Hamilton schools spend $650K to up tech game

Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-27 07:00:07-05

HAMILTON, Ohio -- Hamilton City Schools are one step closer to having a digital device for every student.

School board members recently approved purchases of 2,428 Chromebooks and 500 Android tablets in an effort to get the district closer to a 1:1 technology-to-student ratio.

“For the entire district, roughly, we’re at a ratio of about one device for every two students,” said Zach Vander Veen, director of technology for the district.

The purchases cost the district $495,312 for the Chromebooks and $153,490 for the tablets. Of the total for the Chromebooks, roughly half was paid out of Hamilton City Schools’ permanent improvement fund, with the remainder coming from the district’s Title I fund.

The entire cost for the tablets was paid out of the Title I fund.

Title I is a program designed to improve academic achievement for disadvantaged students through federal funding.

Although the Chromebooks mostly will be dispersed among seventh- through ninth-grade students, some will go to Hamilton High School to boost the building’s technology-to-student ratio.

“We have quite a few Chromebooks already in our district,” Vander Veen said.

About 60 tablets will go to each of the district’s eight elementary schools, primarily for use at the kindergarten level.

The increased access to technology will make it easier for teachers and students to create and turn in assignments and communicate with each other using digital platforms such as Google Classroom and Khan Academy.

“It’s basically becoming their No. 2 pencil,” said Tricia Smith, instructional technology coach for Hamilton City Schools.

By integrating the platforms into everyday learning, the computers provide opportunities for digital storytelling and presentations, as well as increased collaboration, she said.

The technology also allows students to start their educational activities as soon as they enter the classroom, rather than waiting for instruction while teachers complete daily required tasks.

“It definitely maximizes their engagement time and their learning,” Smith said.

The increased engagement, in turn, boosts students’ motivation and desire to learn, she said.

“It’s just changed their engagement and motivation of wanting to learn and taking ownership of that learning,” she said.

While digital platforms allow more opportunities for collaboration, they also enable teachers to monitor students’ progress and tailor the educational experience to individual needs.

“It helps the teachers personalize each student’s education,” Smith said.

The additional devices will not only help with everyday learning, they also will help the district keep up with recent state testing changes, Vander Veen said.

“State testing does require that we are testing on a device,” he said. “And certainly having the devices available allows us to fill that need.”

With the recent purchase of Chromebooks, district officials expect to be able to put a device in the hands of every middle school student and freshman for the 2016-17 school year.

“We’re definitely trying to get 1-to-1 so the students have access to a device all day long,” Smith said.

“We have to keep up with the changing times and the tech for these students’ benefit,” she added.