Weighing in on Google and Chrome books

May 21, 2017 at 7:47 AM Leave a comment

So what IS the effect of the new Chrome books we’ve acquired this school year? In contrast to iPads we had last year and to the occasional use of computer labs before that?  Lots of people weighing in after the New York Times published “How Google Took Over the Classroom” with letters to the editor.

I’m going on record with an “A” for Google, for it’s ease of sharing, organizing and commenting on student work with it’s Google Classroom app and the seamless way the Chrome books work with this app after struggling with iPads to access it.

In some senses, it makes my job easier, but not in a feet-on-the-desk, ‘get on with it kids’ kind of way. It makes it easier to give specific comments that students can use to revise their work. It allows me to quickly see that they did with the ‘resolve’ button.

It means that my space-y students don’t lose their work and it’s automatically handed in. So I actually get something to comment on from all students. Getting a 0 for no work in is yes, a natural consequence of a student’s choice but the effect is to harden their anti-school attitude. Getting something in, even if it’s just a little bit, gives a starting place to see what they can do (and for them to see that too) and build on it.

Accountability within working groups of students is improved: I can monitor the ‘history’ of who did what when. It’s more difficult for a student to free-load or to do everything. Both extremes more common than I like to think.

I’m using Google Classroom with Chrome Books for the first time with the “History and Hazards of the Hills: Teach It!” project. The atmosphere in the classroom is absolutely intent. I’m at my desk, giving feedback to students in the comfy chair, both verbally and with comments on their Google document. The instant feedback is not just because of the app – I would have to do that via written and verbal comments on paper-and-pencil work too. But it makes it just that much easier  that I can spool through a whole class within a block period and I think that that specific, timely and frequent feedback is really helping to up the standard of writing and science.

Typing is easier for most students than hand writing, the ease of editing makes that aspect less onerous too. And the finding, curating and citing of information is easier, although this remains a real push on my part – we all love to take the first thing that pops up, and it’s my tiring job to push students to do much better than that. Our democracy depends on it…

The other reason student are so intent is nothing to do with technology – 7th graders are excited about going back to their favorite elementary teacher’s classroom and teaching a lesson about land forms to their class.

There is no substitute for an energizing driving question for a project, there is no substitute for a friendly, encouraging flesh-and-blood teacher that students want to please. This effect is more pronounced at younger ages but persists powerfully through college and beyond. I can manage the flesh and blood part, working on the others obvs.

And there is no way ANY class should be all computers all the time. Variety and pacing is central to an engaging curriculum, and  technology can be used in so many more ways than sitting and typing. Here’s a load of examples:

‘Technology’ is just a fancy word for a tool. Computers and Google are no more answers to education than a hammer and nails will build a house by themselves.

Entry filed under: History and Hazards of the Hills - Teach It! Project, Project Based Learning, Research Skills, Technology in class. Tags: , , , , , .

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