With technology more prevalent, schools must choose a brand

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COLUMBIA - Checking out a Chromebook is a regular part of a student's routine at Blair Oaks Elementary in Jefferson City, Missouri. But it took a lot of budgeting and research to integrate the technology into the school.

And it took one really big choice: Apple or Google.

The two behemoths are fighting for market share in what both think could be a profitable market: your children's school. Deciding what kind of devices and applications to use are difficult questions to answer for most districts.


The movement toward utilizing technology in the classroom is becoming a priority for many mid-Missouri schools. Standardized testing is now done online, forcing schools to restructure their curriculums so students are better prepared to handle the technology.

Students learning to type and adequately use computers at a young age can only benefit them in the future, said Kimberly Rodriguez, principal of Blair Oaks Elementary. She said neglecting to move forward with technology is limiting students' education.

"You have to do what's best for your kids, so we shouldn't use general products because it might limit some of the learning that is taking place," Rodriguez said.

 

Google Apps for Education is one option. This program offers things such as free access to Google Drive, Gmail accounts and a collaborative calendar function The program is more than just applications, however. It also offers schools low-cost Google Chromebooks and provides them with technical support.

The Google apps can also run on other devices. Sarah Rausch, an instructional technology specialist for the Centralia School District, said she sees the benefits of using the Google apps on iPads.

"We have I think 15 percent of our families who don't have the Internet at home," Rausch said. "So it's really tough for them if their Chromebook doesn't run without the internet to pick that as a device whereas their iPad definitely can."

Some schools haven't decided which flavor of technology suits them best. Centralia High School is hosting trial runs in each department where students are exposed to both iPads and Chromebooks. Rausch said she is taking input from students and teachers into consideration before she chooses to recommend either iPads or Chromebooks for the district.

Rausch said the iPads they are looking at purchasing would cost around $379, whereas Chromebooks cost $359. Once a decision on hardware is made, next fall each student will check out a device that they can use both at home and in the classroom throughout the school year.

Administrators at California High School want to do the same thing, but funding is holding them back. Jon Lindquist, a business education teacher at California High School, said the school is currently planning and researching how Chromebooks will be integrated into each department's curriculum. Lindquist said one of his main concerns is determining how to properly train and prepare students and teachers to use this technology.

That education is necessary. Preston Peters, a senior at California High School, said she isn't familiar with how Chromebooks work and thinks that could pose a problem. She also said getting students to actually listen and engage in the training for this technology could be a difficult task.

Getting Chromebooks into students' hands may be a long way off. Lindquist said they are nowhere near getting the process implemented, but they have set training days throughout the semester to begin educating teachers on how to use Google apps.

Schools must first decide their ultimate goal in using these devices before they move forward in implementing technology-based programs, said Greg Lawrence, an instructional technology specialist at Wentzville School District.

"It really comes back to what's your purpose, what do you want to be able to do, what do you want your students to do," Lawrence said. "That's going to help drive where and what device you use."

 

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