Chromebook Classrooms Boot-Up at VIU's High School

Nanaimo, BC: Every student at The High School at Vancouver Island University (VIU) can now benefit from always-on technology, thanks to an innovative initiative that provides all pupils with a Chromebook computer.

Chromebooks look like laptops, but there’s a crucial difference: they don’t have a hard drive. Instead, they’re cloud-based devices – which means that any work produced on them is saved on the Internet.

Chromebook computers will enable students at The High School at VIU to focus on learning and collaborate on projects. From left: Grade 12 student Paul Haldane, Principal Catherine Brazier and Grade 11 student Julia Balinchenko display a Chromebook.

“With Chromebooks, students can work anywhere, anytime – as long as they have an Internet connection,” says Catherine Brazier, Principal of The High School (THS). “No longer can they say ‘the dog ate my homework.’”

All of THS’s 70 students are equipped with Chromebooks, which feature Google education apps for classroom learning. Brazier notes that various school districts are using the devices, but in a limited capacity. “We are one of the very few that have a one-to-one Chromebook environment in BC,” she says. The decision to offer the devices to all THS students was made in response to the “personalized learning” approach that’s a feature of BC’s new K-12 curriculum.

“The Chromebook allows students to move ahead if they need to, and work on projects on their own time,” says Brazier. “Most importantly, it allows students to be accountable and responsible.”

Previously, high schools may have used computer labs for students to work on activities and assignments. However, these labs can take up a lot of real estate, and may also require much upkeep. Alternatively, students have used smartphones in the classroom. This isn’t ideal either, given that such phones also present an array of distractions, such as texting, Web browsing and social media. Internet access on the THS Chromebooks is controlled to ensure that the focus is kept solely on learning. For example, students can’t access Facebook on the devices.

They also take mere seconds to start up, which translates into more time for teaching. Chromebooks are secure and update automatically, and come with a rubber bumper to protect against wear and tear. And they’re affordable – each unit costs THS just $325 (each device is lent to a student for the school year).

Perhaps most importantly, Chromebooks allow students and teachers to work collaboratively on projects, which can help enhance the learning experience. Since work is saved online, students can also access their documents and projects via any device that’s connected to the Internet – whether it’s a Chromebook, a home computer or something else.

“I absolutely see this as a doable response to the needs of our students and teachers,” says Brazier. “Think of this as pencils, pens, paper – it’s just another way of doing your work in the 21st century.”