Most of my recent professional conferences have been about the new standards, so I don’t have much of a sense of where we are at as a State when it comes to school-wide technology usage–it just hasn’t come up in my interactions with those from other districts and regions. And I have to admit that as much as I love technology, I know deep-down that my teaching is only as good as my understanding and application of the rigor and demands of my standards. This being said, I am so excited about my district’s decision to purchase and issue Chromebooks to all students in grades 7-12 this year.
Our demographics cause some to pause–with approximately 130 students, >95% free/reduced lunch, 86% Hispanic/Latino, 10% migrant, 16% transitional bilingual, we have unique opportunities and challenges. Most of our students live in an agricultural community 25 miles away, and while our families do not have many financial resources, they are gracious and supportive of our efforts. When our one secondary, grant-purchased laptop cart began to require daily visits from the district tech doctor, a few of us began to imagine a scenario where each student had their own device, one they could use at school and also take home to use with or without available wi-fi. Envisioning led to advocating which led to purchasing, and here we are!
Getting It Up-and-Going
Over the summer, we developed a one-to-one technology policy and orientation website as well as a checkout process. This allowed us to begin the 2016-2017 school year ready-to-go with the new technology from a systems standpoint. Many of our stakeholders, including teachers and students, were still new to the technology so we organized orientation activities. Parents were informed and given an overview at our back-to-school night, teachers began their exploration during one of our back-to-school work days, and in the first week of school students completed activities in their English classes. While there are small changes I would make if I were to do this again, it mostly went as planned and was just fine. We are up-and-going!
From Novelty to Routine
For students, the change has been pretty easy. They report that they mostly know the rules and that they know how to use the technology. Ninety-three percent say they like the technology, and 69% are using it at home. Specifically, they appreciate that the Chromebooks are fast, have a long battery life, and save automatically. They say they like the tools and options and can do their homework and classwork more efficiently and completely. One area of discontent involves chargers–we did not check them out to students because we were afraid they would be lost. We keep chargers zip-tied and plugged into power strips in carts spread throughout the school so that students can plug-in when they return to school in the morning or as needed during the day. Students report that they need chargers at home and staff report that some students do not have charged Chromebooks when needed. We are still working to solve this problem, but we are leaning toward purchasing extra chargers to be checked out and/or purchased by students.
For staff, the change has been easy for some and more difficult for others. Staff who were already using technology (that old laptop cart) are more excited about the new technology. They are our innovators and cheerleaders. Other staff, even after receiving some training and resources, have yet to understand the relevance for their content areas. At this time, students regularly use the technology in about ½ of their classes. A few staff members feel frustrated with some students’ misuse of the technology, especially including off-task behaviors and unpreparedness. We are in the process of honing and redefining our expectations, how to reteach the expectations, and when to decide enough is enough and to discipline students who consistently break the rules. This is the tough work, and your ideas and perspectives are welcome!
Other CORElborateWA blogs have been useful resources as I have navigated this change. I am a huge fan of Google Applications for Education. From Johanna, I learned more about how to use Google Forms; from Brendan, about Canva, Piktochart, and more.
What are you doing with technology in your district/school/classroom? What recommendations do you have for my colleagues and me? What applications/extensions/tools do you recommend?
Feature Image: Crater Lake by Andy Spearing via Flickr