It is the start of a brand new school year…excitement is high…new resources and new opportunities present themselves…and new tools are at our disposal. As we start the school year here in the Georgetown County School District, located in Georgetown, SC, we are in the midst of moving to our one-to-one device initiative. This means that we want to provide a device for every student to be able to access the Internet, the web tools and the abundance of resources, and have access to these devices anytime they are needed in the classroom. How is this different from last year? Last year, and over the last several years, teachers were asked to sign up for laptop carts that were then rolled to the classroom to use with certain lessons involving the integration of technology. Teachers had to schedule times for the laptops and make sure there was an available set to work with. Many times they would have to reschedule certain lessons because another teacher had already scheduled the laptops, and there were none available for the time requested. This problem is going away with every student eventually having access to a device whenever a teacher’s lesson calls for it.
The tool that we are using is the Google Chromebook in the elementary and middle grades, and the Dell Laptop in the high schools. While all do not have a Chromebook in the elementary and middle schools yet, the Dell laptops can be used for Google Classroom as well. The Chromebook device is faster, lighter, and has storage in the Cloud that, for students, is basically unlimited. The newer laptops are better suited to the speed needed for real time application.
The Tech Coaches in the district, along with the administration at the District Office and the Principals in the schools are quickly taking advantage of the Google Suite for Education tools. In this package is Google Classroom. Classroom is a free suite of safe and secure productivity tools that includes a calendar, document creation, presentation tools, storage, and the ability to work collaboratively with other classmates online in real time. You can also interact with the teacher in real time to answer questions, see announcements and complete assignments, and it can be all paperless. Classroom helps teachers save time, keep classes organized, and improve communication with students. A really huge feature of Google and Google Classroom, is that students and teachers can access their classroom on any device, from anywhere, at any time…as long as they can get Internet access. If teachers are absent due to illness or attendance at a professional development conference, they can still assign and monitor their classes from their location. If students are absent, they can still access their classroom and get assignments and announcements from home if they have a device and Internet access. Think of the advantage of a homebound student being able to get information and assignments easier. Assignments can be geared to the individual needs of a student as well, and sent to those students with an IEP without distraction or undue attention.
As a bonus, there is a communication tool within classroom to keep parents and guardians in the loop. With the Guardian Tool, teachers can add parents to their class, and it allows the parent or guardian to see their child’s tasks, due dates, and monitor progress toward completion of assignments.
So as we move more and more into Google Classroom, we will all be learning more about how to make the learning experience better for our students, and improving our technology skills along the way.
The District Tech Coaches have created several “How-To” videos for using Google Classroom. Please ask your Teech Coach how you can access these videos.
Never stop learning!