During Monday night's regular session of the Neosho R-5 Board of Education, a technological platform was chosen to place laptop computers into the hands of district high school students.
On Monday, the school board chose to go with Google Chromebooks for the district's 1,263 high school students and 309 laptop computers for district high school teachers and administrators. About 140 additional Chromebooks would be purchased and kept as "loaners," in case a student has a maintenance issue.
The decision came after a lengthy presentation made by Scott Harris, the district's technology director, about the differences between an Apple-based platform and the Google one.
"The fact of the matter is, this will increase the size of the district's network by about double," Harris said. "I've been a technology director for 17 years. This is probably the biggest project of my career."
Harris told the board the Google-based platform would cost $464,000 if the district went with a lower quality brand of Chromebooks for the students, to about $815,000 for a middle of the road quality machine. He stressed the more expensive machines are also more durable, and that the more expensive option was still less than half of Apple's cost.
Harris and several board members and other district personnel recently attended a technology workshop in Chicago where both representatives of Apple and Google touted their products. He told the board Apple reps said the district would likely be running GoogleChrome applications anyway, as those were compatible with the district's current technology.
But one of the most compelling reasons to choose the Google platform, Harris said, is the "cloud:" a digital network which is on continually, allowing teachers and students to work collaboratively on assignments in real time.
"Google is cost effective, we know it works well within our network and most importantly, this technology will change the culture of the classroom."
Dr. Dan Decker, superintendent of schools, told the board the district had surveyed high school teachers, with the following results. Thirty said they liked Apple MacBook, 11 specifically chose GoogleChrome, another seven chose another platform which is GoogleChrome compatible, and 19 said the platform didn't matter.
"What for me was the resounding thing is they said 'I am ready to have something,' " Decker said.
Harris said the platform would allow teaching methods in Neosho schools to enter the 21st century. And Decker said with the lower cost platform, the length of time that the technology trickled down to the lower grades would be reduced from an estimated five years to only two or three.
"Ultimately for me, at the end of the day, in my heart of hearts, this is the best thing for our kids," said Harris.
During a recent school board work session, board members said the laptops would not be given to students, but assigned to them for use during their high school careers. Once they complete high school, or leave the district, they must turn the computers back in.
Page 2 of 2 - Decker said he would work to see if Google would offer price breaks on such a bulk purchase, to ensure the district "got the most bang for their buck." He added that while the plan is to place computers in students' hands in January, it isn't set in stone. He said between funding the purchase and teacher training, it may become evident that a fall 2014 rollout date makes better sense.
More on Monday's R-5 Board of Education meeting can be found in an upcoming edition of the Daily News.