When Kellie Steele left A.C. Moore Elementary School to begin the recent Christmas break, she probably had an inkling that there might be a few nice presents in store for her. But one gift caught her almost totally by surprise, even though it was near the top of her wish list.
Steele, first-year media specialist at the local elementary school, was notified two days before Christmas that internet giant Google had decided to purchase eight Chromebooks for the school library, a decision that came after a request for funding was placed by Steele on a website designed for teachers who have good ideas but little or no money with which to implement them.
“I got an email over Christmas break; it was Christmas Eve eve, December 23, that said Google had decided to fully fund my project,” recalled Steele, who several months ago posted an overview of her project and need for funding on donorschoose.org. “I was so excited; I told Mr. (John) Brantley (the school’s principal) that I had just got the best Christmas present.”
Brantley, with whom the media specialist had attended high school, had alerted her to the existence of the website and had encouraged her to post her wants and needs on it.
“I had told her about it,” the principal confirmed. “Connie Reeves and I were at a technology conference last summer, and she was telling me about donorschoose.org. Kellie had come in early in the year and told me we had to have more Chromebooks. I told her to throw it out there, give it a whirl and see if anybody takes the bait, and Google took the project.”
Chromebooks are internet-dependent laptop computers that are fast to boot up. All the applications and documents are stored “in the cloud,” preserving space on the machine. Each Google model includes 100 GB of cloud storage.
Steele said the acquisition of the laptops is a dream come true that helped erase a bit of a nightmare that greeted her when she took the ACMES job after 11 years teaching business courses at Escambia County High School.
“This is my first year here and my first year as a librarian,” she explained. “I taught business education at ECHS for 11 years, so technology is my thing. I get over here, and we don’t have that much in the library. Our classrooms do, but as far as the library, there were three desktop computers, and they didn’t connect to the internet. They had been moved from another location in the library and they aren’t wireless capable, so they’re still sitting there, unplugged.”
In her donorchoose.org posting Steele asked for eight Chromebooks, the cost of which would approach the $2,500 maximum for projects posted on the site. She worked on her proposal, but was informed that it wasn’t specific enough. So she tweaked it a little.
“You have to be very specific,” she said. “The first time I wrote something up, they said it wasn’t specific enough. They said it sounded like a whole-school project, and they didn’t fund whole-school projects. I didn’t change what I said, but I changed how I said it.”
The school expects receipt of the new computers “any day now,” said Brantley.
Steele pointed out that each of the 260 or so ACMES students, including those in K-4, use the library at least a half-hour every week. Acquisition of the Chromebooks will allow her to begin teaching them how to utilize technology in their lessons and their everyday lives.
“Keyboarding skills is one of the things I wanted to incorporate into the library,” explained the mother of four boys, whose husband teaches at Flomaton Elementary. “When I got here there was no way, because there were no keyboards. Now I’ll be able to do that.”
Brantley pointed out that Google has also offered to train Steele, at no cost, to train other teachers in how to use Google technology. He said that opens the door to other possibilities, for his media specialist and for the rest of the faculty.
“That is an awesome opportunity for her,” he said. “Kellie is pretty savvy with technology, and that training would give us a teacher here who can train other teachers, so it would be good for everybody.”
He added that the successful online Chromebook proposal could possibly give Steele a foot in the door, as far as drawing interest from major corporations.
“We would like to do a one-on-one initiative with iPads,” he said. “I told her to throw in the project with the iPads and see if maybe Apple might pick us up and support the project. You never know.”