This post is a follow-up to “(Re)Inventing in Chrome,” a piece that was written in late November (11/23/13) on the benefits of selecting the Chromebook for 1:1 initiatives at the secondary level. Over the past two months, the teachers on our 9th grade team have fully implemented Chromebooks into all aspects of classroom instruction and our students are now enjoying the benefits of a full 1:1 environment across the disciplines. As part of this pilot, @careim2 and I have asked the 9th grade teachers to “think like researchers” so that we can determine the specific skills that our students are developing as a result of using Chromebooks each day. We recently met with the team and collaborated via a Google Doc to identify those specific skills and to find examples of the types of activities that have contributed to the development of each respective skill.
Listed below are the skills that continued to surface in our discussion with the members of the 9th grade team. We also noted several additional skills that connect to each of the “big ideas” that we identified. Given that, the top five skills identified by our teachers are as follows…
Written Communication: Teachers in all disciplines noted writing as the skill that has been most directly impacted by the 1:1 Chromebook initiative. By sharing documents both with peers and their teachers, students are now able to engage in the writing process like never before. Through formal assignments like the humanities interdisciplinary research paper (@MrCohn9) and informal assignments such as shared journal entries (@Ms_Molloy), students collaborate with one or more co-writers in real time through each phase of the writing process. In addition, Chromebooks allow teachers to provide ongoing feedback and targeted instruction by using the revision history feature and identifying the specific strengths and weaknesses of each individual student. In that sense, Chromebooks provide teachers with a practical tool for differentiation so that they may best meet the needs of all students.
Accessing and Analyzing Information: The ease at which our 1:1 initiative has enabled students to access an unlimited amount of information on any topic via the internet has completely transformed teaching and learning in all disciplines. Teachers are now playing the role of facilitator on a more frequent basis while students are being encouraged to take ownership of their learning as they decipher between credible and non-credible sources on the internet. As an example, @MikeMeagh and @brennan73 often direct their students to different internet sources on the same topic so that they may evaluate the worth and reliability of each. Similarly, @AdamoBiology regularly has his students use the “research tool” in Google Docs to compare, contrast, and analyze abstracts, journal articles, and research studies that are available in various databases. Activities of this nature are not only in-line with both the Common Core and IB Learning Standards, but also help students to develop skills in research, evaluation, critical thinking, reading, curiosity, and self-direction.
Data Analysis: In addition to the analytical skills that are developed through the activities noted above, the Chromebooks have provided our students with a new way to analyze and graphically represent numerical data through applications such as Google Spreadsheet. For example, @ANewhouse6 requires that all students share their Google “Sheet” with all of the groups in the class so that they can analyze both the validity and reliability of the data collected as well as the process and procedure that the students used to conduct their investigations. Furthermore, this feature makes it possible for students to receive instant feedback on their lab results, graphs, charts, and data analysis from both the teacher and other members of the class. As an extension, students have the ability to present their data through applications such as Google Slides. Given that, additional skills that are directly connected to data analysis include communication, organization, collaboration, and critical thinking.
Initiative & Self-Direction: @sarahhmstern noted that the increased level of access to the internet has shifted the mindset of some students from feelings of “helplessness” that come as a result of the limitations of textbooks to an understanding that all information is in fact attainable if the the proper search is conducted. This realization is especially critical when students are working independently outside of school. Similarly, teachers such as @ms_sardinia, @MicheleIrvine1, and @MegHalberg provide access to a variety of apps and websites that allow students to take control of their learning based on their specific strengths, weaknesses, and areas of interest. This includes websites such as Khan Academy and a library of Google Apps for Education.
Digital Citizenship: While not a “skill” in the traditional sense, digital citizenship is critical for success in all academic classes as well as all “real world” endeavors. From an accountability perspective, students are responsible for taking care of their devices while having it in school with them each day. Furthermore, @addonam noted the importance of internet etiquette and digital citizenship with respect to searching for information and interacting with all people in a virtual setting. In that sense, the benefits for 9th graders go far beyond the classroom and indirectly connect to the development of other crucial skills, including organization, self-direction, and of course responsibility.
This piece was co-written with @careim2. Ms. Reim is the Assistant Principal at DFHS and has been instrumental in the implementation of our 1:1 initiative.