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Education Foundation Donates $10K to Buy Laptops for Watertown Middle School

The donation will be used to buy Google Chromebooks for the school.

A $10,00 donation from the Watertown Education Foundation will allow school officials to buy a set of Google Chromebook laptops for the middle school.

Monday night, the School Committee officially accepted the gift from Watertown Education Foundation president Amy Donohue. The Chromebooks will be used in a pilot program at the middle school.

"The goal of the program is to determine if Chromebooks and Google apps work well in the schools," Donohue said.

Chromebooks are small laptop computers that store information on "the cloud," which uses remote computer servers connected to the laptops though the Internet to store and access files and information.

School Committee Chairwoman Eileen Hsu-Balzer thanked the WEF for the gift.

"I echo the thanks (from other School Committee members)," Hsu-Balzer said. "People don't understand what we do with the grants. It enables teachers to do projects that they would not be able to do."

While he likes the idea of adding more technology to the schools, School Committee member Michael Shepard wanted to make sure they are used effectively.

"I am a big fan of technology, but given our fiscal constraints, I want to make sure we get the biggest bang for the buck for our kids," Shepard said. 

He said he wants to hear a report on how well they worked, including goals and how well they were met.

Toni Carlson, the district's education technology coordinator, said the middle school needs more computers, so the Chromebooks will come in handy. Students will use them to do research on the Internet, and more, she said.

One example of how they can be used, Carlson said, is eighth graders will do research and then write a blog on ancient China. The blog includes "news" stories based on what was going on at the time.

The grant purchased 30 computers and a cart, said Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald. The district chipped in $645 to make up the difference in cost, she added.

The district has other pilot programs using technology, including iPads at Watertown High School. The Chromebooks have some advantages over other similar devices, Carlson said. It is cheaper, at $270, and they boot up in just 8 seconds. 

Watertown already uses Google apps, Carlson said, referring to the programs created by Google to run on the cloud, such as mail, calendar and document programs. 

Mara March 06, 2013 at 03:00 PM
Why on earth get chrome books rather than iPads? IPads are far more versatile and can handle a wide variety of learning challenges. Strange choice. Unless, of course, there's some deal behind the scenes?
David Simpson March 06, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Because they're less than $250 Each, fast, and connect to Google docs/calendar etc which all the schools are using vs $500 for the cheapest iPad. Sort of a fiscal no brainer....or conspiracy theory...your choice.
Charlie Breitrose March 06, 2013 at 07:45 PM
There is a separate iPad pilot program at the high school, so the district has not ignored those. Toni Carlson, the tech coordinator, did mention that Watertown uses Google Apps, so that may be one reason they are testing the Google Chromebooks.
Jane Evans March 09, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Fiscal no brainer!

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