Going GoogleWith a Tier 2 classroom-based technology loan of 15 Chromebooks from SET-BC this year, Shelley Putman is “Going Google” in her grade 5 classroom at Mountain Elementary in SD #34 (Abbotsford). With assistance from one of the district’s technology helping teacher, Bryon Carpenter, Shelley is embracing Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and has been incorporating it into her teaching on a daily basis. GAFE is a core suite of productivity applications that the popular search engine company (Google) offers to schools and educational institutions for free. Using only a Google Chrome web browser, the apps and services that are offered in GAFE include Classroom, Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites and Hangouts. As the teacher, Shelley sets up her assignments in her Google classroom and the students log in it to retrieve their assignment or instructions, complete their work and electronically submit it back to the teacher for assessment and evaluation – all without printing off a single piece of paper! Students can also collaborate on Google Docs and Slides in real time.

The district team has played a significant role in setting up GAFE for this school and other schools in the district. Using their own domain, @learn34.com, students log in to the Google Classroom on any available device (laptop, Chromebook or ipad) at anytime and anywhere (even from home). If a student is away from school, he or she can log into the classroom and see what the assignment was for that day rather than waiting for their return to school to get the actual handout.

Student using google appsTo meet the diverse learning needs of the classroom, students were introduced to free extensions like Readability, Bee Line Reader, Announcify, Speak It, Google Dictionary and Dictation. Extensions are small software programs or add-ons that enhances the functionality of Chrome web browsers. For students who need assistance in reading, Announcify and Speak It will read what is on the web page. For students who want to clear the ads on a web page, Readability will reduce the web page’s clutter and Google Dictionary will define a word as soon as you highlight it. With extensions located directly on the web browser, accessing these features is quick and easy for students who need that extra support.

Chromebooks are becoming increasingly popular in classrooms where teachers are fully utilizing this type of Learning Management System. Chromebooks are essentially laptops running Chrome OS as its operating system. Since Shelley was fully embracing GAFE and didn’t need other traditional educational software to meet the needs of her students, Chromebooks were the best option for this Tier 2 Classroom Based Solution. According to one student, Nashay, Chromebooks are great because “I am a slow writer so it’s easier for me to type and it’s easy to research.”

using google appsOn a recent visit to Shelley’s Grade 5 class, the students were using the Chromebooks to answer a Google Forms Survey on technology use. The survey automatically converted their responses into different types of charts and diagrams that could be displayed to the class. The survey results then sparked an engaging discussion on how technology influences their lives both in and out of the classroom.

Overall, Shelley has been tremendously pleased with the ease of use and access that Chromebooks and GAFE offer her students and how much they have embraced the technology. One of her students, Sofia, reports that, “The best part about having Chromebooks is that you can work in partners, you get feedback on math right away if you did a question wrong and it is more fun!” Another student, Matthew, agrees, exclaiming that technology “is more fun than on a piece of paper!”

Bryon has created a video capturing student and teacher thoughts on how GAFE is being used in the class and around the school district. This video was shared at the recent Shared Learning Conference in February. You can check it out here: http://bit.ly/1T4SoXP

Thanks to Shelley and her Grade 5 students for sharing part of their GAFE journey this year!

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