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El Portal Students Enjoy Latest Tool For School
Chromebooks For All
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Students in Kristi Michaels class enter their answers to a question on their Chromebooks, with each student at El Portal Middle School now provided with one. The students can leave them at school or choose to take them home, with a signed contract regarding use and handling. MARG JACKSON/THE TIMES

The ‘roll out’ of nearly 600 Chromebooks was completed earlier this month, with all students at El Portal Middle School now equipped with the tool to use in a variety of classes.

“They were handed out for all sixth through eighth graders, we’re talking 585 kids,” said El Portal assistant principal Mike Gaston. “It’s exciting, the technology, making them college and career ready.”

Students can keep the Chromebooks at school or can choose to take them home, but that requires a signed contract and an insurance policy. The policy is not expensive, said Gaston, and he said most families opt to have the students bring the Chromebooks home with them, taking out the insurance.

“I would say about 95 percent do want it,” Gaston said of the insurance plan and the ability to take the technology off campus.

Regardless of whether they take the devices home, all students have access to the Chromebooks at school, which Gaston said is helping streamline some subjects, allowing students to work online and opening up new possibilities for them to consider as career paths.

Gaston said administrators have already seen a change, with students now sitting down with the Chromebooks in the cafeteria before classes as opposed to running around outside or simply visiting.

“In between classes, they are on their devices, all these little huddles,” Gaston said.

The English-Language Arts curriculum and the ability to do that online was a big push behind outfitting all the students with the Chromebooks. Other classes will benefit as well and Gaston said students are excited about the new tool.

“They’re talking about schoolwork,” he said. “That’s a change.”

Sawyer Mello, 11, said he has already found the Chromebook to be helpful in more than one class.

“I needed help with my homework, I needed the equation of how to find the area of a triangle,” Mello explained. “It’s base times height divided by two.”

Gaston noted that Mello sought out the equation to figure the answer out for himself, rather than take a short cut and look simply for the answer.

Faye Hernandez, 12, said she is happy to have the technology in her hands.

“You can bring it anywhere,” she said. “I use it for homework, you can use it for iBook for reading online.”

Mello said his language arts is almost entirely done on the Chromebook now.

“My handwriting isn’t very good so now I type it and it makes it easier,” he said. “It makes homework fun.”

Hernandez added that she didn’t expect to have the technology while still at the middle school level.

“I never thought we would get it,” she admitted, noting that there are additional perks to enjoy. “After you finish the homework, you can play some games.”

Students are utilizing the technology well, all seeming to accept the responsibility and taking ownership of their new ‘books.’

“Instead of just roaming around, they are on their Chromebooks,” Gaston said. “Occupied teenagers is always a good thing.”