If all goes as planned, McPherson High School students will be checking out laptops like they check out textbooks in less than a month.

If all goes as planned, McPherson High School students will be checking out laptops like they check out textbooks in less than a month.
McPherson School District is implementing a one-to-one laptop initiative at the high school. The plan is for every student to have a Google Chromebook to use during the school year, both in class and at home.
“It opens up what we can do. There's more options,” said Brad Plackemeier, principal at the high school. “It gives teachers a lot of different things they can use.”
The district has ordered 775 Chromebook laptops, which should arrive at the district in batches over the next month. The first shipment arrived Monday, and once all are received, set up and connected to a student network, they will be checked out to students for the year.
The McPherson Board of Education chose the one-to-one initiative over a Bring Your Own Device proposal over concerns of compatibility and support. Teachers and administrators said they worried having many different devices in the classroom could lead to discrepancies in capability and compatibility, and create more work for the district's tech support staff to get everything to work.
“It's a big advantage that everyone will have the same device,” said Emilea Harlin, who teaches freshman and Advanced Placement English at the high school. “We were nervous about Bring Your Own Device because it would have more troubleshooting. Multiple devices bring multiple problems.”
Harlin said the Chromebooks will give her more options on how to present and facilitate classroom discussions. Some assignments can be turned in online, and students will have access to Google services like Google Docs, which will allow them to easily share projects with other students and access documents from any Internet-enabled device.
“This gives students an opportunity, specially if they wouldn't have the technology, or if a Chromebook wouldn't be their first choice,” Harlin said. “It prepares them for after graduation, and it helps us help them prepare better.”
Not all assignments will be done online. Harlin's Advanced Placement students, for example, will write essays by hand in preparation for their end-of-year exam. However, Harlin said the technology opens opportunities for students to write and share blogs for class and critique each other online.
“Sometimes I have them read and respond to their classmates' work. A lot of learning can take place when your read other people's responses,” she said.
For students who don't have Internet access outside of school, they can still work on projects offline as long as they leave them open when they leave school. The changes they make will automatically save the next time they connect to the Internet.
Plackemeier said having a laptop for each student will facilitate testing and student feedback as well. Online assessments can be done without having to borrow equipment from other schools nor testing in waves, and teachers will be able to set up polls so all students can answer a question during class.
“Some students might not be sure, so they don't answer out loud,” Plackemeier said. “It's more non-threatening, and it helps the teacher get a pulse on the class as a whole.”