GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Many schools across the country may have to pull the plug on their old computer systems. That's because this month, Microsoft stopped issuing security updates for computers running Windows XP. One Gulfport school is making the switch to more modern, mobile and money saving devices.
St. James Catholic School is putting the latest high tech tool in students' hands. Facing an April deadline to replace the older PCs with a safer system, the school installed 16 Chromebooks in the computer lab. Chromebooks are notebook computers that run on Google's Chrome Operating System.
"There are a lot of apps that Google has for education that we're able to use. The children can work on things at school and then go on home, use the same log-ins and continue working at home. So it's been good for us," said computer teacher Stacie Barrient.
Chromebooks take only eight seconds to boot-up and they're virtually virus-free. Unlike tablets, they come with a keyboard and a bigger screen.
"I like them because they're easier to use than the computers that we used to have, and they have a lot more programs that we can go on," said fifth grader Kelsey Descher.
"We're doing a lot more educational websites such as Scoot Pad, Khan Academy and Typing Club," said fifth grader James Edwards. "I like them because you can go home and you can log on to them and do the websites that we do here."
"I thought they were really neat, because all our other computers are a lot bigger and these are more my height. So when I sit, I can look directly at the screen," said fifth grader Noah Harris.
Chromebooks also offer a secure management system, allowing teachers to control the apps that are downloaded and keep track of each child's progress.
"It seems like a lot of schools are catching on to this idea of the most cost effective way of replacing all their school's computers," said Barrient.
St. James leaders estimate the new system could save the school about $32,000. A Chromebook costs about $200, compared to a Windows PC which average about $1,000 each.
The school also purchased some Chromeboxes. A Chromebox is basically a smaller computer that connects to the current keyboard, monitor and mouse. A Chromebox costs less than $200.
"It's very small. It has the same operating system as a Chromebook, and it's less expensive," said Barrient.
Because the devices are wireless, they can be moved from one classroom to another. With all of these benefits, St. James plans to eventually have 300 Chromebooks, one for every student at the school.