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December 26, 2013
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Pilot program in Roaring Fork schools uses web-based computers

Students at Roaring Fork District Re-1 schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt will be learning via the latest web-based technology come February, through the purchase of new Chromebook computers.

The $430,000 pilot program was initiated this fall using funds from the district’s 2011 voter-approved mill levy override, which provides $4.8 million in funding for Re-1 schools annually, according to a district news release.

A total of 1,400 computers are scheduled to be in the hands of staff and students in February, said Re-1 Superintendent Diana Sirko.

Chromebooks allow students to access different applications, personalized settings and school work projects that are stored on an Internet-based “cloud” rather than on the computer or local server, according to Jeff Gatlin, technology director for the school district.

The new computers also offer a way to centralize data management at a lower total cost to the district, he said in the news release.

This allows teachers to spend more time teaching and less time managing classroom technology, and puts more computers into the hands of students and teachers, he said.

“We don’t have to worry about installing software or doing updates and imaging,” Gatlin said. “It’s just plug and play — it’s really amazing.

“Best of all, there is no special training required. If you know how to use the web, you know how to use a Chromebook,” he said.

Chromebooks can connect anywhere with built-in Wi-Fi and optional 3G, which allows students to work on projects after school and at home. Multiple students can also use the same Chromebook and still have their own personalized experience when they sign in.

“Chromebooks provide the teaching and learning benefits of computers without the typical distractions that come with technology in the classroom, like quick boot and resume time — eliminating the time wasted while traditional computers start up and connect to a network, and a long battery life that lasts an entire school day,” according to the news release.

Other Colorado school districts have implemented similar programs, including Denver’s Cherry Creek schools, which purchased 18,000 Chromebooks this school year.

“We will be carefully tracking the success of this initiative to set the stage for possible expansion of the program in the future,” Gatlin said.

The school district was successful in convincing local voters to approve the mill levy override following three straight years of cuts in state education funding.

To date, according to Roaring Fork Re-1 officials, mill levy funds from the 2011 override have been used for:

• The purchase of a new K-12 English/Language Arts curriculum, the first new curriculum purchase for the district in nearly 10 years.

• Eliminated furlough days and began to address salary and benefit inequities.

• Reinstatement and permanent funding of additional classroom teaching positions.

• Reinstatement of custodians and ground maintenance staff.

• Increased bandwidth throughout schools to meet burgeoning technology needs.

• Reserve funds to mitigate potential future state budget cuts.

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The Post Independent Updated Dec 28, 2013 11:39AM Published Dec 26, 2013 04:44PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.