Category Archives: Chromebooks

Chromebook Roll-Out

 

Last week the students at Impact Academy were introduced to their Chromebooks.

The teacher put together a little prezi that ensured students were using them safely and that the routines for starting and ending class were crystal clear.

 

It is Friday

The time is 1:30 pm

The location is hot and sunny Hayward

I hear the soft beep that accompanies a gchat. It is Denise (algebra I teacher)

Imagine my surprise when I read the below message.

Apparently each block spent the day:

 

1. logging in to Chromebook,

2. getting on Khan Academy,

3. setting up their profile with their Algebra I teacher as their coach, and

4. Participating in a little friendly competition.

 

The Challenge:

Which block can get the most energy point!!! Nothing like a little competition between blocks to get students excited. Needless to say, I am excited that the students are happily working away on math problems late on a Friday afternoon, and this makes me hopeful for the success of our blended learning project.

 

 

 

 

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Kick off for 2012-2013 school year

The new school year is officially underway and, despite a delayed start, the Blended Learning programs and my coaching schedule is up and running. I spent the first two weeks of school helping our tech department get our Chromebook carts ready and in classrooms. Due to an overwhelming number of orders (note to self, order Chromebooks in February if possible) our order arrived on the first day of school. To make matters even more complicated they all arrived at our Support Office in Oakland in giant piles.

photo taken with photosynth

So I sifted through them all and organized them into piles for each site, arranged for their transportation, unpacked boxes, charged them, turned them on, enrolled them into our domain, tagged them, inventoried them, carted them etc… All this set up is nothing in comparison to that of a macbook cart, for example, but it is still a significant number of days work.

Envision School is embarking on two new ventures this year. We are expanding the use of Chromebooks in Algebra I classes to all four sites.

Metropolitan Arts and Technology High School – known as Metro, in San Francisco

City Arts and Technology High School – known as CAT, in San Francisco

Impact Academy – known as IA, in Hayward

Envision Academy – known as EA, in Oakland

We are using a Flexlab model at two of our schools (Metro and CAT) for language classes, credit recovery, and extension classes. We are also continuing to work with our highest need students individually to provide blended learning opportunities through integrating technology with the general education curriculum. My role as Blended Learning Coach is to support the teachers in implementing these programs, continue to monitor the effectiveness of the each program and, of course, write about it.

Our efforts are unified in that we are focused on individualized and differentiated pathways to success within the structure of A-G requirements and standards aligned courses. We strongly believe that all students will experiences success when given appropriate opportunities and tools. An important part of this equation is using technology as both a tool and thus an opportunity to access individualized and differentiated learning experiences. I look forward to sharing these experiences with you over the coming school year as I write about what is working and what is difficult. I always welcome suggestions, comments and feedback as I learn from active engagement with my audience.

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A day in the life

Since the beginning of the school year Envision Academy has been piloting the use of Chromebooks in the classroom. We decided that we wanted all of the incoming 9th graders to have access to Chromebooks in every class. We wanted to instill a stong academic identity and sense of scholarship to start off their high school experience with a unique and transformative experience. As a result of these conditions we have noticed a couple of interesting things.

Firstly, the students have become fluent in accessing their emails, google docs, google sites, etc. They remember their passwords and use them both inside and outside of school hours. This is a big change from how other 9th graders perform who do not have access to these resources in all of their classes.

Secondly, the teacher’s practices, routines, and curriculum have changed to incorporate and integrate the technology in ways that support more diverse learning.

Following is a day in the life of a typical 9th grade student

1st Period – Math

I always use my Chromebook in math class. My teacher usually starts off the lesson with a warm up that is on the board, then she will teach a short lesson. This lesson usually relates to the Unit we are learning and could be one of the skills I am working on in class. Then we open our Khan Academy accounts and get to work. We each have a plan of the modules we need to complete and we work on this in small groups. I can get help from the people sitting at my table, or ask my teacher to check over my work. My teacher spends time with each table throughout the class and teaches us something that will help us understand the lessons on Khan Academy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Break

2nd Period – Academic Literacy

This class is fun because we are using our Chromebooks to work on our websites. We had to interview family members and turn these into narratives. Our teacher also has us do lots of research on the Internet, we have learned how to evaluate sources to make sure that they are reliable. Also my teacher often has me take short quizzes on Google forms. I think he likes to see if I have learned the lesson or not because sometimes he will reteach something that I was a little confused about.

3rd Period – Digital Literacy

This is the one class inwhich I rarely use a Chromebook because I am in the lab, here we work on imacs. This class is fun because I learn how to use all the programs on the computer like imovie, Keynote, and Photoshop. I also often have to work on projects that relate to what is happening in my other classes. For example, we learned how to make a good website so that our website in Academic Literacy were well designed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch

4th Period – Science

In my science class we built small gravity powered cars and used Google templates to open a spreadsheet to record our data and calculate the velocity or acceleration of our cars. This was a fun project because we got to incorporate many different skills. Our teacher also had us use the Chromebooks to create small visuals that compare and contrast different Physics concepts; for example the difference between elastic and inelastic collisions or showing different forms of heat transfer.

Also my teacher always gives us our Science quizzes on the Chromebooks.

5th Period – Language Arts

It is finally my last class of the day. My teacher has had us writing essay using Google docs, but luckily that is over for now. We will be watching short clips on Youtube that relate to the book we are reading. Then our teacher wants us to create a presentation using Google presentations or Prezi that shows the main themes of the book and specific pieces of evidence from the story that show the themes. This should be a good break from essay writing, but we still have to write our blogs of course.

Exhibition Post Script

On Thursday evening last week, Envision Academy was a whirl of excitement and nerves as the community gathered to participate in a demonstration of learning. For the last 5 weeks, the 9th grade students have embarked on an exploration of themselves as teachers and learners. The essential questions: What teaching strategies and methods best support my understanding of algebraic concepts? driving their inquiry

As parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends filled the seats, our students prepared their lessons, and assessments. The students began by sharing what self-knowledge about their learning style and their educational biography informed their instructional choices and as a result their teaching artifact. They then shared their video tutorials with the audience. Lastly, they gave short assessments and provided face-to-face support and scaffolding as the audience completed the quizzes.

It was interesting to see the students truly embody their inner educator as they assisted the audience members. Many parents struggled to remember, or had never learned, the algebra and geometry concepts that the students were teaching. It was exciting to see how students provided assistance to the important people in their lives who were there to support them, and to strangers alike. This made me feel that they took the job seriously and felt responsible for ensuring that their lesson was successful.

Some students even went off script and provided extra instruction while classmates translated the presentation into Spanish. This video captures a couple of these magic moments.

In the post exhibition reflection overwhelmingly students reported that they were thoughtful about their learning style while creating their videos. In response to the question “When you were making your video did you think about ways to make your video for someone who learns like you?” 68% of the students responded positively.

We also asked the students consider the “strategies that you saw your classmates use that you think worked really well?” This elicited some very interesting responses including the below:

“Because I am also a kinesthetic learner, which means hands on learning, and I felt that it worked because different people are different things (meaning different types of learners). For example, my mom is a kinesthetic learner because she mostly understood my friend who had a different teaching method and another lady was a visual learner because she learned best with my method of teaching (visual).

To examine the students lessons in more detail check out: upsidedownacademy.org

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Envision Participates in Digital Learning

As part of a national project in Digital Learning, Envision is rolling out the Spring Exhibition project that focuses on inquiry in teaching and learning within a digital environment. In efforts to innovate within the current educational structure, teachers around the nation are committing to thinking critically about teaching and learning, with a dedication to finding deliberate and relevant ways to integrate new media tools.

Our path towards understanding how to design meaningful and useful changes to classroom practices began with the introduction of the Chromebook. Some specifics about implementation are discussed in this article, which addresses many of the issues and successes found working with the Chromebooks in the classroom. Just to highlight some of the expereinces that are common between the authors experience and ours are:

  •  Students quickly adjust to working in the cloud, they appreciate being able to have constant and almost immediate access to their work.
  • The ease of set-up, security, monitoring, ‘back end’ type stuff is by and large appreciated by all.
  • Lack of Java is problematic.

The Chromebook has allowed us to envision a new way of engaging our students. We have been prototyping different ways to structure our Algebra I class. The foundation for our design is a model for blended learning. We have developed classroom practices in which students are working individually on modules in Khan Academy. We have reduced direct instruction and emphasized small group instruction to allow students to move more independently through the curriculum thus enabling the teacher to provide more targeted instruction.

The students have adjusted to these methods and I spent some time with them in class today. While sitting at one of the small tables, trying to muster all the knowledge I once had about Algebra in order to offer assistance, some salient points came out in conversation.

  1. Students get frustrated when Khan Academy takes away their streak because they got one wrong answer.

I had a chance to talk to three students about this issue. Two of the students spoke about it as though it happened to others in the class more than it happened to them. They both expressed that in the beginning, when working on concepts that were more familiar, they had used this feature as an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. However, now that they were progressing to more complicated math, they found that they were frustrated that they were not getting feedback. The third student I spoke with simply indicated that it annoyed him and the when he did his work on paper, he could go back and fix his answers.

I asked all three students why they thought Khan Academy was designed in this way? If they were creating this platform what would be a reason to make it so that you had to go back to the beginning? Only one student was able to articulate a hypothesis that extended beyond their own experience. This student proposed that it could be a way to make sure students really know the math.

I was struck by how deeply this frustration impacts the students, even the high performers. It seems to me that there are many ways to address this: some of the student suggestions include,

  • Only take away part of the streak
  • Have the student show their process and identify inaccuracy
  • Give one wrong answer free
  • Have them do 10, identify wrong answers, reassign problems
  1. Students struggle to learn or feel confident getting answers to their questions from the video tutorials.

The students are more likely to ask a peer or stand in line to ask the teacher. In an effort to avoid ruining their streak, they will get the next 10 problems, solve them on paper, ask for answers to be corrected, then input them into Khan Academy. This creates a backlog of students who need work checked, so much so that the teacher struggles to deliver small group instruction. It seems there are two ways to address this.

  • Build confidence in learning independently, asking peers for help first, checking ones work
  • Creating our own video sources

The first of these is a longer process that will take years and a village. The second of these is the focus of our Exhibition project.

The Upside Down Exhibition Roll-out

In today’s classes students got the first glimpse of the project overview. They learned about the Essential Questions, the process, the major benchmarks, and the final product. I sat in class and was able to capture their responses:

Two students talked to each other about how cool it is going to be to test their audience members after teaching, especially if it is their parents. One student asked if it is going to be hard. One student asked if she was going to be able to choose the concept she will be teaching. Another student asked if they would be working in a group or working independently.

In general there is a sense of excitement and anticipation.

Stay tuned for more details on how students progress through the learning trajectory.

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