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Chromebooks for Education: A Complete Guide

Chromebooks for Education: A Complete Guide

By Amy Talvac

To say that Chromebooks have changed my classroom is an understatement. In the past, teachers at my school, spread between 20 different classrooms, have had to share a computer lab and carts of laptops. This resulted in disagreements over fairness and the amount of time classes were using the computer lab and/or laptops.

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This year, 3rd and 5th grade classes (one of which was mine) received Chromebooks and each student was given their own school Google account. After experimenting with and learning about the Chromebooks, I’ve realized the possibilities are truly endless!

In math, students have access to apps and online games, which give them important practice with their basic math facts.

In reading, students each have a copy of the book I’m reading aloud for the duration of the group lesson.

In writing, students can conduct research using multiple online sources and are motivated and encouraged to publish their own work.

In social studies, students can access many different types of maps and “travel” across the world to learn how people live in different regions.

In science, students can engage in online lab experiences that could never be done in the classroom.

Chromebooks for Education

Why I Love Them

First and foremost, Chromebooks are easy to use. They turn on and shut down within a few seconds, so there’s no wasted instructional time. Not to mention, the battery lasts 6 to 8 hours, which means you can use it for the whole school day without charging.

The Chromebook automatically goes to sleep after being inactive for 6 minutes, so the battery life is conserved even if students forget to shut it down. Finally, they’re light and compact, so it’s easy for students to handle them.

Despite all of these helpful features, simply having access to the internet and an array of apps is valuable for our school. The Chromebooks were particularly helpful when my class participated in the Hour of Code for Computer Science Education Week. Collaboration is key, but so is independently being able to problem-solve and think critically, which is what each student did as they worked their way through coding activities. Without Chromebooks, my students wouldn’t have been able to explore coding individually.

“Without Chromebooks, my students wouldn’t have been able to explore coding individually—which is a critical aspect of learning.”

Favorite Ways to Use Our Chromebooks

Now that my class has been using the Chromebooks for some time, we have come to love a few select apps and websites. See if any of these can improve your lessons.

Our Favorite Websites

Math: TenMarks and Splash Math

TenMarks and Splash Math both build skills and mastery by letting teachers select and assign standards/topics for their students to practice. Teachers can view student performance and use it to differentiate their instruction.

Reading: National Geographic Explorer Magazines

Teachers’ guides and past issues are all available online—for free. The Pioneer Edition of the Explorer magazine is for grades 2 to 3 and the Pathfinder Edition is for grades 4 to 6. It’s a great tool for differentiation because the articles appear the same, but the vocabulary and complexity of the text varies.

Writing: FlipSnack

This website integrates well with Google Docs and Word. Students can publish their written pieces by creating an online flipbook to share via email or on a class website.

More: How to Foster Virtual Inclusion With a Classroom Blog

Social Studies: National Geographic Mapmaker

Students practice reading maps using legends. They can also compare multiple layers of maps at one time to make inferences and draw conclusions about geographic features of different regions.

Science: PBS Building Big

Students extend their engineering and technology knowledge by learning about different structures—bridges, domes, tunnels—and engaging in different labs—forces, loads, materials—to draw conclusions about which would be best for engineers facing real-world problems.

Other: Tynker and Code.org

Students learn programming and coding with built-in tutoring and guided lessons as they explore game-like puzzles and projects.

Sign Up: Whooo’s Reading is a free online reading log that helps teachers track what their students are reading. Automated common core questions also make it easy to assess their progress and comprehension.

Our Favorite Apps

TypingWeb Typing Tutor: Students practice their typing skills with typing tutors and keyboarding tutorials.

Geddit: Teachers can assess student understanding of concepts with quiz questions and by asking students to select their range of understanding on a scale of 1 to 5. This gives immediate feedback and valuable information on student understanding, which will help guide instruction and differentiation.

chromebook apps

TechSmith Snagit: A free screen-capture and recording app. Students can practice metacognition by recording their thoughts from a screen capture and teachers can record their screen as they teach so students can view it and replay it as needed.

MoveNote for GoogleDrive: Students can add video and audio to their work in Google Drive. Teachers can use it to explain directions and differentiate instruction, which is helpful for flipped classrooms.

Booktrack Classroom: Students can bring their ideas to life by adding background music and voice to their writing pieces. This can help students decide where to revise and edit their pieces.

Hapara Teacher Dashboard for Google Apps: Allows teachers to get a real-time view of all student activity in Google Apps, including what the students are currently viewing in their browser. It also organizes all student work chronologically by class and by student.

Google Classroom and Google Apps for Education

Google makes the Chromebook and each one comes with integrated, easy access to all of their tools for education, including Google Classroom and Google Apps.

Google Classroom saves you both time and save paper. It acts as a central location to post links, documents, pictures and more. You can even post assignments and grades and give feedback. Once an assignment is posted, students can begin working on it with just a single click. The best part: it requires minimal preparation time. In fact, it’s instant—links and assignments are immediately available for students.

I use Google Classroom in all content areas, for example:

  • Students get quick access to important videos, websites, files and more, all of which help enhance, extend, and/or enrich my instruction.
  • Students get additional practice with concepts we’re learning.
  • Students are more organized because they can see all of their assignments on the Assignments page. Class materials are filed automatically into folders in Google Drive as well.
  • I use it to watch who’s turning in assignments in real time.

Of all the apps and features, we most frequently use GoogleDrive, GoogleDocs, and GoogleSlides.

GoogleDrive is cloud-based, which means students can access their work from any computer, anywhere, any time.

GoogleDocs is a word processing app (comparable to Word).

GoogleSlides is a presentation-creating app (comparable to PowerPoint).

Both GoogleDocs and GoogleSlides save automatically to the students’ GoogleDrive, so you can say goodbye to lost student work if they exit before saving. Students can also collaborate in real time, making changes to the same document or presentation.

The best part for us is the revision history feature, which allows teachers to see which students made each contribution to the report/presentation. They can also restore previous sessions in case an important chunk of a document/presentation gets deleted. Finally, teachers can enter “suggesting” mode, which shows edits as “suggestions” in a different colored text. This allows teachers to provide real-time feedback to students.

More: I Got iPads in My Classroom… Now What?

Future

“The future of technology in education looks bright and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The next step for me is bringing more technology into my school that can be used in conjunction with Chromebooks. After talking with my principal, our school is planning to buy a 3D printer.

With the Chromebooks, my students can use a free web-based platform called TinkerCad to turn ideas into a CAD (computer-aided design) model for the 3D printer to print. Given that engineering is part of the Next Generation Science Standards, this 3D printing will help students develop important skills and design practices that are critical for engineering.

The two most important features of Chromebooks, Google Apps for Education, and Google Classroom is that they all save teachers time and help prepare students for their futures. With new apps frequently being added to the Chrome Web Store and new educational websites being created each day, the future of technology in education looks bright and I’m excited to be a part of it.

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Chromebooks: A Complete Techer's Guide

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