When the I first used Chromebooks…

What I love about being a second year teacher is that I have lessons and units from the previous year. While I wish I could simply use everything exactly as I did last year, I’m constantly reflecting, rebuilding, restructuring, or simply redoing all of my materials. Recently, I came across my very first lesson where I utilized the Chromebooks and I was surprised about how much I have learned about technology in the classroom in the last year.

The lesson was a Harlem Renaissance Webquest, where students went to various websites to answer questions about different aspects of the movement. I was so excited to use the Chromebooks and present the material in a fun and interesting way, but naturally there were some major bumps along the way:

  • My first mistake was assuming students would remember their login information for their Google accounts. For many of my students, it was their first time signing in so they quickly forgot the passwords that they created and within a day half of them had forgotten their passwords. I tried to remedy the situation by creating a “dummy” email account that they could log into until the tech guy could reset their passwords.

  • For the assignment itself I chose to use a Google Form to have students enter in and then turn in their answers. It was an awesome idea until the lesson went over a day and I realized that you can't save your progress on a Google form. Students then had at least two sets of answers turned in and many forgot where they left off from the day before. On top of that some students made the mistake of back spacing while on the form, which then made them lose all their answers and start over. Also grading their responses was frustrating because lengthy answers made the spreadsheet difficult to view.

  • The next major problem was engagement. Most students were working but almost everyone was on a different page for various reasons. Some complained about the keyboards, or the mousepads, or how much reading there wa while other students helped each other. Many of the complainers give up out of frustration and just put filled in answers or got them from a neighbor.

  • Once they turned in all their work I realized I didn't know a good way to get them their answers so that they could study. At this point the Chromebooks were being shared by myself and three other people and it was submitted as a form and I had no way to share individual answers with individual students. In the end, I printed out a collection of answers to the questions and then made copies for everyone.

Despite these problems, I felt accomplished for not only using technology but being flexible enough to adapt to it as situations arose. I was excited for the next time I could use the Chromebooks in class.

Now its over a year later and my students just completed their Harlem Renaissance Webquest:

  • Having just received my own chromebook cart (yay!) my students are familiar with our daily routines of using the Chromebooks so login problems aren't an issue. Just in case,I have students write down their passwords and email addresses on index cards on the first day of school. Don’t want a repeat of last year.

  • I learned my lesson about Google Forms and decided to have students complete the WebQuest in their groups of four as a shared Google Doc. This not only solved the saving or backspace issues, but also the engagement problems. Since each student had designated parts, they were responsible for their work and held accountable by their group members. I worried though that they may not learn the material since they did not look up all the information so I had them review as a class using Pear Deck. I also went through and improved the questions, eliminated unnecessary ones, or made up new ones to prevent student fatigue and frustration.

  • For the turn in issue, I had students copy and paste their final product onto their checklist so they can still have access to their groups answers. That also simplified the grading issue since the answers were nicely formated onto a Google Document with answers highlighted.

While there was clearly a lot of growth within that year, I still have things to improve upon for next year. For example, I don't seem to big get a lot of passion or discussion from the students about the Harlem Renaissance. They usually only ask for help when they can't find the answer so I'm not sure they're getting excited about the topic. Maybe I should move beyond a WebQuest and have them create something...maybe a video....

Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised about how much I have grown in the last year with the integration of technology. For me, using technology for the first time was intimidating, especially with the threat of unforeseen problems. In my experiences in the last year, I have found that if you’re going to integrate technology you have to be flexible and ready for the unexpected. You may be embarrassed at first, but you will learn from it and your students will appreciate seeing you be “human” make mistakes.

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