By Debra Cradduck, Principal at PCY
Do you remember sitting in front of those huge, beige and grey tower computers in the 1980s, that we had to insert floppy disks into to run programs and save files? It seems like that was eons ago. And when Apple came out with those colorful shells in the late 1990s that were kid-friendly and supported classroom activities, teachers thought we’d died and went to heaven. Today, all students have access to classroom technology and the newest device in the third through sixth-grade classrooms are Chromebooks.
Chromebooks are, at their essence, a vehicle for LCUSD students to access their Google Apps for Education (GAFE) accounts. In the GAFE suite of applications, students can access Google Classroom for classwork and homework assignments; create Google Forms, Docs, and Slides presentations; Google Maps, Google Search, YouTube as well as other apps that are all filtered through LCUSD for students in grades TK-12. Growing numbers of teachers are using Google Classroom as a means to manage classroom assignments, homework, collaborative classwork, and to push out instructional materials and resources for students. Students work online on their assignments in class and teachers can, in the moment, see how students are progressing. They give students feedback in real time to help students improve their work. Students peer edit, share ideas and work together to present their knowledge in a way that resonates with them while meeting the requirements of assignments. The flexibility and collaborative nature of working on Chromebooks have markedly changed how classrooms function, and I’d like to share with you an example of how technology has enhanced students’ learning in the classroom.
Recently I observed a fifth grade Language Arts lesson where students were learning about persuasive essays. After the initial instruction regarding the elements of a persuasive essay, the teacher shared images and posts she found on the web when researching hurricanes along the Southeastern part of the United States. The class discussed the impact of the images and accompanying text, ultimately identifying some as a “call to action” strategy by the author. They also recognized some posts were not from reliable, objective sources. The teacher moved into a lesson on analyzing online sources when doing research. The teacher taught the students how to assess critical components of a source using the Language Arts textbook, and then had students begin research in small groups for a persuasive essay assignment. Students pulled out their Chromebooks just as they would their textbooks and began to work. The students worked in small groups to find information on their topic, analyze it against the rubric, and they discussed the impact the piece would have on their argument. It was truly amazing to watch as the students were able to access a multitude of sources in the span of thirty minutes that would have taken my generation days to find at the local library. The direction and parameters established by the teacher gave students boundaries and focus and the small group format enabled rich discussion. The students’ enthusiasm for the assignment was so exciting to see. It was clear that the teacher’s thoughtful inclusion of visual and textual support through technology had made the difference to spark students’ interest, harness their collaborative spirit, and gave them a purposeful, standards-based assignment to then apply their understanding in a meaningful way.
Technology in the classroom today is used for instruction, practice, application, and demonstration and has unquestionably enhanced the learning experiences for students. I am continually impressed with the knowledge and skills that students bring to the table, how teachers are able to design lessons to maximize learning opportunities, and I look forward to watching where the journey of technology and education lead into the future.