responsible, and they’re able to take Chromebooks or laptops or whatever device they’re using home and bring them back to school every day.” She said that when a new kid in 6-7 comes to campus for the first time, they have a lot of things to think about. They thought that it was easier for them to have a device just here on campus so that when they get to eighth grade, they can buy a high-powered computer that will last throughout their high school days.
“We feel like the new 6th graders having the same device creates a level playing field for all of them. It would be a problem if there are students who have really good technology and then students who can’t afford technology or have technology that’s old and doesn’t work well. It’s part of that same philosophy, the philosophy that has always kept us eating the same food in the dining hall. So that someone doesn’t bring a really fancy lunch every day and then someone else barely has enough to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” said Chris Dineen, the 6-7 division head. He also noted that computers don’t last forever. Upper school students already have to buy a computer that will last five years, so if sixth graders have to buy computers, they would probably need a second computer sometime in high school. “We figured we could just take care of that for the younger students and keep reusing them.” Mr. Dineen said.
There are many rules on how and when students can use the Chromebooks during school time. Many games that students enjoy playing in study hall times are now blocked, and some teachers enforce strict rules on not using them during recess time. Mr. Dineen said, “I don’t think it’s out of control, but we have noticed that it’s an issue. During lunch recess, we don’t want kids on computers, we want them talking face to face and playing chess, or running around, or just sitting in the grass and talking, and so when we see kids on their computers, unless they’re doing homework for a teacher, we asked them to put them away.” Luke Owen, a sixth-grader, said, “I think the rules are reasonable. I think they’re fair. However, I’d like them to allow games, but only to a limit.” He added that the Chromebooks work well because not everyone has a great computer at home. “I think that the Chromebooks work well because my computer at home didn’t work very well,” said Maya Giebitz, a seventh grader. “I think the rules make sense, but you should be able to use them during recess if you’re not eating, just in case someone wants to work in their free time.” Both students liked the Chromebooks, but didn’t like the rules on when they could use them.
“If you want to use your computer during lunch, what’s the problem with that? You can do homework and stuff during recess, but I feel like kids should be able to have some free time with them too,” said Soren Vote, another 7th-grade student. She also thinks Chromebooks are better than bringing your own computer. “I think it’s easier to use the Chromebook they give you. What if you forget your computer at home? And not everyone has a computer that they usually use at home. Some people just use a phone.”
Alehi Musani says, “It’s kind of unfair when you can’t use them during lunch. Even if you have to make up your work, you’re not allowed to use it during lunch. But it’s also fair, because we have to take the time and disconnect from the electronic world, and actually look at the world around us, and engage with other people.” She thinks that the rule that Chromebooks cannot be used during class until the teachers say that they can should be changed. “Because sometimes I’m using it for class, and then the teachers are like ‘close your Chromebook’, but I was actually trying to do the assignment.”
Overall, everyone likes Chromebooks. They seem to be working well for the school. Sometimes, they may be a distraction, but if used correctly, they can really improve the school environment.