Pilot Program Enhances Menifee Students' Computer Skills

Students at Ridgemoor Elementary School work together on projects using Chromebooks provided by the district.
Virtually any elementary school child can operate an iPhone and play video games on a laptop, but how many can figure out how to search the Internet for the best deal on pet food?

Students in a fifth grade class at Ridgemoor Elementary School in Menifee did just that recently, scanning websites for pricing information and comparing numbers. Using Chromebooks provided by the Menifee Union School District, students in grades 2-5 at several MUSD schools are preparing themselves for a future of far more than Xbox games.

MUSD is one of the first districts in the state to implement the pilot program, which also includes the use of iPad mini devices for kindergarten students. One of the primary objectives is to prepare students for the 2015 state testing, which will be done electronically for the first time. The benefits of the program are many, however.

"The Chromebooks are very efficient for the classroom," said Steve Thornton, technology director for the district. "All the apps are stored in the cloud. The students use Google Docs, so they can share projects among each other, but they can't be shared outside this group. And the Internet they have access to has a filter."

Students have their own log-in and can sign onto the program from a home computer to complete homework or communicate with their teacher. Fifth graders are learning how to use spreadsheets. They even know how to program robots with the use of a computer.

"They start in second grade when we teach them how to log in and do the basics," said Kristina Lyman, principal of Ridgemoor Elementary. "They learn how to type. Once they get on and learn how to use the system, they learn quickly. We've had zero behavior problems."

Students may not take the Chromebooks home. They use them two to three days a week in the classroom only. The devices will be used this month in the students' first attempt at computerized state testing. Administrators hope that by next school year, the students will be proficient in the use of the Chromebooks for testing under the new Common Core curriculum.

"This is being driven by the new testing method," Thornton said. "Students must be able to think critically to solve problems."

MUSD is in the midst of a $2 million structure upgrade to facilitate use of the computers at all schools. Through the educational program Google has set up for schools, the purchase of multiple Chromebooks is affordable.

"The budget is always a challenge," Thornton said. "We'll have to decide which direction we're going to expand in. But I see some real positives to this."

MUSD Technology Director Steve Thornton and Ridgemoor Principal Kristina Lyman watch a student work on a learning game on an iPad mini.


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