Streetsboro -- For the legions of former high school students who remember typing, writing essays out by hand or tangling with dot matrix printers to print them out, today's classes would feel quite foreign.
With the acquisition this year of 330 new Chromebooks, the Google-made laptops that excel at playing host to Google apps, the district is taking a big step toward digital learning. That $85,000 to $90,000 purchase gives the district about 450 Chromebooks total, said Steve Cain, the district's technology director. The money came from the district's permanent improvement fund.
Director of Curriculum Aireane Curtis said the volume of new Chromebooks makes a significant difference to teachers when it comes to logistics.
Now, more teachers can use computers for lessons more often than in the past, when they were limited by the number of computers available.
"It allows us to do so many things with the kids," she said. "In the elementary buildings, the computer lab was an actual class."
There were three or four open periods per week in the computer labs at Wait Primary School, Campus Elementary School and Henry Defer Intermediate School, she said. The rest of the time, the labs were taken up by computer classes.
Campus Elementary School teacher Jenni Markey said the district uses Google's suite of productivity applications and other apps, as well.
"We have a Google domain, so every kid has a Google account, and they have to use their Google account to sign in to the Chromebooks," she said.
She said third-graders can only email their teachers, and, as they age, they gain additional freedom to email others, including other students.
Markey said special permission can be granted for specific lessons if younger students need to be able to email one another.
In addition to the standard applications that come with every Google account -- a word processor, spreadsheet, drawing program, data base, presentation program (similar to PowerPoint) and an application for creating forms -- there are many free apps designed for education.
One brand-new application that Streetsboro High School teacher language arts teacher Molly Klodor has adopted this year is Google Classroom. She said the application enables her to create folders for each of her classes and subfolders for each student. Instead of turning in homework in paper form, students submit their assignments online. It also enables students to collaborate on assignments from their own homes.
"For them, most all of their homework is digital," she said. There is still class work that's done by hand, she added.
There also are sections for posting comments, videos and any other type of file one can load on to Google Drive, the company's online storage offering.
"It allows the discussion that's part of class to extend beyond the classroom," she said.
Once assignments are turned in, Klodor said she can comment on and grade assignments. From there, she exports a CSV file with the grades, then imports them into her gradebook, which also is computer-based.
Markey said she spent time this summer in a Google Boot Camp, where she learned about apps educators would find useful.
One app she said she likes is Pear Duck, which she can use to conduct pop quizzes in which each student fills in the answers on a Chromebook. After students complete the quiz, Markey said the teacher gets instant feedback about students' knowledge on a given topic.
"I've used it at the beginning of a unit, for instance in social studies, where you might ask, 'Is Rosa Parks a civil rights leader?'" she said. "If everybody in class knows Rosa Parks is a civil rights leader, I don't need to spend time on that in class."
Curtis said there are numerous apps available to teachers, and it really depends on the age of the students and subject areas which ones teachers will choose to use.
It's important for teachers to be trained on Google apps, too, said Curtis.
"When you have 3- and 4-year-olds who know how to use an iPad, you better have adults that can pick that up," she said. "Some of it's been us providing professional development to teachers; some of it's been teachers finding things out and sharing it with their building and team."
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