Chromebooks receive a mix of reviews

Students have complaints and suggestions; administrators say they have confidence that the Chromebooks will be beneficial.

For+better+or+worse...

Nicole Lundahl

For better or worse...

Junior Andrew Wygal struggles to connect to the Wi-Fi. He tries to print paper upon paper, only to encounter malfunctions. He tries to incorporate new technology into his school life, and he hates the feeling of staring at a screen every single day. These are the struggles that Andrew has had to face this year with the introduction of Chromebooks to Webster Thomas. He is not alone.

The new Chromebooks —  the laptops that were signed out to each student, that connect to the Internet, that work at high speed, and that offer apps and programs — have brought some headaches and been received with mixed reviews from the student body. Students were interviewed informally in the cafeteria, in hallways, and between classes about their thoughts on the new technology.

Some were surely not feeling the love, arguing that the Chromebooks are more of an inconvenience and a nuisance. Some students, however, said that the new laptops are beneficial and a good resource.

Administrators insist that, with time and a little patience, the Chromebooks will be a rewarding addition to the school.  They say the goal of providing the Chromebooks was to make things easier for students. 

Some students who were interviewed shared their mishaps, not-so-pleasant experiences and thoughts regarding the Chromebooks. One of the main concerns of Andrew Wygal, quoted above, is consistency.  If we’re going to use them, then all the teachers should commit to them, he says: “I think all of the subjects should rely on them 100 percent, if we are going to have them.”

Freshman Alyssa Cotrell wonders, with all the glitches, whether the Chromebooks are really worth it:“I feel like they’re a nuisance. It is easier to do stuff without them,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about paper malfunctioning.”

Malfunctions seem to be the problem that students associate with the Chromebooks. To solve such problems, the Webster Thomas Chromebook Help Center was established.  

During an interview in mid-October, Mr. Glenn Widor and Mrs. Susan Clark, the principal and one of the vice principals here, conveyed the idea that the Chromebooks should not be tossed aside because of a few issues. Mr. Widor shared with a reporter how the whole idea of purchasing and distributing Chromebooks came to be. The principal told his interviewer that the idea came from the Mooresville school district in North Carolina. “They were the first district in the country to have laptops and had numerous benefits because of it.”

Furthermore, Mrs. Clark says, she had the experience of visiting the Mooresville School District and seeing the advantages that came with the laptops.  She pointed out that “they found higher graduation rates and better test scores,” after introducing the Chromebooks. 

In fact, the idea of bringing Chromebooks into the school isn’t new.  The Webster Central School District formed a committee five years ago to study the district’s technological needs, according to the district website.  Between the work of the committee, districtwide surveys, and the work of an independent evaluator, recommendations were made that “high quality educational technologies” would be made available and “widely and equitably used” throughout the Webster schools.

At Webster Thomas (as well as at Webster Schroeder and the two middle schools), that has meant the introduction of the Chromebooks, for one thing.  The use of this new technology has also meant some new opportunities for training.  Mr. Widor gave the Courier reporter the “inside scoop” on one of the new opportunities for students next year. 

“Next year there will be a class, a Webster Technical Internship class, a full year course…where students can learn to fix computers,” he said.  

For students interested in computers and computer science, this is an opportunity to be exposed to a topic that interests them, he added. The course will help guide students down a path for choosing a career.

This is just one of the upsides of having these Chromebooks as a resource at our school, Mr. Widor and Mrs. Clark point out. Even though students have shared the downsides of having the Chromebooks, administrators say they remain confident that Webster students will be enriched by the laptops, just as students have benefited from Chromebooks in other areas of the country.

While students may be giving the new technology mixed reviews at this point, ultimately the Webster community will have to weigh the educational benefits against the disadvantages. Principal Widor reminds his visitor about the original intent of the Chromebooks: “It’s all about making technology easier for people to access.”