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Lake Placid 3rd-graders start using Chromebooks

Students in Patricia Damp’s third-grade class at the Lake Placid Elementary School use Chromebooks to answer English reading prompts Tuesday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid Elementary School third-grade teacher Patricia Damp called her students up one at a time. Each student was assigned a number and a corresponding Chromebook, a laptop-like device made by Google. She then had the students log onto her personal teaching website and answer prompts about their favorite book genres.

Damp was one of the key figures in a project that put Chromebooks in third-grade classrooms last year. Pretty soon the fourth and fifth-graders in Lake Placid will start using them regularly as well.

Schools across the Adirondacks and the entire nation are introducing high-tech devices to their classrooms on a daily basis.

The Saranac Lake Central School District recently went one-to-one with its Chromebooks, meaning every student there has access to a device, and they use the same Chromebook throughout their entire school careers. Students from grades six and up are allowed to take them home as well.

Not only do the third-graders at LPES have Chromebooks for typing, but they also use iPads for reading.

Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania said devices such as laptops, Chromebooks and iPads aren’t there to replace traditional supplies like pens and paper, but rather enhance the learning experience.

“The kids are still writing,” he said. “They still break out their pens and pencil for essays. It’s not the technology itself but how you use it. Things like laptops and iPads can bring a certain level of interactivity and creativity. They come in use when a lesson requires photos or videos.”

Catania added that handwriting and long-form writing are still important parts of school work.

“Cursive is probably less of a focus these days,” he said. “It’s not as extensive as it used to be, but we’re also not having our students just hit keys or select letters or a tablet screen.”

Chromebooks are also cost effective, especially when a school wants to buy more internet-connected devices but is working with a limited budget.

“They’re relatively cheap — around $200 or $300,” Catania said. “It makes it so that we don’t have to spend $1,000 for a Mac or $600 for a PC.”

In 2014, the school district applied for a Smart Schools Bond — a sum of money dedicated to technological advances provided by the state Department of Education — but that process has been long and frustrating, Catania said. He said that money will go toward more devices when it comes in, but the district didn’t want to limit its students’ access to laptops in the meantime.

Students throughout the district have access to different types of internet-connected devices. There’s even a loaner program at the Lake Placid Middle-High School where students can take laptops home if they don’t have computers. Catania said this is just one other way to bridge the opportunity gap that’s often brought up in the school district.

“Not everybody has a laptop, and some kids don’t have internet access at home,” he said.

One of the downsides with so many devices that Catania said both faculty and students are aware of is the risk of losing interpersonal skills.

“We’ve been studying when and how devices interfere with communication,” he said, “and we’re trying to build a positive climate — especially with handheld devices like cellphones. We’ve tweaked our practices and created some additional limitations on use of handhelds during school hours. We’re hoping that it means more people talking to each other in the lunch room, instead of staring at screen or answering a text.”

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