Crenshaw BOE opts for Chromebooks

Published 6:11 pm Thursday, August 20, 2015

During a meeting last Monday, the Crenshaw County school board opted to buy Chromebooks instead of iPads for incoming seventh- and eighth-grade math and English students.

“One thing that we’re missing is iPads were not meant for the classroom, especially English, with no keyboard,” said Superintendent Boyd English.

Bob Williams, head of the district’s technical department, said Chromebooks would give students exposure to a third platform. High school students are given iPads their freshman year and keep the device until graduation. Some classrooms and computer labs operate Windows platforms. Chromebooks are a Google product.

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Before recommending the Google Chromebooks, Williams considered, costs, availability of content, the size of the keyboard and the size of the screen.

“Google Chrome also comes with Microsoft Office. For iPads, Microsoft Office is $4.99 per tablet,” he said.

Williams said the devices could end up being more durable than the iPads. Chromebooks are small laptops that will not require a case to protect their screens.

The primary selling point for the switch was the savings. The school district paid $279 for each iPad Mini and bought cases for each. The Chromebooks will cost about $200.

In addition to less expensive price tags, Google Chromebooks have durable chargers that are less expensive to replace than iPad accessories, Williams said.

The Chromebooks offered a larger variety of free applications.

“We buy very few apps,” Williams said. “We try to use the free stuff.”

With the savings, the school district will be able to buy docking stations for the iPads turned in by last year’s seniors. The devices would have been assigned to this year’s eighth-graders. The docking stations will be available for elementary grades to use. Teachers can check out the carts of iPads and allow students to use them in class.

Sherry Sport, director of special education, said getting tablets into the hands of each student was imperative.

“There’s a push to do online assessments. We’re still paper and pencil,” she said. “We have to provide proof of exposing them to a keyboard before that transition is made.”

Board members said getting Chromebooks this year might influence future decisions for the high school devices. The seventh- and eight-grade students will basically test the new computers.