• June 26, 2017

two students working on their laptopsRyan Nast, a grade six teacher and Laura MacLellan, a Learning Resource teacher at Colquitz Middle School are pleased to share the results of their experience with a Classroom-based Solution (CBS) this year. Merrill Gray, a Tier 2 provincial teacher at SET-BC, supported them on their excellent Chromebook adventure.

Ryan and Laura describe their experience with Chromebooks, G Suite tools and Read and Write for Google Chrome/Kurzweil, share the project survey responses from students and reflect on their students’ learning.

They began their year by asking inquiry questions: Is technology good for students? Does technology help student learning? If yes, how does technology help? Which GAFE Apps work best for students? These were their main objectives:

  1. Students complete Hatchet novel study assignments using Chromebooks and GAFE accounts, from their desks in the classroom.
  2. Students assess their use of the Chromebooks and GAFE Accounts, and reflect on their usefulness.
  3. Students try out applications in GAFE, such as Text Reader, Speech to Text, Word Prediction, Auto-correct, etc.
  4. Teachers assign and assess student assignments using Google Classroom and G-Suite Apps.
  5. Convert the classroom into a mobile computer lab.

students working on laptops in classroomBefore students started using the tools and Chromebooks, Ryan read the first part of the novel to his class, stopping to emphasize key points and reflecting on what they read during class discussion. Students were able to answer questions using paper and pencil.

In the second part of the novel study, the students used Chromebooks, headsets and tools such as text-to-speech tools in Kurzweil 3000 and Read and Write for Google Chrome tools such as text-to-speech and speech-to-text. The students did a pre-unit survey about the technology, learned how to login to the Chromebook, install Read and Write, and join their Google Classroom. They read the book in partners using Google Read and Write and/or Kurzweil 3000. They answered comprehension questions with Google Docs using the word prediction feature in Read and Write. They participated in group web-based discussions in Google Classroom (reading, thinking, and responding) by creating a question for others to answer, (e.g. make a prediction/connection… make an ongoing list of things to do during the unit in the “topics” section). Students did a self-reflection/self-assessment survey upon completion of unit.

Ryan and Laura chose the following Assessment Strategies: Comparative and Self-Assessment

  1. Grade 5 Final Language Arts mark
  2. First half of Hatchet Unit Marks (done without Chromebooks)
  3. Student self-report/reflection (around using tech/engagement)
  4. Teacher report/reflection

two students on their laptops in the classroomThe overall positive results were: (described by Ryan and Laura in their extensive report)

  • Students are keen to use their own Chromebook; engaged with all activities
  • Students tend to be focussed during reading and during assignment work
  • Students actually using the reading software to reread the text when looking for information for the assignment
  • Students enjoy seeing survey results in Google Forms
  • Easy to write student comments on assignments by typing
  • Easy to track student assignments in the digital classroom
  • Can easily see which assignments are not handed in
  • Easy for students to submit work and manage assignments (no paper to be filed or lost)
  • Easy to return to the same document and continue to edit/work seamless

Some of the hurdles in using technology were:

  • Unforeseen problems/glitches with technology
  • Some Chromebooks were glitchy (screen turning off and on repeatedly – perhaps we did not know what this is indicating)
  • Needing to charge the devices constantly, although once a system is in place this is not an issue
  • No discussion of the book while reading; kids go into a “bubble” once headsets are on.
  • Students have reading software set to differing paces, meaning some students finish ahead of others
  • Hard to proofread on Google Docs – time consuming
  • Student’s correct use of writing conventions/grammar appears to have diminished on the digital/doc platform; do they expect the computer to do this for them?
  • Kids don’t have a copy of the assignment instructions for work not done on the computer, yet part of the assignment; this must be accounted for by teacher, and can be addressed through preparation
  • Lesson on Internet etiquette was required at outset of using Google Classroom; turning off comment features was an easy fix

students with their laptops in the classroomRyan commented in his summary that ‘giving students the option of tools to use in their learning is important. For example, in our project we learned that almost all the students like using word processing software for completing their written assignments, but very few liked using the speech-to-text software – although a few did. Teaching kids about their options, and then being flexible on usage makes sense.’

Laura commented that ‘the assistive tools offered by Read and Write make adaptations seamless and invisible when using Google Suite and also it requires teachers and students to be familiar with only one program instead of multiple programs (separate text reader and voice typing programs) that often needs to be loaded onto individual computers and not accessed as freely.’

On reflection of the G-Suite Apps, Ryan also acknowledged that ‘Google Classroom was a big hit for both teachers and students. The ease of assigning, distributing, collecting and managing assignments was a breeze. It was so easy to see whose assignment was outstanding. Google Docs was instrumental. Google Slides has become a natural student choice because it is so similar to PowerPoint, which they all have practice using. Google Forms was also popular because it is easy to construct surveys and results are instantaneously calculated and visual.’

To summarize the results of his project Ryan noted that ‘student enthusiasm for learning activities was observably elevated when using the Chromebooks. This Language Arts Chromebook Project, in conjunction with SET-BC and the SD61 Learning Team, has shown us the value of Chromebooks when used for learning in the classroom.’

Ryan and Laura share the results of the student survey questions and reflection on Inquiry questions here:

Pre Project Student Survey (26 Grade 6 Students)

1. Do you like computers? (Rate on a scale of 1 to 5)
1 – 0 %
2 – 4 %
3 – 13 %
4 – 39%
5 – 44%

2. Do you use computers and internet devices often? (Rate on a scale of 1 to 5)
1 – 0 %
2 – 0 %
3 – 30 %
4 – 30 %
5 – 39 %

3. What do you use computers for the most? (students wrote individual responses)
Most answers included video games and watching videos. Some mentioned looking up information and talking to friends.

4. Do you think of the computers as a device for learning?
Yes all the time – 30%
No, never – 0%
Only at school – 22%
Only when I am looking for information or typing up a project – 48%

5. What are the benefits to using computers in the classroom? (students provided individual responses)
Student responses were quite varied, however, a common theme was that they make work easier in some way, or make schoolwork more enjoyable.

6. Are there any downsides to computers in the classroom? (students provided individual responses)
Some students indicated that they did not like that they were only supposed to use the device for school work, and that it was often hard for them or their classmates to stay on task. Other students mentioned it would be a difficult if other students were rude or mean online.

7. If you had the option, would you use more technology in the classroom?
Yes – 52%
No – 4%
Only if other students are using it – 13%
Only for certain subjects – 31%

8. What device do you use most of the time to access the Internet?
Home computer – 31%
School Computer – 0%
Game Console – 13%
Phone – 35%
ipad/tablet – 22%

9. Have you ever used a Google Chromebook?
Yes – 35%
No – 65%

10. Have you ever used GAFE (Google Apps for Education)?
Yes – 50%
No – 50%

11. Have you ever used a reading program on the computer to help you read?
Yes – 30%
No – 70%

12. Have you ever used a speech program on the computer to write all of your words for you?
Yes – 25%
No – 75%

13. Have you ever used a word prediction app to help you choose words while you write?
Yes – 35%
No – 65%