Lake County Schools are making technology more accessible for students in classrooms and at home.

The 2018-19 school year will be the start of a five-year plan that will provide every student in grades 3 through 12 use of a Chromebook that will provide access to online textbooks, homework assignments and organizational tools.

Tavares High School will be the first to go all digital, with Chromebooks issued to every Tavares High student. Another high school will follow in November, and two more will be added the second semester. The process will continue over the next five years until all schools are digitally enhanced.

The district piloted the use of Chromebooks in classrooms in the 2017-18 school year. Every AP Human Geography class was given a set for classroom use. Lessons were uploaded to the computers, and students used Google Apps for Education to complete assignments, collaborate and create. Teachers were able to monitor their work, give feedback and assess each student’s contribution to a project.

The Digital Discovery Classroom pilot was so successful that schools began to purchase Chromebooks for other classrooms. The district went from a purchase of 300 Chromebooks in December to having more than 5,000 in June.

“We are not trying to replace instruction by the teacher, we’re trying to amplify it,’’ said Duane Weeks, the district’s supervisor of Instructional Technology. “We are giving a technological advantage to the teacher. There is no computer program going along with this to teach kids. Instead, this is a way to engage students, to allow them to work better together using contemporary tools to solve real world problems.”

Under the old plan, computers stayed in the classroom. With this next level of digital accessibility, students will be assigned a Chromebook to use in classes and at home.

Students will have many helpful resources in one location. From the portal, they will be able to access all of their Google classrooms, textbooks and Skyward so they can keep track of their grades. They will be able to complete and submit assignments electronically. They also will have access to the Google calendar and a to-do list to help with time management.

Another benefit will be realized during standardized testing time. Currently, students take turns using a limited number of computers at each school to complete standardized tests. The new Chromebooks, however, are assessment ready with a touchscreen model available for younger students. “We will reclaim instructional time through this,’’ Weeks said. “We won’t have to shut down media centers and computer labs for months to get through the testing cycle. More students can test at once and this will give more time back to the teacher for instruction.”

Protections will be put in place and every student will be required to complete a Digital Citizenship course to help support safe internet use.

The district will pay $230 for each standard model Chromebook and $270 for the touchscreen version with the use of state Digital Classroom Plan funds and district capital funds.  A technology fee of $32 per student will be assessed for schools that implement the program during the 2018-19 school year. The fee will assist in the refresh and maintenance needed due to normal wear and tear.

Schools with existing take-home-technology programs may charge a different fee depending on the models they currently use. Financial assistance will be available for students in need.

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