This year, at our school, every classroom has a full set of Chromebooks or Macbooks. Students have a Gmail account with access to the G-Suites programs. They are able to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create using the technology in the classroom. Teachers have created lessons, posted them on Google Classroom, and assessed student learning using this technology as well. However, this looks different in every classroom, and most teachers have found what works best for them. I have heard from some teachers at other schools that they have been given a cart of Chromebooks with no training. Often they are afraid to dive in and try new things with students, fearing failure. Here’s what technology use looks like in our 5-8 middle school:
In an English/Language Arts classroom, the teacher has posted a PDF file on Google Classroom. The students open the file using the Chrome add-on Kami which allows them to annotate directly on the document. Before, the teacher would have needed to make 100 copies and ensure each student has the right colors of highlighters. In another classroom students are practicing for a vocabulary test that is coming up on Friday by using Quizlet, Quizlet Live, Flocabulary, Kahoot, and Quizizz. With these programs, the students can receive immediate feedback about their answers and the teacher can formatively assess their learning. Also, most of the students enjoy these programs because they are set up like games and competitions.
In a Science and Social Studies classroom students are creating one presentation using Google Slides about animal adaptations and another about important battles from the Civil War. They are collaborating with their partners by sharing the slides through Google Drive and giving feedback to each other to improve the finished product. Students research their topics using the internet and add images and videos to their slides. When finished, the students present their slideshows to the class. The teacher uses a rubric to evaluate their slides, presentations, and group work. Once all the presentations are complete, the class is quizzed about highlights from the slideshows.
In a Math classroom, the teacher has posted four videos to Google Classroom. These videos are created by Khan Academy and linked through YouTube. Students are given one week to watch all four videos, which lets them see the lesson presented another way. Once they have watched the videos, students must complete three assignments on IXL.com. Each time a student enters an answer on IXL, they get immediate feedback about the response and are given the correct path to solve it if the answer was wrong. Students must write down the problems from IXL, show work and answers, and turn in their papers to the teacher by Friday. The teacher still uses direct instruction, group work, and discussion to teach. However, much of the practice is moved from worksheets to online programs that assess the same skills.
All teachers still have the autonomy to teach their classes the way they see fit. Most teachers still use direct instruction daily with students. What has changed most for our school is the work that students are producing. Instead of making a poster, students can create a slideshow; instead of hand writing an essay, students can type one; and instead of doing a worksheet, students can practice online. As our school becomes more comfortable with the technology, the teaching and learning will only continue to improve and help students learn skills necessary for their future.
Jessica has taught middle school math in Putnam County Schools for the past 7 years. She first worked at Avery Trace Middle School teaching 6th, 7th and 8th grade math. Then she moved to Cornerstone Middle School, which is now Upperman Middle School, to teach 5th grade math. During this time, she has served as the 5th grade team leader, mentor teacher, 2015 school level Teacher of the Year, digital transition team member and mathematics instructional specialist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies – Middle School and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, both from Tennessee Tech University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.