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updated: 9/26/2013 4:57 PM

Batavia expands in-school laptops to all sixth-graders

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Pretty soon, all sixth-grade students at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia will be using Google Chromebook laptop computers at their desks.

The school board Tuesday approved the purchase of 389 of the devices, as the district expands its testing of 1:1 computing device use in classrooms. With the purchase of 15 carts, the bill comes to $126,600.

Chief information officer Anton Inglese reviewed initial results of the program, which started with fifth-graders at Alice Gustafson Elementary School using iPad tablet computers and one section of sixth-graders on Chromebooks last year.

The theory is that if devices enable students to personalize their learning experience, they may become more engaged in learning; the more engaged they are, the better they will perform.

Students liked the opportunity to choose what to study. They also liked the individualized pace. "With the Chromebook, everyone could finish at different times and it was OK. The whole class didn't have to stay together," one student wrote on an evaluation, according to Inglese's presentation.

Teachers said that "it profoundly changes how they teach," Inglese said, enabling them to go more in-depth. They liked that from a learning standpoint, but also pointed out they had to spend more time preparing to teach, he said.

The district is also considering doing a beta test of a new Google product, with kindergartners, Inglese said.

He cautioned the district is studying the effects of using technology in the classroom, not the devices themselves. But he did talk about differences between Chromebooks and iPads. The iPads have proved sturdier, he said. But the district finds it difficult to push out software applications and updates to large number of them, Inglese said.

Downloading apps to a group of Chromebooks has been easier, he said, but they are more fragile than the iPads. He expects the Chromebooks may only last two years, compared to at least three for the iPads. But since the Chromebooks cost a lot less, even with replacing them more frequently, they may prove cheaper in the long run, he said.

The district is still deciding whether to let students take tablets or laptops home.

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