Photo Courtesy of Granada Hills Charter High School

All 4,600 enrolled students at Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) have a new Chromebook laptop computer to start their new school year.

“With universities educating students in a digital environment and most jobs requiring knowledge of technology, we have to equip our learners with the necessary skills to be successful throughout their entire life,” said David Bensinger, Administrative Director of Instruction at GHCHS.

“By learning how to manage their digital footprint and giving all students equal access to information and learning tools, we are investing in their long-term educational goals.”

Teachers in all areas of instruction from English to Visual and Performing Arts plan to utilize this new tool in their classrooms to better accommodate every child’s pace of learning, and to implement instructional strategies like repetition.

“When I play an educational video, students can watch it at their own pace or as many times as they need,” says Matthew Bivens, GHCHS visual arts teacher.

“I use Chromebooks for almost everything in my classroom including passing out assignments, submitting answers, and completing assessment forms,” explains Archer Nishioka, GHCHS mathematics teacher. “I can see their individual work immediately instead of every student waiting to raise their hand.”

When asked how a teacher keeps students from playing recreational video games during class time, school spokesperson Marilyn Koziatek said the school uses both a firewall and content filter.

“Teachers also have several applications that give them the ability to observe students actions online,” Koziatek said. “Part of the purpose of the 1:1 program is for students to learn how to use technology effectively and safely. We want students to have the opportunity to understand that their online activity is never truly anonymous.”

Students keep the Chromebooks until they graduate, including over breaks and summer vacation.

As the classroom becomes “virtual,” they will be more engaged not less engaged,” Koziatek said.

“A well-designed classroom will be a balance between online and offline discussions and activities. Our experience has been that the Chromebooks have actually increased participation and engagement in the classroom. Students who may not want to speak in front of the class can now participate in a variety of ways, from apps that pose a question and share responses to class blogs.”

 The GHCHS administration collaborated with other large schools to research and plan the execution of this program.

“We asked for advice from many schools, private and public, who have similar programs,” Bensinger said. “However, none were of the size and scale of our roll-out, so we carefully planned this implementation to ensure the smoothest integration possible.”

In the spring, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) upgraded the wireless capabilities of Granada Hills Charter High School, using voter approved LAUSD school bond funds. The campus Wi-Fi project provided the necessary infrastructure to support individual computers for all students.

Granada Hills Charter released Chromebooks through a pilot program beginning with 30 students in an Economics class. During the six-week summer school, more than 200 students used the devices across seven classrooms, followed by another launch of 1,200 devices to all enrolled students during the three-week summer transition program for incoming ninth graders.

Each Chromebook has a full suite of web-based applications providing pupils access to unlimited storage and educational tools including the free Google Classroom application, which is widely used in secondary schools and universities throughout the country.

Granada Hills Charter does not require parents to pay a fee for the computer and the school also provides a free case so students can take them home. The school negotiated the purchase of the computers from Hewlett Packard and offers an optional insurance policy of $20 per year.

The total cost per student — including hardware, software licenses, and security and filtering subscriptions — is less than $80 per year. The on-campus Hewlett Packard Certified technical team will provide instant support, maintenance, and repair to all devices, saving additional expense.

“The incorporation of individualized technology that responds to each student’s and teacher’s needs will undoubtedly change the face of education,” adds Bensinger. “At GHCHS, we feel it is our responsibility to create a school environment that encourages such innovation and equips our students with the necessary knowledge and practical skills to succeed in the 21st Century.”