Shipments of new Acer Chromebooks started pouring into the District Office at the end of July, continuing the Ames Community School District’s commitment to its 1:1 computer initiative that began in 2013. The goals of the initiative are wide ranging, and has a huge impact no students within the classroom and beyond. Students learn 21st Century skills, are able to create and collaborate using digital tools, and teachers are able to personalized learning centered around the individual needs of their students.
One of the most significant aspects of the 1:1 initiative is that eliminates the digital divide by putting a computer in every student’s hands. Technology Director, Karl Hehr, has led the 1:1 initiative and sees it as a game changer in the Ames School District. “We can put a device in every student’s hands, regardless of their background, and give them access to learning beyond the classroom. They are then able to explore passions on their own, and this has created areas where students can become lifelong learners.”The 1:1 initiative is paid for primarily through PPEL funds, an important source of funding for the school district. The Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) is a voter-approved tax on property valuation that generates about $4 million annually for the school district. “The Ames community has always been supportive of the school district and our initiatives. They have been very generous, and without their generosity, initiatives like the 1:1 laptop program would not be possible,” said Superintendent Tim Taylor. The money generated from PPEL are categorical funds, meaning they can only be used as it relates to building and grounds upkeep and repairs, new construction, and for technology purposes like the 1:1 program.
The 1,200 chromebooks that are coming in this year are specifically for the middle school. Technology Director Karl Hehr said “Their current chromebooks have reached the end of the lifecycle, and we do our best to maintain a 3 year cycle to make sure our devices are as up to date as possible for students.” The Acer Chromebooks are so new and cutting edge that the shipment that came to Ames are some of the first in the country. They have a multi-touch screen, stylus capabilities (classroom sets will be available for student use), handwriting recognition, as well as assistive technology functions such as a language dictation tool for students who would benefit from that. Director Hehr summarized them by saying that they are “bigger, stronger, sturdier, and have more capabilities,” than their predecessor. In many ways, the new chromebooks are a laptop / tablet hybrid as the keyboard can fold behind the screen, allowing for better functionality and use of the forward facing camera.
More information on our 1:1 laptop initiative is available on our website.