Wild Rose students go high tech
Students in grades four to six learn on Chromebooks this fall
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Sunday, Sep 15, 2013 06:00 am
Wild Rose Elementary students have a high-tech surprise waiting for them on their desks this fall: their own laptop computers.
Starting this month, students in grades four through six at Wild Rose will each be issued their own Chromebooks for use in daily lessons. The inexpensive, web-based computers are meant to teach students about technology and motivate them to learn.
Chromebooks are small, lightweight, low-cost laptops that run on Google’s Chrome operating system. Instead of using licensed programs, they rely on free web-based applications such as Gmail and Google Docs.
Wild Rose teacher Kim Cunningham test-drove the computers with her class last year on behalf of the public school district, says principal Barb Scott.
The results were so good that the school decided to use $43,000 in provincial grants and fundraising to buy 100 of the computers this year – enough for every Grade 4 to 6 student in the school. They could have used any mobile device (e.g. iPads), Scott says, but picked Chromebooks due to their cost.
“During the school day, every student will have a device at their fingertips,” Scott says, allowing them to use word processors or the Internet without waiting for time in the computer lab. “It opens up a whole set of possibilities.”
Grade 6 student Hailey MacDonald used her Chromebook Thursday to write an account of what she did on the weekend. She uses it for research during social studies, she says, looks up words in the dictionary, and uses text-to-speech to sound out sentences. “If we mess up on a word like ‘hot dog’… I can play it and it tells me what it sounds like.”
Google Docs lets multiple people edit the same document simultaneously, Cunningham says, which has many applications. Instead of asking kids to raise their hands to comment about a book, for example, she can have everyone type their comments into the same file at once. “They don’t have to wait a turn.”
This also helps keep students more engaged, she continues, if only because they know the teacher can see what they’re (not) writing. “You can’t really get away with sitting there and staring into space.” Her students last year also found the Chromebooks exciting to use, and tended to stay focused on their work instead of acting out.
And it encourages students to revise and improve their writing, Scott says. “Children hate writing on paper,” she says – it’s a pain to fix mistakes, so students will ignore all the red ink comments in the margins the teacher makes and move on to the next assignment. With computers, students are much more likely to act on those comments and improve their skills since it’s so easy to make changes.
Teachers can use these computers to give students at home real-time advice on homework, Cunningham says, and have them collaborate on presentations. The text-to-speech features and educational games also help keep students engaged.
They don’t use the computers all the time, Scott says, as teachers need to monitor the amount of screen-time kids get. “You use it when it’s an appropriate tool to use.” Students still do handwritten assignments as well.
“Kids at home are at the computer all the time, and not necessarily in appropriate ways,” she continues. The school hopes to use the Chromebooks to teach students about online etiquette and safety.
People nowadays use computers as an extension of their brain, Scott says, using Google to find facts they once committed to memory. “It’s a new way of learning, and we think it’s important our kids are a part of that.”
The Chromebooks will roll out into Wild Rose classrooms over the coming weeks, Scott says.