CLINTON (WATE) – When Anderson County middle school students return from fall break, they will be getting a helpful surprise. Educators will be giving them free Google Chromebooks, as part of the district’s one-to-one education initiative. It will cost $400,000 to distribute the technology the first year, but administrators say it’s worth the price.

Cliff Lloyd, CIO for the Tennessee Department of Education, visited the school district to celebrate the launch of the program, which aims to equip all K-12 students with laptops in three years.

“Technology is going to play such an important role in the future of education,” Lloyd said.

After conducting a two-year trial with select classes, Anderson County educators and students agree the Chromebooks make a difference in the classroom.

“The technology is just where the world is,” Joanna Whitley, director of technology for Anderson County Schools, said. “It’s the way these students learn. The no longer learn from a picture in a book or a paragraph below the picture. The have to see it and understand the ins and outs of what they’re trying to learn, and these types of technologies, Chromebooks, give students the ability to have that interaction that learning can become faster, deeper, stronger and more long-lasting.”

Lloyd said the laptops will facilitate hands-on learning, engaging students and making them more involved with the lessons.

“It’s incredibly exciting for me to see districts taking the lead like this and they’re not just taking a lead for this district, but they’re taking a lead for the whole state,” he said.

Administrators said the technology helps teachers personalize learning, giving teachers instant feedback on how students are grasping the material. It also will give students year-round access to computers who may not have them at home.

“We call this project tools for success, because we really believe that these tools are going to give our students success in the future,” Whitley said.

Lloyd said the technology will allow educators to make the most of their time in the classroom, so that the lessons students learn stay with them long after the school day.

“The goal of K-12 education is to prepare students for college and career,” Lloyd said, “and college and career today means a degree in technology literacy and an element of technology in their life, so we’re getting students ready for success post-secondary.”

The district will distribute Chromebooks to Anderson County high schoolers next year and then elementary school students the following year.

Whitley said the program, in total, will cost the district about $1.5 million.