By Garrett Estrada

Ely Times Staff Writer

The Learning Bridge Charter School has a new “roving computer lab” powered by more than 20 Chromebook laptops after students sold more than $20,000 of Otis Spunkmeyer products in the school’s first major fundraiser.

In addition to the portable computers, Learning Bridge also purchased eight televisions and chrome cast devices that will let teachers and students stream the images on their computer screens to the television.

Learning Bridge’s Administrator Mary Flanagan said the new technology will offer teachers new ways of engaging students in the classroom.

“For science projects, students can hookup a digital microscope to their computer and display it on the big screen so they can show the entire class what they are looking at,” Flanagan said.

The laptops will also allow significant improvements in communication both school wide and from student to teacher according to Flanagan. With their connectivity through the chromecast receivers on the televisions, Flanagan hopes to start a new visual morning announcements program, where students will broadcast to each classroom as they read the news for the day. In terms of keeping teachers connected with their students, instructors will be able to monitor the progress of each student on a particular assignment, and even send a private message with guidance if the student is struggling on a particular section.

The computers can go from classroom to classroom on a “charge cart” that stores all 23 laptops and charges them at the same time. Money for the cart itself was raised at a separate fundraiser with the help of Don and Luanne Griffiths and their Silver State Restaurant on Jan. 11.

“We did a 50/50 fundraiser at the restaurant,” Don Griffiths said. “The kids came down and took a two-hour shift. They had a ball and the customers had a ball. Not only did the get half of the till for that time, they also had a tip jar set up. It was very successful.”

Flanagan called the cart a “four-foot by four-foot classroom” and said that the mobility it adds is vital to the school that is already tight on space.

“We are very limited in space and will be even more limited next year when we add two more grades levels in this same space, so we really needed a portable computer lab,” Flanagan said.

Josh Nicholes volunteers his time at the school to help set up the infrastructure required to get all the technology working together. Nicholes called the mobile lab “huge” for the school. Once the laptops connect to the internet, Nicholes said he will monitor the students’ web usage, making sure they stay on task.

“I’ll basically be keeping the kids safe while they are on the internet,” he said. “Mainly keeping their information safe and keeping them off websites they shouldn’t be on.”

Students who sold more than $600 in the fundraiser were awarded their own personal Chromebook to use in and out of school. Flanagan said that the opportunity for student’s to earn their computer was “major motivation” during the fundraiser and a key to its overall success.