Saturday, January 25, 2014

When Students Get Chromebooks

This fall, every middle school student in the school system I work for is going to receive a Chromebook. As a middle school administrator, I've been spending a fair amount of time researching Chromebooks in education, and even created a Pinterest board dedicated to the subject to share with colleagues. In my research, two major themes related to Chromebooks in education have surfaced:

  • Implementing a Chromebook program within a school or school division
  • Ideas on how to teach with Chromebooks
Ironically, there are very few sites dedicated to getting started with Chromebooks once they end up in the hands of the students. I am a firm believer that well-developed and implemented procedures and routines are one of the key components to a successfully run class. Effective teachers have procedures for practically everything: For handing out and collecting work, for whole-class and small group instruction, for keeping notebooks organized, for transitions...I could go on, but if you've been in a classroom, you probably get the idea. When students get these Chromebooks, they are going to potentially become their backpacks, lockers, textbooks, notebooks and libraries all rolled into one. 

 Picture From -
The interesting thing about the Chromebook versus the laptop is that all student work is stored in the cloud using Google Drive. I can still imagine students losing their homework, classwork or projects within their Google Drive if they haven't been properly instructed on setting up folders for each class, with homework, classwork, and project subfolders set up within the class folders. I can also imagine them getting off task while surfing the web if teachers aren't frequently checking in on students. It's my belief that there will need to be an established set of schoolwide procedures and routines in order for teachers and students to be successful with the Chromebooks. That being said, there will still be a group of students who will require some extra supervision. 

The teachers who are going shine brightest through this initiative are the ones who  realize there will be a need to rethink their teaching practices right down to the very procedures and routines they may have been using for many years. This is going to be a MAJOR culture shift. As school leaders, we can facilitate this process by doing the following: 
  • "Walking the Talk" - We need to make these apps part of our everyday lives if we are expecting our teachers and students to do the same,
  • Conversing with teachers regarding their apprehensions over an initiative so large,
  • Providing short professional development mini-lessons to ease these apprehensions during faculty and PLC meetings; and enrichment sessions after school for those teachers who want to take the program a step further, 
  • Asking teachers for their assistance in developing some general school-wide procedures and routines to help them get started,
  • And carve out time during the instructional day for students to successfully set up their Chromebooks
    • I understand I may get some pushback here, but taking some time at the beginning of the year to get everyone on the right page to begin with will make things go a lot more smoothly later on. 
While I anticipate some people getting frustrated and discouraged along the way, I also anticipate some wonderful success stories as well. Lending a sympathetic ear to those who become frustrated will be necessary. However, It will be equally important to celebrate successes, to provide opportunities for teachers and students to share what they have learned, and to keep student success at the forefront of everything we are doing. 

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