I don’t yet have a device for each student in my room, but at our K-8 building, we have started the process. Grades 5-8 all have that magical 1:1 device ratio, and the tool they chose for students was the Chromebook. Our principal/superintendent has been dedicated to moving forward with what our students need at all times in terms of technology, and as a result the lower grades will start to see class sets of Chromebooks as well. As young as 3rd grade, I have taught students to log in with a Google username and email account. Our district has a safe-walled “garden” in which our Google accounts are monitored and protected. My kids in 3rd grade are more than capable of using Google Docs and Google Slides, as well as other important features.
This week I set out to learn about how useful Chromebooks really would be in my classroom, and what others thought the best benefits of this 1:1 scenario were. I also made sure to ask for suggestions, as well as discuss what problems arise when every student has this type of technology at their fingertips. I posted on social media in order to discuss with a few teachers I knew who have a 1:1 device model in their classroom, as well as reached out via email to a parent, guidance counselor, and language arts teacher who all have experience with their students and/or children using this 1:1 device scenario. I am a Chromebook user at home, so I thought I might have too much of a “glass half full” perspective about having them in my classroom. Turns out, my positive perceptions about using them were (mostly) confirmed! All the teachers I reached out to expressed a general love for, and satisfaction with their 1:1 model. I also learned what they didn’t like about having devices right at student fingertips, but the good far outweighed the bad.
Better Option Than a BYOD Policy
Several of the teachers that I discussed the 1:1 Chromebook model mentioned how Chromebooks provided a much better alternative to students being allowed to have their own devices in school (teacher websites can be found here for Lisa, Kat, and Stephanie):
A 1:1 Model is Great for Collaboration
Liza, a 5th grade teacher returned to me with some great input about how her students work together using Chromebooks:
“Now that we have classroom laptops, it’s less distracting and easier to have them all work on the same platform. I use Google Classroom and the various apps with 5th graders almost daily. They’ve had no trouble whatsoever in picking it up. I’ve had great success with them collaborating on Google Slide presentations. I love the ease of assigning/collecting work online. It has been helpful to copy/paste our rubric in as a final comment to give them feedback (along with their grades). However, there are some negatives. I have run into the issue of students getting (way too much) assistance from parents on assignments because they can be accessed from home. For example, students are supposed to continue drafting essays at home, but they end up being perfected. It makes it challenging to determine a student’s true ability level. Perhaps this isn’t as much of an issue in older grades. Also, I have found that it can be more difficult to stay on top of grading with Google Classroom. It may just be a personal thing, but a stack of ungraded papers on my desk weighs heavily on my mind. With Classroom, I find that the work is sometimes out of sight, out of mind…”
Samantha, a language arts teacher, also weighed in on collaboration when I interviewed her:
“This year students did their annual ELA museum project entirely on the Chromebook. It was up to the teacher to decide what medium to choose, I went with a formal Google Slides Presentation or another online presentation medium (like Prezi). We talked about slide word-count, eye-catching strategies, etc. The students also had to do a tremendous amount of nonfiction research, so the Chromebooks were invaluable in that aspect.”
1:1 Devices Help Hold Kids Accountable to Work During and After Class
Andrea, who works at the Loyola School in NYC, mentioned some benefits:
“My school has a 1:1 program. There are some really great things about it- easier grading for teachers, easy access for in-class work (my juniors are doing a research based presentation on a social issue and classwork is so easy), a lot less paper, awesome for giving out surveys, no need to book the tech lab anymore, etc.”
When I asked what device my friend Samantha would choose, she chose Chromebooks, especially for older students:
“I teach middle school ELA, so I feel like the Chromebooks are cost effective, sturdy enough, and have all of the features necessary for my purposes. Our school has provided each student with their own Google suite account, so they are capable of word processing and other basic computer functions. If I taught younger grades, I feel like iPads or other touch devices would be more useful for their smaller hands and limited fine motor skills, but I guess you couldn’t be sure until you try it! My district will be 1:1 in grades 2-8 next year.”
Suggestions and Warnings: Problems are Inevitable with Kids and Technology
When I asked for specific suggestions and tips for using Chromebooks in my classroom, I got some great ones, but there was a warning with almost all of those. Kids are kids, and sometimes it is hard to keep them on track without wandering around the internet. Here are some of the things teachers shared when they weighed in on this part of the topic:
Andrea said, “I teach a guidance class and they don’t need to take notes or be on their iPad, so it drives me crazy when I see kids paying attention to their iPad and not to me from the front of the classroom. Kids themselves talk about how the self-control piece is really challenging- if they are bored they can just check out social media or message with friends and then they get nothing out of class. One of my students was so engrossed in setting his fantasy football line up during a math class that he didn’t even notice the Dean of Academics sitting in on his class DIRECTLY BEHIND HIM. Also, sometimes technology does fail when it comes to handing things in, etc., but its hard to tell if a student is being honest or not. I usually like to err on the side of good intentions, but when the same thing keeps on happening to the same kid and not to anyone else, you have to wonder…. It also has had a big impact on socialization between kids– we actually ended up banning technology from our commons (lunch/lounge area for students) for all the freshman because they would sit 10 kids at a table and just play on their devices- not talk to one another!”
This suggestion came from Samantha, and it seemed like a great idea to me. She mentioned software her school uses that I didn’t even know existed! My entire interview with her can be found here.
“Have a way to monitor your students whey they are using the Chromebook. Impulse control is a huge problem for my demographic. I constantly see students on games and other websites they are not meant to be on. It will take time to work the firewall and technological disciplinary issues out. My school recently acquired the “GoGuardian” software, which allows you to monitor students for a particular session, screenshot evidence for later use, or just document exactly what the students are doing over a particular time period.”
Overall, I got a lot of great feedback about 1:1 device scenarios, and great specific opinions and information about choosing Chromebooks as a device for my classroom. The four bullet points I chose to discuss were guided by the thoughts and ideas that the teachers I reached out to offered me. I got some great ideas about projects and activities to begin to teach my students. I think that when students learn the responsibility of managing devices at a younger age, it might help them transition as they move forward to the upper grades.