Sonoma County Office of Education

Technology for Learners

Try Before You Buy:
Tech Devices & Activities

Test Drive TechnologyFive years ago, SCOE initiated its Try Before You Buy program, giving Sonoma County schools the opportunity to “test drive” new technologies and experience their use in the classroom. Over 100 schools have borrowed devices and used them in small group and one-to-one settings.

This popular program continues in 2017-18 with enhancements. In addition to borrowing the device sets, teachers can now also select from a growing collection of resources that focus on Common Core and Next Generation Science themes. As an example, an elementary school could borrow a class set of iPads to engage students technology-enhanced number sense learning. With a set of digital microscopes, middle school students can delve deep into science themes.

What devices are available?
4 Bee Bots
15 Chromebooks
5 Dash Robots
5 Digital Microscopes
15 iPad2 Tablets
8 Lego Solar-Powered Cars
5 Vernier Go Wireless Temperature Probes

How does the program work?
Contact Rick Phelan at or Matt O’Donnell at to schedule resources. SCOE will deliver the equipment to the school and orient staff to its operation. At the end of scheduled period of use, SCOE will pick up the devices.

Please request one set of resources at a time. Note that schools are responsible for safeguarding equipment at their site and may be liable for any damages that occur.

Need activity ideas or assistance?
Classroom activity ideas for the devices are organized by content area below. On request, demonstration lessons with students and coaching activities for staff can be arranged.

English Language Arts

Assistive Technologies, Grades 3-12
Explore the use of assistive technologies for writing with brainstorming, word prediction, or speech-to-text tools. Focus on reading by using electronic glossaries, text-to-speech, and text annotation. These activities can be successful with the iPad or Chromebook sets.

Multimedia Apps, Grades K-12
Use the iPad sets and multimedia apps such as BookCreator, Educreations, Explain Everything, or iMovie to engage students in creating personal expressions with text, pictures/movies, spoken words, and/or diagrams.

SBAC Practice Tests, Grades 3-8 & 11
Have students and staff get ready for the Smarter Balanced assessments using the Chromebook set and SBAC’s training and practice tests for English Language Arts.

Web 2.0 Technologies, Grades K-12
See how the latest Web technologies can be applied with the Chromebook sets by selecting resources from Matt O’Donnell’s list of Web Tools for Educators.


Coding, Grades K-12
Provide your students with coding activities using resources from the SCOE Technology for Learners Coding page and iPads, Chromebooks, or Nexus 7 Android tablets.

Number Sense, Grades K-4
Try the apps suggested in Five Terrific Apps to Support Number Sense with the iPad set of 15 devices.

SBAC Practice Tests, Grades 3-8 & 11
Have students and staff get ready for the Smarter Balanced assessments using the Chromebook sets SBAC’s mathematics training and practice tests.

Spreadsheets, Grades 5-12
Explore the use of Google Spreadsheets with data from the US Census Bureau, GapMinder, or WolframAlpha and the Chromebook set.

Virtual Manipulatives, Grades K-12
Use the Dell laptops to engage students in applying resources from the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. Activities for numbers/operations, algebra, measurement, geometry, and data analysis/probability are arranged by grade level.


Digital Microscopes, Grades K-12
Use the five digital microscopes to magnify and explore the world. Try these lesson ideas: Grade K-4: What Is It? | Grade 4: Plant Structures (pdf) | Grade 7-12: Two Cents Worth.

Electric Circuits, Grades 4-10
Learn about the design of electrical circuits using the Simple Circuits app and the iPad set.

Temperature Probes, Grades 2-12
Use temperature probes to explore over 50 different science experiments with Nexus 7 Android tablet set.

Social Studies

Digital Citizenship, Grades K-12
Engage students in learning about digital citizenship – information literacy, internet safety, relationships and communication, media literacy, digital footprint, and creative credit – with Common Sense Media resources. Either the iPad or Chromebook set can be used for this purpose.


  • Matt O'Donnell, Technology Innovation Specialist
    (707) 524-8419,