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A roll-out of 1,050 devices completes the district's three-plus-year process to achieve digital conversion

The Newberg School District took a big step toward completing the digital conversion of its classrooms, as it began the final rollout of Chromebooks to secondary students Monday.SETH GORDON - Newberg High School Assistant principal Andy DeBois talks to a group of parents about the current rollout of Chromebooks Oct. 12 at the NHS Library. The influx of about 1,050 devices will help the district achieve a 1-to-1 ratio of digital devices to students for the first time at the secondary level.

With the distribution of 1,050 new devices, every middle and high school student will have their own Chromebook not only to use during class, but also to take home.

By this time next week, the district will have reached a 1-to-1 device-to-student ratio for all secondary students for the first time, meaning that it will have also achieved its goal of district-wide 1-to-1 digital conversion.

"We're excited to see it finally come together," instructional technology coordinator Luke Neff said. "When I first got hired to do this job (in 2014), it was so far off in our dreams. We were talking about maybe by 2020 we can do it. Here we are in 2017 and it's happening. It's pretty cool."

Entering the year, the ratio for middle school students was 0.8 devices per student, as Chehalem Valley Middle School piloted many aspects of how the district will manage device use by students.

That included an even bigger roll out of Chromebooks last year, just more than 1,400, as the district had began the project by purchasing devices for use at its elementary schools, where students are not allowed to take them home. Aside from K-2 students, who use iPads, the vast majority of students in the district use Chromebooks.

"We were thoughtful about our district priorities, especially around 21st century learning and the five 5 Cs," Neff said. "We really see the Chromebook at being great at a couple of those, like collaboration. The Google suite of tools works so well for students to be able to do collaboration together and creativity on projects, also critical thinking. Having a Chromebook makes a lot of that possible."

The current roll-out will bring the number of Chromebooks used at the secondary level to more than 2,800, and boost the ratio at the high school from .53 to 1.0.

Cost was also a major factor in choosing the Chromebook, which don't include much internal memory but instead are designed for easy access to the Web and data clouds, but so was durability. Neff and the IT department learned from other districts that iPads, for instance, are not only more expensive, but are more prone to breaking.

"They're built for education because they're very durable," Newberg High School assistant principal Andy DeBois said of the Chromebooks. "They're plastic and they have rubber inside, so if you drop them they'll bounce a little bit and have a little bit of give, but it's not like a regular computer where that will destroy it."

Neff added that the district has been using Chromebooks in classrooms for more than five years, so most, if not all, students should already be accustomed to using them, at least at a basic level.

The district hosted a handful of information sessions about the rollout for parents, including one led by DeBois last week in the Newberg High School library.

He walked parents through some of the details of the agreement students and parents will have to sign in order to check out a device each year, including that students will receive the same device for their entire career at NHS, but also shared some of the lessons learned through the pilot program at Chehalem Valley last year.

"Treat them nice and with respect," DeBois said. "Don't put them somewhere where you're not going to get smushed banana on it. If you put peanut butter, somehow, on your keyboard, it's going to smell like peanut butter for the next four years. That's the way it is, so we want them to have some ownership in those pieces."

The devices will basically be on loan to each student, who will have to return it over the summer so they can be updated and checked for damages, but he did note that incidental damage to devices will be repaired by the district or the devices will be replaced.

Secondary schools will also have a number of extra devices that students can check out if for some reason they do not have their own Chromebook with them at school on a particular day.

DeBois also said that parents will have ultimate authority over the devices when used at home and shared some best practices they can use, like requiring them to be charged in shared spaces and not allowing use in the bedroom or bathroom.

"We want kids to agree to take care of these, agree to use them responsibly," DeBois said. "It's not a form of what you can and can't do. We're trusting you with a Google Chromebook. It's on loan to you. We want you to be successful and be safe and agree to some terms so you can be part of the solution and not the problem."

Neff said the district has done a lot of work to develop an Internet filter that is strong enough to keep students safe online but that doesn't limit their ability to explore and learn on their own.

DeBois also explained how students have been receiving instruction on digital citizenship, which not only includes learning about appropriate behavior online, but also how to create a positive digital footprint, like with portfolios, so that prospective colleges and employers will have a good impression of them if they search online.

"They see the great stuff and not just social media posts," DeBois said. "We want to make sure you have the best image of you possible because there are colleges and universities that do check for scholarships and employers who look. I look. It's just the way the world is nowadays. There's a lot of information out there and it's easier to get."

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