As we approach the conclusion of the third year of our one-to-one Chromebook program DFHS, it’s important that we not only continue to evaluate the success of the program, but that we also continue to grow and evolve as technology changes (and improves) with each passing day. Our 9th grade teachers piloted this program three years ago and many of them were the subjects for my doctoral research last year. Over the past three years, I have written a number of pieces on our one-to-one program and have focused specifically on both implementation and how the program itself has allowed for differentiation and the acquisition of 21st century “survival” skills. I also presented on this topic with @careim2 and @MegHalberg at the IB Conference of the Americas in Chicago over the summer and wrote the following piece based on the work that was done at DFHS in 2014-15:
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with our 9th grade teachers, many of whom were part of the original one-to-one pilot three years ago, to “check in” and to find out what’s new with regard to how Chromebooks are (or aren’t) being used inside of the classroom. The following question guided our discussion:
“How are Chromebooks now being used to enhance instruction? What’s new?” The big ideas that came out of this informal check-in meeting were as follows:
Google Earth and Virtual Tours: This feature allows students to take virtual “tours” of ancient civilizations, other countries, and landmarks throughout the world. This simple yet powerful tool can complement any subject area and makes it possible for students to further explore based on both interest and readiness. It also directly hits upon “curiosity and imagination,” which is perhaps Wagner’s toughest to reach 21st century “survival” skill.
Read, Write, Google: This new Google add-on was provided to all of our teachers and students at DFHS and it is quickly transforming the way reading and writing is taught across the disciplines. This add-on allows students to hear words, passages, or whole documents in English or other languages, it turns spoken words into text, it simplifies and summarizes text on web pages, it highlights text in documents for use in other documents, and much more!
Writing and Productivity: Our 9th grade teachers have the benefit of having students who are now in their third year of the one-to-one program since we only gave devices to our 7th and 9th grade students during the initial pilot in 2013-14. As we now approach the conclusion of year three the program, we are finding that the quality of student writing has improved do to the ongoing and consistent feedback that is provided via Google Docs. In addition, nearly all students now have above average typing skills which is a sharp contrast to three years ago. As a result, overall production in terms of writing is at an all time high and has by far surpassed the peak level of production that we had seen during the “pen to paper” period.
Paperless Classrooms: Google Drive has become the new “normal” for most of our students. Our students are proficient in turning in work via Drive or Google Classroom and the need for extensive copying is reduced and/or is fully eliminated. Students also store their work in Google folders, have less to carry back and forth to class, and rarely (if ever) lose an assignment.
Math & Science: The biggest challenge that was shared by the science and math teachers over the first two years of the program was the limitation that Chromebooks posed with regard to the “pen to paper” skills that students need for success on NYS Regents examinations. This was particularly the case in subjects such as Earth Science and Algebra 1. Despite this limitation, however, our science and math teachers have found other ways to use Chromebooks in a way that enhances teaching and learning within their classrooms. For example, our teachers use Google Classroom to post the following day’s lessons while providing access to notes, assignments, and announcements (upcoming assessments, due dates, etc.). Parents also have access to this information through Google Calendar. This approach is directly in-line with our goal of creating “paperless classrooms.” Furthermore, GMath allows our students and teachers to type equations and formulas (ex. writing x2 as opposed to typing “x^2”), access to interacitve science models further enhances learning in Earth Science, and Code.org provides our computer science (math elective) students with ongoing access to tools and resources for computer programming and coding.
Senior Economics: 2016-17 will be the fourth year of our one-to-one program and will be the first year that all of our seniors will have access to a device. In Economics, our teachers are already planning for students to spend less time researching in the library since the majority of that work can now be done in class. Furthermore, student progress will be tracked using Google Forms and Sheets, all senior classes will officially move to Google Classroom, and students will now have ongoing access to moneypower.org in preparation for the Blue Star Financial Literacy Exam.
Digital Textbooks & Resources: In addition to the various resources that can be obtained online, Chromebooks also provide teachers and students with an opportunity to utilize web-based textbooks and resources that can potentially replace the traditional overweight paper textbook. In Italian, for example, students make use of the various levels of Progetto Italiano Junior, a program that combines the textbook and workbook to provide students with activities that can be used both in the classroom and at home. Our teachers also create Google Slides, as well as Documents per chapter, and share them with the students as they progress through the units so that they have access to the information at all times.
Efficiency: In addition to the changes that we have seen in terms of teaching and learning, our one-to-one program has also helped with our overall efficiency from an operational perspective. In Guidance, for example, the counselors conducted course selection with their students via the Chromebooks and also used the devices as part of classroom lessons on college and career using Naviance. Our counselors also have a Chromebook in their office to use with the students for organization and structuring assignments. For our IB Program, Chromebooks have allowed for an expanded use of Google Classroom which has made it easier to manage and monitor Extended Essay and CAS. Chromebooks will be even more useful next year when all teachers in grades 6-12 will have ongoing access to the IB ManageBac system.
Have some new and innovative ways that you are using Chromebooks at your school to enhance teaching and learning? Please comment and share!