Chromebooks – A 1:1 Device Initiative

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.

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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.


 

1Better 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):20160330_16164420160330_161703

NYCS-bull-trans-2.svgA 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.

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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.”

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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.

I’ve Stepped Out on My Love for Pinterest.

This confession is pretty serious if you’re a teacher and a mom. So many of us love this site. There are times where I have used it so consistently, I seriously wondered if I had an original thought in my head. I use several sites to aggregate data and ideas, but Pinterest is what I use most often. When I first began to use a bookmarking website like this, I just willy nilly pinned anything and everything I thought was interesting. Later, I began to pin within more specific categories. A “board” for outfits wouldn’t cut it anymore. I need to create boards for each season to organize. A board for school was overflowing with ideas, so I created boards that were organized by subject area.


 

Here’s an example of a section of boards I’ve created to pin information. Teachers, notice the blank board for the PARCC standardized test…can’t bring myself to pin to it!

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I do use Pinterest as an idea generator for so many things. I find ideas for outfits, crafts, school, recipes, and baby/child resources. With that being said, I’m not a crazy Pinterest user. There are people who have thousands and thousands of pins, which I feel can become too much, very quickly. Too many bookmarks, pins, labels, and you become lost in a sea of well aggregated, but overwhelming resources. What really began to frustrate me with Pinterest was constant spam, lackluster mobile capabilities, and bad links. What is the point of bookmarking and storing an idea, if the picture or infographic leads to no where? Having to check if links were still real, live, and not spam was getting tiresome. The internet is well…the internet, so I know some sites and posts becoming unavailable is inevitable, I just found that I ran into it too often.Pins that don’t have a permalink attached?! Maddening. I don’t think anyone likes to click on a great picture or recipe and be taken to a homepage where you’d have to dig for a few hours. As a result of some of these frustrations, I started to use the tool as more of a visual reminder versus actually storing readable information that was possible to go back to.

I went into so much detail about Pinterest, because I feel like (at least among people I know), that is by far the most commonly used curation tool.While I do like Pinterest, for a while I haven’t been as avid of a user as I once was. As a result, I decided to explore another potential curation tool. I had a little bit of experience with Flipboard, but wasn’ t that into it. I decided to try to use Scoop.It. The magazine I began to put together about Genius Hour/20 time can be found here. I decided to start collecting information about Genius Hour/20 time because I am very interested in the idea, but I’m not very familiar with it. I have posted and explored a lot of good ideas to start with. I found some great things already added to Scoop.It to add to my list, and I found some great resources on my own. I was able to add information about the topic as well as personal teacher accounts and experiences with the topic. Scoop.It as a magazine tool looks appealing, where a sites pictures and thumbnails present well. It is very easy to add content, and to comment on content. In addition to ease of use and an appealing look, it seems that users have posted a lot of academic content. Content of substance, and links that bring you to actual articles and opinions have made the site very useful for me. Pinterest provided me with a lot of ideas, but often a lot less information. Academic articles and informational pieces are much harder to find there. This is a large part of what attracted me to use Scoop.It for our project. From boards I’ve looked through, I came across a lot of other teachers as well as those in tech. It seems like a great platform to build on for my professional life.


 

Here is an example of features you can use on Scoop.it. It has been very user friendly. 

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So far, I have found success with Scoop.It as a curation tool. I looked through some others on the list that look interesting, but ease of use has Scoop.It working for me right now!

 

 

 

To Post or Not to Post…

is a question I have to ask myself whenever I consider putting something on social media. Articles reporting about teacher internet indiscretions like this one here might make most professionals in education, particularly classroom teachers, think twice before they click to post. Social media can be a powerful tool to connect and build our personal learning networks, but professional and personal can quickly begin to overlap.

The article outlines how a Texas teacher posted some sarcastic memes to a Pinterest account, and a parent came across them. The parent notified her school district, which led to her school officials to look into the issue. In situations like this involving social media, the lines between professional and personal are most definitely being blurred when colleagues, parents, and others within the school community are connecting through personal social media accounts. The question I find myself asking about this sort of scenario would be, are teachers held to unreasonably high standards? If so, is it fair to hold them to these higher standards? There are a ton of stories online that describe some of the situations teachers have gotten into that led to investigations and possible repercussions as a result of their posts on social media. Even the NEA’s website has a page warning teachers about online behavior. Other articles I came across, including some I had already seen prior to this week, like this one titled “When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web”  or this one, “St. Louis Teacher’s Tweets Cause Uncertainty for Social Media and Educators”, examine the issues with teachers having information that might be available to the public.


I happened upon this infographic from Daily Genius, that had some interesting do’s and don’t about teachers interacting on social media. While there are some good rules of thumb, I was particularly amused by its suggestion to avoid bikini pictures or anything with a state of “undress”, and to keep all posts light and positive, or “keep quiet” and don’t post anything at all. 

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This infographic and article suggest that teachers should be acting and portraying themselves a certain way when using social media, even going as far as suggesting it’s inappropriate to post too frequently. This was a great time for me to question some thoughts and ideas from these articles, because just this week a parent of a current student Facebook friended me. I felt immediately uncomfortable with the idea that parents of a student I currently have could see where I might be going, what I might be doing, but more importantly, see what types of thoughts and opinions I might have about the world. In school there are certain limitations and professional standards that I adhere to completely, but do I also have to censor myself (jokes, opinions, pictures, check-ins at locations, etc.) on social media, as well? When discussing this very topic, a colleague of mine said, “Sometimes it’s like we [teachers] aren’t allowed to be human.” Privacy settings, organized lists, and general good judgement to censor yourself can help avoid a lot of problems, but if you can’t really post what you want anymore, is this portrayal of you real at all? What’s its purpose if you can’t say what you really think?

Most of the time, I can’t say what I think. Mostly because of my political and religious views. I have accepted and embraced that my social media accounts are for pictures of my children, and positive interactions with friends and family (with some healthy debate thrown in every once in a while). This here is mostly what it looks like:

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There are some exceptions, of course. I have an anonymous Twitter account to tweet about whatever I truly feel like saying, secret Pinterest boards, private Instagram account, and some restricted audiences on Facebook posts. As a teacher, keeping most of my information private is important. Even if you don’t think you have anything to hide, you really don’t know how any person will respond to a link, picture, or thought you might have expressed on a social media platform.

A final thought about this came to me today, when I looked at my “Timehop” app. Spring break pictures from senior year of college popped up, and reminded me that maybe it’s time to double check my privacy settings…

My apologies for the state of undress.

Hi! I’m Erin.

  • Where do you find the majority of your teaching resources?

-I find the majority of my teaching resources online, but there isn’t one specific resource I go to the most often. Several teaching resources I use the most frequently are determined by my district’s adopted curriculum. While I use supplemental resources from all over, there are some underlying online and text book procedures I follow as a result of what our school has implemented.  With that being said, I love using Pinterest (I know, I know…me and every other teacher and mom on the planet), Teachers Pay Teachers, a variety of elementary school blogs run by teachers, and good old Google. Exploring new avenues by sorting through websites found in searches on Google and lists on Diigo, have been the way I’ve found some of my favorite classroom materials and ideas. This method sounds a bit “old school”, but it helps me generate new ideas and break up the monotony of visiting the same websites and using the same resources.

  • Who do you look to for support and research for new ideas?

-I look to a few people for support and research for new ideas, a close colleague of mine who is also a third grade teacher. We made a lot of decisions together, which allows us to constantly bounce ideas off of each other, and develop new and fun ways to reach out students. In addition, we use common assessments in our 3rd grade at FTS, so we consistently work collaboratively in order to make sure our standards are mastered, and that our student needs are met. My family is also a great place to look for support and help develop my ideas, because my parents and my husband are also teachers. My husband is an amazing listener, and I bounce all of my ideas off of him. He always gives me a fresh perspective, and his solution to a problem usually has a different approach than mine, which is a great asset when brainstorming.

  • What challenges do you face as you try to incorporate new ideas and research with your students? 

-While I do have freedom and space to create and develop ideas for my classroom, there are some expectations I need to fulfill because I’m part of a team. Besides this obvious roadblock that many teachers encounter, incorporating new ideas and research is difficult when you’re prepared for, and have done the leg work for something already.  For example, I might create a center for math that I felt was really amazing practice. I create, cut, laminate, instruct, show a routine…and then in a professional development a few months later I find an even better way to carry out that lesson or center for my students using a totally different technique. Keeping what I already had made would be the easiest solution, but the path of least resistance is not always the best one for our students. It takes a lot of time, planning, and motivation to constantly evolve, but dedicating time to research, and striving to change in order to implement best practices in our classroom is part of what we signed up for as educators.