In order to give students the best preparation for the world in which they will work, educators must keep up with technological trends and integrate them into education.
For many districts in Crawford County, that has meant having a 1:1 ratio of devices, including MacBooks, Chromebooks, iPads and iPad Minis.
Of course, integration always comes with questions and, often, challenges.
With this in mind, Greenbush brought in a team of educators and experts on implementation of the Google Chromebook in the classroom setting together for a seminar this week.
"We took a chance," said Tracy Rampy, educational technology director at Greenbush, who coordinated the Google Gathering event Thursday and Friday. "We debated whether the interest would be there.
As it turned out, demand was much higher than anticipated, with the original Thursday session booking full within the first week it was open and a total enrollment of close to 200, including representatives from USD 246 Northeast, USD 247 Southeast and USD 250 Pittsburg.
Greg Gorman, superintendent at USD 246, helped with a 1:1 initiative at USD 247 as superintendent there and is preparing to implement Chromebooks on a 1:1 ratio at Northeast High School this fall.
"It's what we needed to hear," he said of the sessions, which he attended Thursday. "It confirms what we thought - that we made the right decision."
He said his district has purchased 272 Chromebooks, including 200 for the high school, and 36 each for the elementary and junior high, and has an eventual goal of being 1:1 from grades 6-12.
He said both the successes and problems of other districts were helpful to hear, and that he continues to be excited about the device and Chrome's capabilities as he learns more.
"Having access to their Web store and their apps and what are called 'extensions' will really help our staff," Gorman said, adding that he brought 17 staff members with him to the seminar.
He sat with some of the 40 staff members present from Webb City, Mo., and said the two districts have worked closely as Northeast prepares for its launch.
The Google Gathering then put the two districts in touch with others across the State of Kansas and with a team from Wisconsin, including Michael Jaber, who implemented a 1:1 ratio in a much larger district.
Jaber is the technology integration specialist at the Fond du Lac schools in east-central Wisconsin, and said his district chose the Chromebook, in part, due to ease.
"It is so easy to manage from an IT perspective," he said. "It integrates seamlessly with Google Apps."
He said it enables students to be creators of content rather than consumers and that the web-based operation means the machine is not personalized, rather the student access everything via the Web.
Page 2 of 3 - "We wanted to give people a feel for the power of Google Apps in education and how it has transformed our building," Jaber said.
His experience translates to sessions on getting the building ready, staff development, changes in teaching styles and on the implementation of other 1:1 programs.
Jaber said conferences such as the Google Gathering are enjoyable for him.
"I think it's nice to be able to do a conference on a smaller scale," he said, adding that in the afternoons a session was scheduled to be an "un-conference" and allow for discussion.
"It's more of a personal feel," he said. "You get more of a feel for who they are."
"The un-conference is going to be great," he continued. "It allows you to really get to know them on a personal level."
Jaber also complimented those who were there on their enthusiasm for technology innovation.
"The people I talked to, (I saw) the passion they have for trying to better their districts," Jaber said. "They are leaders in their districts and are trying to transform."
LaDonna Hartman, an employee of Greenbush and USD 247 Board of Education member, said her district did its first 1:1 initiative about six years ago with MacBooks, then went 1:1 with iPads.
"From a board's perspective, we have to do whatever we can to make our kids successful," she said, adding that there are challenges associated with it, including training.
She said while the 1:1 initiative idea isn't new for her district, the continued commitment to technological advancement means continuing to learn what is coming.
One other recent investment made by USD 247 was implementing K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics curriculum, and in the same spirit of learning Hartman said she hoped to be able to sit in on some of the Friday sessions.
Noah Grotheer, technology director at USD 250, said the Pittsburg district has used Google Apps for Education in some coursework for the past seven years and he wanted to learn more about what Google offers.
“My reason for going was I wanted to see how the Google Chromebook was being utilized,” Grotheer said. “While we have a lot of experience with Google Apps for Education I was very interested in how the Google Chromebook, in particular, was being used in the classroom.”
He said at this point USD 250 hasn’t implemented a 1:1 initiative, but the district is investing in wireless technology and recently spent $46,000 upgrading the high school, with some of the technology that had been there being moved to other buildings, and many of these moves are being made with the idea that an initiative may be something the district pursues in the future.
“1:1 is something that we discuss frequently,” Grotheer said. “If we decide to go 1:1, Chromebooks would be considered.”
Page 3 of 3 - He said the conference was helpful as the district learns about options.
“I thought it was really good,” Grotheer said. “I really like the fact that while the presenters were representatives for Google they were employees of education.”