Chromebooks aid Douglas County students |

Chromebooks aid Douglas County students

by Amy Alonzo
Eighth-grader Wyatt Grisell works on his Chromebook last week at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.
Brad Coman |

Douglas County students are expanding the boundaries of their classrooms without building or demolishing a single wall.

Douglas County School District this year tripled the number of students who have personal devices in the second year of its one-to-one Chromebook initiative. The initiative allows students to take devices home in addition to using them at school.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to extend your learning beyond the walls of your classroom or your community,” said Mark Kuniya, one-to-one trainer for the district. “It tears down the walls of your classroom.”

During the 2015-16 school year about 200 seventh through 12th-graders were issued devices at George Whittell High School as part of a Chromebook pilot program.

This year, more than 200 devices were issued in November to sixth-graders at Carson Valley Middle School and nearly 200 devices were issued to sixth-graders at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School. Both middle schools also have devices for seventh and eighth-graders to use, but not at the one-to-one level, Kuniya said.

In addition, “some of our elementary schools are almost one-to-one,” Kuniya said, citing Minden and Meneley elementary schools as examples. “We’re close … Right now we’re focusing on secondary [grades].”

The ultimate goal is to outfit as many students as possible with devices, he said. Douglas County School District has more than 6,000 students.

As long as funding permits, this year’s sixth-graders will take their devices into seventh grade, and next year’s sixth-graders will be issued another set of devices.

Each device costs about $200 and has a lifespan of about five years, Kuniya said.

Pau-Wa-Lu English and social studies teacher Maria Falconieri said the transition from primarily using paper to using Chromebooks was easy for her.

“I hardly use paper anymore,” she said. “If you’re willing to try something new, it’s not hard.”

Falconieri said she recently had her students create online newspapers based on Greek mythology they are studying. Students not only wrote the copy but designed the ads, created the images and laid out the stories on the pages themselves, she said.

“We wouldn’t be able to do that if they didn’t each have a Chromebook,” she said.

“They’re more excited,” she added. “It’s a more exciting way to do work.”