A rollout that started in 2016 had technology in the hands of every Orange student for the 2017-18 school year. “It started with the approval to go ahead with the 1:1 for grades three through six and it was so successful that it made me think that maybe, just maybe, grades one and two could go with the Chromebook as well,” says IT Director Matt Ullring.
“I kind of went out on a limb because nobody thought that they are old enough to type at that age or use a keyboard. My thought was, let’s expose them to a keyboard and maybe there’s a way using software that we can make it easier for them to do a little less typing and ease their way in, using a mouse to click around,” he says. “So that’s what we did for this school year. We even got Asus tablets that can be used with a keyboard for the kindergarten this school year.”
What Ullring believes made the initiative successful was the software, a product called ClassLink, which allows for the young kindergarteners and students in grades one and two to use a quick-card badge with a QR code that is read by the camera on the laptop, logging the student in automatically without a username or password. Once they’re logged in, the web browser opens automatically and a dashboard with apps appears. The apps are curriculum software that students can access.
“Before this, half the battle for the teachers was logging each student in to programs, taking up half of the teachers’ instructional time. Now all of the kids are logged in in a matter of a few minutes,” he says. “It took all of the frustration away from the teachers and the students.”
Students have access to programs such as MobyMax, Lexia Core 5 (reading, spelling and writing), BrainPop and Google Classroom.
For the 2018-19 school year, plans are in place to increase the wireless coverage as the Chromebook devices depend on Wi-Fi. The town recently approved a $60,000 capital improvement project that will add more ethernet drops throughout the schools, according to Ullring. That will provide the teachers a way to plug in and not depend on their wireless laptops. “The more people we get off wireless, it frees up more connections and makes more speed available for those students using the Chromebooks,” Ullring says.
“My goal since I’ve arrived in Orange three years ago was to create a single sign-on policy to take away the frustration of logging in for the teachers and students,” he says. “It was great to see the young students using the new technology and ClassLink provides the availability to go places that we’ve never gone before with students. If it weren’t for the support of the superintendent, who believed in me, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s about the students first and giving them the technology that they need to succeed.”
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent