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By Natalie Delcorps

On August 18, 2014, more than 2,000 students at Batavia High School were outfitted with Chromebook laptops, briefed, and sent off to their first day of school.

It’s a historic moment for Batavia High School. All students now have their own electronic devices to do schoolwork, and not just for core classes such as English, math, science and history. Digital enhancements have made their way into the gym, band room, art class, and more.

When hearing about Chromebooks prior to this school year, many BHS teachers said they were excited about moving into a digital classroom. Tom Shields, divisional coordinator for humanities, said, “We were very excited for teachers and students because it was going to allow them greater opportunities to collaborate, to go different directions with learners.”

Barbara Donat, who has taught social studies at Batavia High School for 25 years said, “I was excited for the possibilities. I’m looking forward to learning how to use the Chromebooks in a lot of different ways, like history articles.”

Two of the biggest advantages to Chromebooks are “Google Docs” and “Google Classroom.” Since classroom Chromebooks revolve around Google Docs (web-based documents), teachers and students have been able to work together online, in a more productive and paperless way.

Google Classroom allows a teacher to select students from a class to join a digital classroom. Here, students can post questions and turn in digital assignments all in one spot. Students can also keep track of what’s due on the assignments page and begin working with just a click. Teachers can quickly see who has or hasn’t completed work  and provide real-time feedback.

Brian Van Kley, BHS band music teacher, says Chromebooks are allowing him to “hear” every student’s thoughts. “There are always kids who raise their hands, while two-thirds of the class never raise their hand,” he explains. With the Chromebook, Van Kley says students are far more willing to share their opinions.

Physical Education is giving Chromebooks a workout, too.

“We can log workouts, get assignments quickly, and the students know they have to complete it,” said Shelby Gajos, BHS physical education teacher and assistant athletic director. For Gajos, the Chromebook gives her immediate feedback on students’ physical fitness results and improvements.

Even though some teachers and students may not see any disadvantages to the Chromebooks, it is normal for there to be sticking points.

“[I] Haven’t seen too many problems but initially [it was] network connection,” said Gajos. “Those classes that had trouble in the past, now aren’t having as much trouble.”

Students’ use of apps came up with some BHS teachers as well. The District has blocked unapproved apps from Chromebooks, yet some students have managed their way around the system.

From Shields’ point of view, if teachers are doing engaging work, students will be engaged, and less likely to play video games. Van Kley stresses the importance of using Chromebooks in class when needed, and closing them when moving onto something else.

Even though Batavia High School has only had Chromebooks since August, teachers and students are embracing the technology and running with it.

Jake Birkhaug, BHS student and student ambassador to the Board of Education, told Board members during his presentation at the Sept. 23, 2014, Regular Board Meeting, “They [Chromebooks] just got introduced, but word going around is that, ‘We don’t know what we did without them. We can’t remember how we used to operate without a laptop at our fingertips all the time.’ The amount of collaboration allowed through Google Docs and presentations is incredible.”

It’s a whole new world for BHS.

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