The benefits of a supportive community come in many forms…or bytes.
Thanks to Tempe voters approving a capital budget override in 2014, Tempe Elementary middle school students will begin a one-to-one computer initiative this fall.
The program will provide Chromebooks to all incoming sixth-grade students for the 2015-2016 school year and to each sixth grade class in subsequent years. This includes students at Connolly Middle School, Fees College Prep, Gililland Middle School, Laird School and Ward Traditional Academy. Tempe Academy of International Studies students have been using Chromebooks since the school opened in 2013.
Ten classrooms across the district have been piloting the program since January. Approximately 200 Chromebooks have been used to study subjects like math, science, social studies and English language arts. A special education class is also piloting the program.
When school starts in August, more than 1,200 Chromebooks will be used by students in every class throughout the day.
Teachers are thrilled about the learning opportunities the Chromebooks offer.
“I’ve noticed the Chromebooks have had a very positive impact in the classroom,” said Daron Gonzales, sixth grade teacher at Gililland Middle School. “The students are a lot more engaged; they are excited to use them every day. It’s something they are very familiar with so they aren’t afraid to use them.”
Preparation for the program has been ongoing and includes extensive teacher training. Every teacher that works with sixth graders has the opportunity to attend a half-day training on Chromebook features, including how to use Google Drive, Google Sheets, Google Calendar, presentation tools, add-ons and more. The training provides teachers the time to develop skills and increase confidence and competency before all students have the devices this fall.
“The Chromebooks are easy to use – and fast,” said Kori Platts, science teacher at Connolly Middle School. “The level of student motivation has increased task engagement and work completion. Even when students don’t know what to do or how to do it, they don’t give up. They are willing to figure it out. The ability to problem solve so easily has given them confidence.”
“Chromebooks have allowed my students and I to create a completely paperless classroom,” said Deanna Springer, English language learning teacher at Connolly Middle School. “We use many digital resources, including the online HRW textbook, Edmodo, Google, Wixie, as well as the NewsELA website. I am amazed at what my students are able to accomplish every day.”
Students will use their Google accounts to work together on assignments in all areas of the curriculum with tools offered through Google Apps for Education.
“One of the many benefits of using Chromebooks is collaboration,” said Michelle Polito, English language arts and science teacher at Laird School. “In writing, students can peer edit easily by sharing their work using Google Docs. I am able to see what feedback the students are giving each other. In science, students are able to work efficiently at the same time in the same slide presentation. They can assign each other different slides to work on and check their group members’ work. I can also have students share documents or slide presentations with me and I can see the history of the document. This allows me to track progress and make sure students are using their time effectively.”
Another aspect of the initiative includes extra support for teachers in the classroom.
Middle schools will have an Education Technology Integration Coach on site to provide guidance and technical assistance on Chromebook use. Coaches will guide the implementation of the program and support teachers in the development of integrating technology within their lessons, including modeling, providing on-site training, offering catalog classes and developing lesson plans.
The ultimate goal of this program is to equip students with 21st-century skills in order to be college and career ready.
“I am very excited about this opportunity,” said Jennifer Kaupke, educational technology instructional coach. “I feel the students and staff will be challenged and inspired with the thought of lessons and learning taking on a whole new dimension.”
Cindy Inman, educational technology professional development specialist, clearly sees this type of learning extending beyond the middle-school years.
“Higher-level thinking skills can be accomplished through Chromebook technology and students will be able to use these skills and benefit from them for the rest of their lives.”