Monday, November 24, 2014

Creating and Collaborating with Chromebooks, by Katherine Hlousek, Librarian, Emiliano Zapata Academy

Zapata Academy students have been excited to use Chromebooks in the library this year! This additional technology has allowed students to take their research, hands-on learning, and technology skills further without the limitations of a slow device or a shortage of devices.

Students have made a smooth transition to using the Chromebooks. When Chromebook questions arise, for example how to save an image, students swiftly problem-solve and assist each other to find the solution. It has been wonderful to see students working together, taking ownership of the technology, and further developing their confidence with technology.

Google Apps for Education (GAFE) have been integrated into library instruction and used by students during the past three years at Zapata Academy. Since I am part of the CPS Google Classroom Pilot, students in grades five through eight are using Google Classroom, a new GAFE, in the library this year. Classroom has eliminated the students’ hectic, mad-dash to name and share Docs, Slides, or Forms at the end of class and has organized my Drive. Students have also been using Classroom to participate in virtual discussions via the Stream. I am looking forward to sharing how I am using Classroom in the library with fellow teachers at Zapata.

The fifth grade students have been the most enthusiastic about the Chromebooks since they just received access to their Google@CPS email accounts and are now ready to dive into all the Google apps. Currently fifth grade students are working in teams to research an environmental issue. This is a long-term project that involves gathering, analyzing, and synthesizing research information, writing a script, and ultimately creating a video using a green screen. During the course of this project students will “layer” or “smash” the work they created with various Google apps or iPad apps to then create the final video.

Fifth grade students are using the Chromebooks to conduct research using the Gale research databases and Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as various websites from the EPA. I used Classroom to share a Google Doc research graphic organizer with student teams. Students are able to use this Doc as a collaborative tool to share resources, ideas, and notes with each other. Once student teams have completed their research, students will collaboratively write a script for their informational video using a shared Doc. Students will use a shared Drive folder and Google Drawings to share and create visuals for the final video. Ultimately, students will use the Green Screen by Do Ink iPad app, a tabletop green screen, and additional props to record the informational video. Students are eager to layer their work and create the green screen video.

It has been rewarding to introduce students to an accessible technology device. The price of a Chromebook is appealing to my students and their families who would like to make an investment and bring technology into their homes. I continue to receive enthusiastic feedback from students about the Chromebooks in the library and I am looking forward to expanding my students’ technology toolbox of Chrome apps.

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