Google Chromebooks Bring Technology to the Classroom

Students in Library regularly use Chromebooks to conduct research that links to what they're doing in their classroom
Students in Library regularly use Chromebooks to conduct research that links to what they're doing in their classroom
A Google Chromebook is a lightweight, easy-to-use laptop
A Google Chromebook is a lightweight, easy-to-use laptop
Students using laptops in class has become a usual sight at Springs School. This is the third year that Google Chromebooks have been used regularly during class instruction. A Chromebook is a laptop computer that utilizes the Google Chrome operating system. No software needs to be bought and downloaded because every program used can be found on the internet or in the “cloud.” Google has its own programs comparable to Microsoft Word , Excel, and PowerPoint, without having to pay the extra price. Because of this, prices for Chromebooks are less expensive than typical laptops. “Chromebooks are a very reasonably priced piece of equipment,” said Library Media Specialist William Hallman. “It has no software installed. It only runs on a browser.” Mr. Hallman also loves the fact that Chromebooks “are lightweight, hold a charge for six and a half hours, and update on their own.”

Teachers and students alike cite Chromebooks as being easy to use. Documents are automatically saved every two minutes without pressing “Control S” or “File – Save,” and it puts students’ work all in one place. They’re also convenient because classes no longer have to travel to one of the two computer labs in the school. “When a student is finished writing a draft and ready to begin typing, they can go to the back of the room and take out a Chromebook and begin,” said teacher Kimberly Belkin. “Before we had Chromebooks, we had to schedule time in the computer lab but only could do that once every student in the class was ready to type. Now, it’s at the student’s pace and we don’t have to hold anyone back from going to the next step.”

Mr. Hallman has students begin to use Chromebooks in second grade in order to search for books. Although many parents and staff members grew up on the Dewey Decimal system and found their books by looking through a card catalog, students today find books using the online library catalog. After learning about the different sections in the school library and where each section is located, students then find their books by using the computer. “I still teach the Dewey Decimal System extensively, but now students also learn how to access different online databases to find books” said Mr. Hallman.

Students also conduct research using Chromebooks. Mr. Hallman regularly supports what teachers are doing in their classrooms by using Library time to have students access the Virtual Reference Collection, or “VRC.” The VRC is a collection of databases for elementary to high school levels. Unlike looking up information in an encyclopedia or another reference book, students now search for topics online and have a world of information at their fingertips. The sixth graders in Mrs. Turner’s and Ms. Belkin’s Social Studies class have started creating PowerPoint presentations about Ancient Greek gods and goddesses. “We start by having them research using the Chromebooks,” said Ms. Belkin. “Then, they’ll take this information and start putting together a presentation which they’ll share with the class at the end of the week.”

Collaboration between teachers and across different subject areas is also happening, thanks to Chromebooks. The eighth graders in Mrs. O'Reilly's English class have recently finished their literary essay unit. This unit was truly a cross-curricular experience, combining classic literature, science, social studies, and technology. “The students based their essays on the Jack London classic, "To Build a Fire,” said Mrs. O’Reilly. “In addition to examining the literary elements of the story, the students used Chromebooks to study topics like weather, frostbite, and topography, which linked to with Mrs. Seff's experience in Alaska.” The students also used the background information they had gathered in Ms. Farmer's Social Studies class about the Gold Rush and its implications on society. “The students completed an entirely paper-free unit,” added Mrs. O'Reilly. “They wrote and revised their essays on the Chromebook, plus I conferred with them via interaction through posted comments and email.”

Furthermore, with new Common Core Standards calling for students to take state tests on a computer in the upcoming years, Chromebooks are also a great way to practice typing and get used to using a keyboard. “In grades sixth through eighth, students type during every Library class and regularly use all the Google Drive tools.” Google Drive is where students can save their essays and other work, all which can be “shared” with teachers, cutting down on a lot of paperwork.

Teachers and staff are also benefitting from having Chromebooks accessible in their school. Mr. Hallman recently held a “Google Apps” training course which helped staff members get to know all that Chromebooks can do – including writing comments on students’ documents, accessing and creating calendars, and even creating interactive assessments that students can complete using their Chromebooks. At that training session, many teachers were overheard commenting “how much easier” Chromebooks make life!

Looking towards the future, school Treasurer Thomas Primiano commented at a recent board meeting that the school hopes to purchase more Chromebooks so that each classroom can have its own cart. Currently, one cart is shared per grade in grades 3-8 and there are about 30 laptops per cart. The first Chromebook cart was bought in 2012 for the library and it was paid for out of budget funds. Two sets of carts were purchased out of grant funds and the other carts were out of our budget funds. Each Chromebook cart costs approximately $1,300 and includes a warranty and one printer per cart.

Perhaps, the days are long gone when students drafted in their notebooks, wrote final essays on looseleaf, and teachers lugged home a bag filled with papers to grade. Now, that all can be accomplished on a Chromebook that weighs less than four pounds!