1-to-1 Chromebook program implemented at OPUSD

New program changes schools’ technology and education plans


Mina Jung/Talon

Chromebooks become integrated into the classroom for students to use for notes, essays, etc.

The new 1-to-1 Chromebook program is now implemented at Oak Park Unified School District. 

The program requires each student from grades 5-12 to buy, lease or borrow an OPUSD approved Chromebook. These Chromebooks are district managed. According to the district website this means the district can “push out policies, filter web content, and manage apps and extensions” using Google Management Console and Go Guardian. Students are required to bring their Chromebooks to school everyday in order to participate in this curriculum. There is no opt-out option due to the approval of the Governing Board (Project 19-07F).

According to Lead Instructional Technology Manager Ellen Chevalier, the program is running smoothly.

“There have been minimal hiccups since the start of the school year, and those that we have encountered we have been able to resolve quickly and satisfactorily,” Chevalier wrote. “We have even had some parents switch from borrowing a Chromebook to leasing the device because they have been so impressed with the program.”

According to comments made by district employees to the Measure S advisory committee on Sep. 16, the program is relatively successful so far. 

Director of Educational Technology Enoch Kwok reported that out of the 2829 students in grades 5-12, 63 percent borrowed Chromebooks, 24 percent chose the new lease-to-own option, 10 percent opted for previously purchased or leased Chromebooks and 2 percent purchased new Chromebooks. This means that 691 Chromebooks were leased while 52 Chromebooks were bought by parents this year.

It should be noted that in those previous statistics, which covered grades 5-12, eighth-grade students and twelfth-grade students were not expected to participate in the Lease To Own program as they were issued ‘borrowed’ Chromebooks,” Kwok wrote. “This would tend to skew downwards the LTO participation rate.”

The presentation reviewed that the district hoped for an overall 50% participation rate in the LTO program. OPUSD then used this as a baseline for generating financial models after “fully realizing that the reality would likely be different from what we were hoping for,” according to Kwok. 

Kwok also reported that the “projected participation rate [for lease-to-own parents] is 50 percent overall.” Data shows that parent participation, which includes last year’s sixth grader LTO participants, averaged to 44 percent — 6 percent shy of the participation rate the district hoped for. Through this participation, $248,760 was contributed to the $1.07 million overall cost of Chromebooks.

This leaves $821,240 of the cost to be borne by the district through a combination of District general funds and Measure S bond funds, which is in accordance with our original plans,” Kwok wrote.

Another important reason why parent funds were lower than expected is because the district’s student enrollment came in lower than expected.

“There were fewer parents to join the LTO program in the first place,” Kwok wrote.

Although participation rates were less than the district hoped for, school proceedings remain the same.

“As with any new program, there are costs associated with startup and maintenance. But, by partnering with parents through the lease to own program those costs were minimized, and other instructional programs were not impacted,” Chevalier wrote.

According to the OPUSD Chromebook website, the 1-to-1 program supports innovative teaching and learning practices using the “21st Century Four C’s:” critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity skills. 

“The district did not resort to the 1-to-1 Chromebook Program, but rather responded to the growing need to access digital instructional materials, help students create a positive digital footprint and better meet the needs of diverse learners,” wrote Chevalier.

Science Department Chair Winnie Litten believes that the Chromebooks will benefit students in these areas.

“I would say it’s better for the students because they have access to the internet regularly, they have access to other students so that they can work collaboratively, which gives equity to that student,” Litten said. “They’re not just working individually trying to gain information but they’re working as a collaborative team.”

According to Chevalier, Chromebooks allow teachers to utilize digital resources to expand students’ educational experience.

“With the Take Home 1-to-1 Chromebook Program, we expected to see more teachers utilizing digital resources (apps/extensions, websites, online textbooks and assessments, etc.) to engage students, facilitate learning experiences and extend their classroom beyond the four physical walls,” Chevalier wrote. “We can see that this is in fact happening through qualitative teacher, student and parent feedback, GoGuardian and bandwidth usage statistics and teacher participation in professional development opportunities related to technology.”

In Litten’s classes, Chromebooks are used for group shared notes, a collaborative way to take notes using students’ individual strengths.

“Maybe one person is able to hear the notes, write it down or type it very quickly because that’s their strength. But maybe for somebody else, it isn’t their strength. So their job is to maybe highlight or make bold or throw in a picture,” Litten said.

Students could also use Chromebooks to their advantage in terms of studying.

“They have access to all the same notes that the other students have. They can take those notes and they could be [looked] at nutrition or lunch, and because they have their Chromebook available to them, they could then access that information and review that information any time they wanted to do that,” Litten said.

According to English teacher Leslie Miller, the new system allows for more work time in the classroom. 

“Thirty-six Chromebooks plugged in and charging every single day, it was a big hassle. The best part of it all is the instructional time has increased because you don’t need to get in line to get your Chromebook with thirty-six other people. You can teach and learn all the way up to the bell, and then you just close your laptop and go,” Miller said.

Sophomore Sai Senthilnathan also stated that the availability of the Chromebooks because of the 1-to-1 program has helped him with school.

“After getting more used to having [a Chromebook] and taking it home, it was actually kind of helpful, and I was able to do a lot more homework from home,” Senthilnathan said.

Additionally, having 1-to-1 Chromebooks supports curriculum that is more adaptive towards the 21st century.

“It pushes us as teachers to think about the jobs that students in the future are going to have and jobs right now,” Litten said. “We cannot teach students in the 20th-century type of model where they’re just sitting in desks and trying to record what’s in my brain, where I used to be the keeper of all the information, along with the textbook.”

In Litten’s opinion, to develop critical thinking skills, students need to be comfortable with taking advantage of technology and accessing information.

“In science, we are discovering new things to be current and looking at the newest applications and those new research because, in science, it is not static, it is always changing,” Litten said.

For students who have to miss class, owning a Chromebook can make sure they are still learning what is being taught in the classroom.

“I’m looking at a student who was gone for a week, and that student was able to access our class in real time,” Litten said. “I record my lectures and post it on Youtube. She could watch my lectures even though she missed it. They’re seeing the data in real time and contributing, and we could not do that without the access of Chromebooks so that they could be on the same Google Doc.”

Although the 1-to-1 Chromebook policy has benefited students and teachers, there are some difficulties that come along with it.

“Now, on the downside, you now have a Chromebook that you have to keep charged,” Litten said. “But most students have phones, and guess what, you had to keep that charged, so keep your Chromebook charged as well.” 

Senthilnathan expressed some concerns about the program as well.

“One thing I don’t really like is how a lot of websites that don’t have inappropriate content are blocked, and it’s really hard to use certain websites, even if we need to use it for classes,” Senthilnathan said. 

To combat technical difficulties and “us[e] the awesome handouts Ellen Chevalier made,” Miller created classroom guidelines that students are expected to follow.

“Then you have to figure out what to do if they don’t have a working Chromebook that day … what I implemented was, you get one free pass and that’s to use a charger or a Chromebook,” Miller said. “It’s in the course outline: district issued fully charged chromebook to every class, so it’s a material. It’s discussed at length what the expectation is.”

Overall, OPUSD is hopeful that the 1-to-1 Chromebook policy will enhance learning for students and support a next generation curriculum.

“I am thrilled that we are 1-to-1, and I don’t think we’ve even begun to see all the opportunities that we could do,” Litten said. “Anything that makes me a better educator makes my students able to learn and apply new information, and I think that’s good too.”

Miller also had a great deal to say on the new and promising program.

“I know the district has gone to great lengths to roll it out and have it be smooth and meet everybody’s needs,” Miller said. “I think everybody is doing a great job with rolling it out.”