The teachers were ready, the students were virtually born ready, and now the computers are ready.

Heritage High School began delivering a new Chromebook computer Wednesday to every ninth-grader there, and William Blount High School’s Ninth Grade Academy plans to deploy Chromebooks to all its students Friday.

As soon as students logged on to the computers at Heritage, they could see the Google Classroom sites their teachers had set up for their assignments. When math teacher Lynette Cottrell met students for tutoring at lunch time, those who already had received the Chromebooks opened them up and went right to work.

“We started talking about this probably six years ago,” Director of Schools Rob Britt said Wednesday afternoon as he stood in a Heritage classroom where students were receiving the computers. “At that time it seemed like a distant dream.”

Britt said the district has been purposeful in training teachers to use the technology, and “these kids are ready for a transformative experience.”

Technology coach Jeff Nuchols handed out the new computers during freshmen English classes, completing two classes during each schedule block Wednesday, with help from high school and Central Office administrators. He expects to deliver the remaining Heritage computers Thursday.

Each 11-inch HP Chromebook has a sticker with a student’s name and number, as well as the Heritage logo, and a separate sticker with the logo of the school district’s 1:World digital initiative.

Nuchols explained to the students that these models are more rugged than a standard Chromebook. “They are more drop-resistant,” he said, “but we’re not going to test that.”

“You’ve got a case for a reason,” he said, noting that with about 1,600 people the high school hallways can be crowded. So he told the students to put the devices in the cushioned carrying cases they received and not place them on the floors of a classroom. On the bus, he said, “Keep them in your lap. They don’t weigh that much.” He also warned students against putting a pencil or pen on the keyboard. Closing the computer with a pen or pencil there is the No. 1 reason a screen breaks, he explained.

Nuchols encouraged students to develop a habit of putting their Chromebook in the same place at home and charging it every night, so it is always ready for school the next day. “They should be able to last the entire day, but you’ve got to show up with them charged,” he said.

He also explained that students without internet access at home can download what they need before leaving school, work on assignments offline and then update their work when they arrive at school the next morning. “It will just take a bit of extra planning,” he told them.

English teacher Alicia Adkins said she was ready for her students to start using the Chromebooks to access nonfiction articles through the Newsela website and grammar lessons on the NoRedInk site.

In her class, she said, “Ninety percent of the time, they’ll be on the Chromebooks.” With the computers, “It will enable me to go almost completely paperless.”

“They’ve never not had a computer in front of them,” Adkins noted about the high school Class of 2020. “They’ve always been digital citizens.”

When she tells students to start writing with a paper and pencil, often they will tell her that they don’t know where to start. “They never don’t know where to start with a screen in front of them,” the teacher said.

Students aren’t the only ones using Google Classroom; administrators are too. Britt said he is involved in a book study on “Visible Learning” by John Hattie, and he’ll be responsible for posting the information for Chapter 9 online.

Mary Blount and Rockford Elementary also will receive a computer for every student this school year, thanks to donations from Leadership Blount and RIO church.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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