Bringing Technology to all students in Grades 5 – 8

Collaboration
Photo: Students collaborating.

All children need to be familiar with computers and have equal access to computers and the Internet.

To make that a reality for students in the Superior North Catholic District School Board, we bought Google Chromebooks so that all our students in grades 3 - 8 had access to technology, to Google software applications known as Google Apps, to the Internet, and to each other through collaboration and communication skills we teach.

We are using Galaxy Samsung tablets in Grades K-2 (1 device per 3 students). We have Chromebooks (1:1 ratio) in Grades 3-8.

What is a Chromebook?

Chromebooks are lightweight laptops that run on a Google Chrome Operating System. They look like regular laptops, but unlike regular laptops, they run completely on the Internet.

Why Purchase Chromebooks Instead of Regular Laptops?

We decided to use Google Apps for Education which provides our students with their own school Google accounts. Google accounts grants students access to cloud-based apps applications (Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Forms,  etc.). These apps are the tools our students are using to further their learning.

Google Apps for Education Summit, photo of large group of people in Holy Angels' gym
Photo: Google Apps for Education Summit 2016.

Since these Google Apps operate online, our board does not need to purchase, download, install and maintain expensive software. Cloud-based software means that each time our students access a Google application, they are using the most up-to-date software. 

The students are learning how to use the Chromebooks and the Google apps regularly but we also have our annual Google Summit events. Students are encouraged to teach fellow students, and even share their new knowledge with teachers.

It's important that students become life-long learners. One way we show kids that life-long learning is an essential skill for the 21st century is for them to see the teachers, principals, and school board staff, continue to study and learn. This is one of the reasons that led to the first annual Google Student Summit. Not only did the Summit provide a learning experience for our students but also for all our staff. Students had the opportunity to host presentations and become the teachers. Other students learned that they can teach themselves skills that they were keen to learn. 

Working together is another essential skill for everyone in this modern economy. Google Apps for Education allowed us to focus on teaching collaboration and communication to our students, as well as, computer skills.

Students in Holy Angels' gym for Google Summit 2016
Photo: Students at Google Summit 2016.

We use tools like the Chromebooks, the Google apps, and the Internet to enhance all collaboration and communication skills. The apps allow students to collaborate and communicate with other students and their teachers, as well as, see assignments and slides associated with their classroom learning.

Even though some of our main goals were to teach technology, communication, and collaboration skills, we were delighted to see shy students who mostly kept to themselves start engaging with classmates and teachers. The children were talking more, asking questions, sharing their learning experiences, and in showed great enthusiasm in their newly acquired skills. 

Students also used the computers and the Internet to build on their skills through studying on their own. Many students took the opportunity to teach other students what they learned during Google Summits. We are proud of the community the students and teachers are creating together in our schools.

In 2016, Holy Angels' School hosted the 3rd Annual Google Summit, which involved students, parents, community members, teachers, and Catholic Education Centre staff.

Student Accomplishments

In the Google Summits, students have been able to showcase their projects or to teach other student groups how to use Google Apps. This year, some students showcased the Ojibwe keyboard they created.

Students have also been able to take the role of educators through the summits when they share knowledge with fellow students. Chromebooks have made it easier for students to collaborate, work productively and solve problems creatively which are critical skills needed for future success.

How it Began

Google Summit 2016 at Holy Angels'. Kim, Kate, and Kerry in the photo.
Photo: Teachers, Mrs. Figliomeni, Mrs. Di Biago, and Mrs. Desjardins

A few years ago, we became a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) board. In November 2015, we purchased Chromebooks for grade 5-8 students and set up school Google accounts for students offering them access to apps such as Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Forms, Google Classroom, Google Draw, etc. to help students further their learning.

The combination of Chromebooks and Google Apps encourages students to collaborate and communicate as a team while allowing teachers to share useful resources as well as best practices.

According to Katie Di Biagio, a teacher and the first Technology-Enabled Learning and Teaching Contact for the SNCDSB, ''what the school board is trying to push for with Google Apps for Education is better collaboration and communication. The apps have been specially designed to allow students to share things among themselves as well as with their teachers.''

Besides using Chromebooks and Google Apps, we had a vision, inspired by Katie Di Biagio, to host the first ever Student Summit featuring Google to expose students to world-class tech educators.

The first summit was held in October 2014, making our community the first school board to host students (instead of teachers) to learn about Google Apps and then spread this knowledge to other students. The summit featured ten students from each of the nine schools. The students visited Holy Angels' School to learn about Google Apps.

Benefits

student presentation at Google Summit 2016
Photo: Student presentation of Google Summit 2016.

The benefits of technology-enabled learning and teaching are many.

They include but aren’t limited to the following:

1. Increased student engagement

Students love technology. Technology-enabled learning increases student engagement, especially with some children who weren't engaged with traditional methods. It's another way to engage children in learning.

With specialized learning devices like Chromebooks and resources like Google Apps, teachers are assured of constructive use of technology in classrooms. Tech-enabled learning and teaching is a great way of harnessing the enthusiasm students have for technology.

Educators have something students are already interested in, as well as, the ability to solely use it for learning and teaching. Teachers can use animations, diagrams, and videos, all of which students seem to enjoy. All of these factors make it easier for students to engage themselves in learning.

2. Increased collaboration

students having fun and dressing up at Google Summit 2016
Photo: Students having fun at the Google Summit 2016.

Google Apps for Education boosts collaboration within and beyond the classroom. The apps make it possible for students to collaborate in large numbers across all grades without having to meet in person. This is helpful since the schools in our school board span hundreds of miles. Students have even enjoyed teleconferences with our director, Alexa McKinnon.

The apps are convenient tools for allowing students to make their own contributions, work productively and solve problems more creatively. These are vital lessons students need to learn early to succeed in life.

When students are able to work independently, as well as collaboratively, they become better equipped for success in the workforce.

3. Custom learning

Technology-enabled learning and teaching also make it possible for students to learn at their own pace, in their own way. With Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education, students can customize their learning. Students have the ability to work on different assignments as teachers offer one-on-one guidance.

For example, one group of students in a class can work on a reading assignment while the second group responds to questions and the third group engages in guided reading (with their teacher). Tools like Google Classroom allow students to submit their assignments individually and receive direct feedback from the teacher. Chromebooks also give students the liberty to learn from the environments they love the most.

4. Increased parental involvement

adults having fun and dressing up at Google Summit 2016
Photo: Big "kids" having fun at the Google Summit 2016.

Technology enabled learning and teaching have also made it possible for parents to be easily involved in their children’s’ educational experiences.

For instance, Google Apps for Education gives parents access to their children’s progress on assignments because students can access school work from anywhere, including their home. The apps also allow educators to share valuable information on student progress with parents.

A teacher can take a video of a student in class working on an assignment and upload it to Google Drive for the student’s parent to see. This helps the parent see firsthand where their child needs help which makes a parent better placed to find ways of helping their child work on the assignment at home because they can reference the video.

There are many other reasons to embrace technology-enabled learning and teaching in and out of classrooms today. The most notable reasons are discussed above.

Student and Teacher Voices

Here from our students and teachers sharing their thoughts about Google Summit.

Superior North Google Summit 2.0 Featuring Google for Education

Time: 4 minutes 29 seconds

Students spent the day learning about Google Apps at our 2nd annual summit.

Video Transcript for Superior North Google Summit 2.0 Featuring Google for Education.

Initiative Contact: Jody Weller