JENKS — High school students in Jenks can now access textbooks and assignments online while learning technology to help them make the transition to college easier.
Jenks Public Schools has invested $1 million per year to provide Asus Chromebooks laptops to every ninth- to 12th-grader for use with school work. Jenks voters approved a $12.8 million bond issue, which included $4.3 million in technology purchases.
“This really levels the playing field for all students,” said Bonnie Rogers, district spokeswoman. “Everyone has the same device and the same opportunity. It’s a valuable tool for them to prepare for college.”
On the first day of school Tuesday in Grace Alexander’s English I class, students got their passwords for their Chromebooks, which are linked to Canvas, a learning management system. Students can find assignments, links to online textbooks, quizzes, discussion boards and other class materials on the system.
Jared Wesley Blevins had his Chromebook open and was following instructions on how to get to Canvas. He and other freshmen had received their laptops at registration and schedule pickup.
“I was pretty excited,” Blevins said. “I had been asking for one for a couple of years, but my mom didn’t think she could afford it.”
If he hadn’t received the Chromebook, he wouldn’t have a computer for school, he said.
Paul Goodenough, the district’s director of instructional technology, said the program prepares students for the 21st century.
Now colleges and universities use online learning systems such as Blackboard and Desire2Learn, which are similar to Canvas.
“We focus on the four Cs, which are communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking,” Goodenough said. “The Chromebooks and Canvas allow them to better facilitate that in the classroom.”
In its pilot phase of the program, the district bought 850 Chromebooks and distributed them last year to all freshman, who kept them over the summer and will use them throughout their high school career, he said.
This year, they distributed about 2,500 Chromebooks to the remaining grades.
Goodenough said the district took two or three years to plan the program and make decisions about what would best fit the school curriculum. He also said district officials listened to parents about what they believe students should be able to access online and what they can’t at both home and school.
“We wanted to be good stewards of our tax dollars,” he said.
The technology is not meant to replace face-to-face interaction or paper, but to help create an online community for teachers and students.
A poster hangs in Alexander’s classroom, serving as her philosophy: “Write carelessly. Edit carefully.”
Teachers say they like the Chromebook system and how it allows them to carry out their instruction successfully.
Said Goodenough, “They’re still the masters of the curriculum.”
Edison High School junior Madison Patton contributed to this story.