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Sixth-Graders Take Home the Chrome

Sixth Graders Take Home the Chrome

This year, every sixth-grader gets a Chromebook

This is a great year to be in sixth grade.

Especially if you like technology.

Wichita Falls ISD sixth-graders are the first class of students in the District to be issued individual Chromebooks – one per student at McNiel, Kirby and Barwise Middle Schools – to use during the day and take home.

The devices issued to students will be registered to them and stay with them throughout all three years of middle school.

The roll-out of the 1,000 Chromebooks began August 25 at McNiel, where 400 were distributed throughout the day in math classes.


 Take home the chrome
 Technology Director Shad McGaha hands out a Chromebook, engaged in  a hard plastic black case, to a McNiel Middle School sixth-grader in his math class.



Math teacher Julia White circled through her room as the district’s technology experts, Shad McGaha and Frank Murray, checked out each laptop and got students started on powering up and logging in.


There was no angst with passwords or bandwidth. “They’re already comfortable with these,” she said as students started the devices right up and began playing games on them. “This is their element.”



Take home the chrome  
Two McNiel Middle School students open their Chromebooks and log in, then begin exploring.


What is a Chromebook?

A Chromebook is not your typical laptop. This relatively inexpensive laptop runs on Google’s web-based Chrome operating system, which is used with an Internet connection. Its documents and apps live in the cloud, making them accessible to students from school and home.


One benefit of that: If the Chromebook dies, a student doesn’t have to worry about losing all his apps, documents and settings, since they’re all still accessible in the cloud.


Take home the chrome  
A cart full of Chromebooks await a sixth-grade class.


Technology-savvy teachers in 42 classrooms spent the last two-and-a-half years testing out iPads, laptops and Chromebooks as part of the District’s Digital Pilot initiative. The Chromebook emerged as a favorite. Teachers and students liked its touch screen, keyboard, its lightweight size, and its USB port, which allows students to plug in a flash drive.


Rules of the technology road

Students were told to bring the Chromebooks to school like a textbook, except this one will need to be charged up every night.


If students forget to charge it, then they’ll check one out from the library for the day – and earn a demerit point for coming to class unprepared, added Ms. White.


The technology trend

Sixth grade is now the most technology-laden grade level, though fifth-graders throughout the district each have similar devices. The only difference: Fifth-graders use them only in class and can’t cart them home.


The District has given iPads, laptops and Chromebooks to various schools, even putting Chromebooks in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms at Fowler Elementary.


The goal is to have at least 10 devices in every classroom by next year, said Mr. McGaha.



Take home the chrome
Technology Director Shad McGaha helps register a Chromebook to a sixth-grader at McNiel Middle School.


Technology in math

Ms. White said she will gradually work the Chromebooks into her curriculum.


Students will begin by using them to answer daily warm-up questions. They’ll use them to take quizzes and do review practice. Soon they will use them to work on projects throughout the year. Then they’ll create their own projects.


Sixth-grade teachers took three days of training during the summer to prepare them for teaching with the devices, she said.


What is she, as a teacher, happiest about?


“That they all have their own,” she said. She’s accustomed to students having to share technology.


The rules of take-home technology

After checking out a Chromebook to each student and giving each a password, Mr. Murray briefed students on the rules that would govern their devices. Surprisingly, there weren’t many. But he stressed two key points.


“You can decorate the case – but not the Chromebook. Draw anything that’s school appropriate. But remember: Anything you draw on it will be with you for three years,” he said.


He warned them against writing names of people they “loved” because they might not love them next month or next year. Better to write, “I love Mom,” he said.


Students were also told to keep it charged – battery life was about 10 hours, he said – and how to fill out the appropriate forms if the device is broken, lost or stolen.


 Take home the chrome

McNiel sixth-grader Emily Weems wastes no time typing up a profile about herself into her new Chromebook, issued to her moments before.