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Tech Tips

Chromebooks in the Classroom

By Jennifer L. W. Fink

These small but mighty laptops (and their apps)

bolster students’ computer skills and make

learning come alive.  



PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5,6–8

 Scholastic chromebooks
Scholastic chrome books

iPads? That’s so 2013. The newest revolution in classroom computing

can be found in Chromebooks—small, basic laptops that connect to the

Internet using Google’s Chrome operating system. In late 2014, sales of

Chromebooks to schools surpassed sales of iPads for the first time,

signifying a shift toward keyboard-based technologies, especially for

older students.

Why? Educators cite Chromebooks’ convenience, ease of use, and

relatively low cost (about $200, compared to about $500 for an iPad or

$380 for an iPad mini). With aChromebook, students can tap in to the

power of the Internet—and because the devices include

keyboards, they build essential keyboarding skills, required by the

Common Core and many statestandards, as they research, collaborate,

learn, and create. Here’s a look at how some educators are

using Chromebooks in the classroom.

Make History Shine

Seventh-grade social studies teacher Shahr Rezaiekhaligh knows most

middle schoolers don’t get excited about ancient history. So

Rezaiekhaligh, a teacher at Summit Lakes Middle School in Lee’s

Summit, Missouri, has students investigate the history of ancient

civilizations using TimeMaps, a free Google Chrome app.

“Mesopotamia is the world’s earliest civilization, but kids don’t know

anythingabout it. With TimeMaps, they can click through the map and

see how the region has changed,” Rezaiekhaligh says. “They notice it

didn’t go through a lot of changes early on, but then they hit a point

where they see lots of changes. We’ll discussthings like, ‘Why would this

civilization be really big one day and then nonexistent?’”

Bolster Science Skills

It’s essential to mix online and offline instruction, says Katie Budrow, a science

teacher at Caruso Middle School in Deerfield, Illinois, who uses Chromebooks and

virtual simulations to build students’ skills and confidence before embarking on labs. One of

her favorite simulations is BrainPop’s VirtualMicroscope lab. “Kids practice on the virtual microscope

before they get to use the actual microscope,” Budrow says. “The simulation allows them to

turn the knobs and lower the stage without the risk of breaking the slide. When they feel

they’re ready, they can use the real one. You end up with really confident kids.”

Conquer the Elements!

Rebecca Grgurina, a sixth-grade science teacher and STEM coordinator at Kennedy

Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, frequently uses Google Forms, Flubaroo 

(an instant-grading program), and Exit Ticket, a Chrome app, to assess students’ mastery of

material. Kids who have already mastered a lesson’s basic objectives can go on to more

challenging material, while others receive supportive instruction.

“Five of my students mastered the class objectives for atoms before I even taught the

material,” Grgurina says, so those students delved into the elements of the periodic table

and created Element Superheroes. “They used their Chromebooks to learn about the

physical properties and molecules that create an element, and then each student created a

superhero to represent it. Some used Marvel.com; others did computer drawings or hand-drawn

posters. They got to be creative and expand their knowledge of protons, neutrons, and electrons

and how they work together.”

Team Up to Track Explorers

Many teachers love Chromebooks because apps such as Google Docs and Google Slides make it

easy for students to collaborate, whether they’re in the same room or across town.

(Budrow says she’s had students ask to work on group projects while home sick!) Vicky

Hartwig, a fifth-grade teacher at Mayville Middle School in Wisconsin, says the ability to

collaborate electronically has fed her students’ creativity. She introduced her class to

Google Docs and Slides, but they’ve since used the technology to collaborate in unexpected

ways.Given an open-ended social studies assignment—the kids had to research and present a

Midwestern historical topic—one group used Chromebooks to make a movie about Harry

Houdini. “They wrote a script, built props, acted it out, and gave the info to the class in a story,

via their movie. It was amazing,” Hartwig says.Some oversight is necessary, of course. Because

Google Docs, Slides, and other apps allow all project members to make revisions, kids can

“mess with each other’s work,” says Rezaiekhaligh. You can decrease the opportunity for

trouble by arranging your classroom so that students’ screens are visible during work time.

Try placing their desks in a circle, with yourself at the center and screens turned toward you.

Win the Keyboard Race

Digital literacy and keyboarding are essential 21st-century skills for all students. The Common

Core ELA Literacy standard W.3.6 requires that third graders be able to “use technology to

produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills), as well as to interact and collaborate

with others.”Chromebooks’ small keyboards are perfect for little hands, and free Chrome apps

such as Typing Clubmake it easy to integrate keyboarding into the school day.

A Roomful of “Geniuses”

Inspired by Google—which encourages employees to devote 20 percent of their work time to

passion projects—Grgurina introduced “Genius Hour,” a period when kids are allowed to

explore their own interests. “One student was interested in Minecraft and video games. He

found a website that allows people to create games, and he created his own and shared it with

the class,” says Grgurina. Another student researched homemade products and created her

own face cream.

Create Computer Buddies

Most elementary schools still use tablets, in part because younger kids’ fine motor skills are

not as developed. Yet introducing Chromebooks to your youngest students can be a step in

the right direction. Besides keyboarding, they learn basic computer skills.

Mentoring by older students is also a great strategy. “I have fifth graders come in and

showcase their projects with graphic organizers and interactive multimedia,” says Jessica

Butterfield, a second-grade teacher at New Roads Elementary School in Santa Monica,

California. “That helps raise the bar for my learners. With a little scaffolding, anything is



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It's full of features, and here are easy tricks you can do right away.

Google Docs & Icon - Google Inc.

1. Share Documents

One of the best features of Google Docs is that you can collaborate, and I don't mean check-in, check-out collaborate like SharePoint. I mean everyone can edit the same file at the same time without having to download or upload anything. Google isn't unique in this feature. Zoho Writer also supports simultaneous editing by multiple users, but you can only have three users before you have to start paying for services, while Google Docs doesn't limit the number of free collaborators you can add to a document.

I've seen some documents completely open to the Web and allowing everyone to edit them. Others are closed and only editable by small groups. You can also set your sharing preferences for a folder and have all items you add to that folder automatically share with a group.
More »

2. Make Spreadsheets

Google Docs started out as a Google Labs product called Google Spreadsheets. Google later purchased Writely to add the documents into Google Docs. Meanwhile, the features in Google Spreadsheets have grown. Yes, you can probably make Excel do something you can't get out of Google Spreadsheets, but it's still an excellent and straightforward spreadsheet app with nice features like scripted actions and gadgets.
More »

3. Make Presentations

You've got documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. These are online slide show presentations, and now you can even add animated transitions to your slides. (Use this power for good and not for evil.) Like everything else, you can share and collaborate with simultaneous users, so you can work on that presentation with your partner in another state before you offer your presentation at a conference. You can then export your presentation as a PowerPoint or PDF  or deliver it directly from the Web. You can also deliver your presentation as a Web meeting. It's not as full featured as using something like Citrix GoToMeeting, but Google Presentations are free.
More »

4. Make Forms

I often get oohs and ahhs from the audience when I show people this feature. You can create an easy form from within Google Docs that asks different types of questions and then feeds directly into a spreadsheet. You can publish your form as a link, send it in an email, or embed it on a Web page. It's very powerful, and very easy. Security measures might force you to pay for a product like Survey Monkey, but Google Docs sure does a great job for the price.
More »

5. Make Drawings

You can make collaborative drawings from within Google Docs. These drawings may be embedded into other docs, or they may stand alone. This is still a relatively new feature, so it tends to be slow and a little quirky, but it's great for adding an illustration in a pinch. More »

6. Make Spreadsheet Gadgets

You can take your spreadsheet data and insert a gadget powered by the data in a range cells. Gadgets can very from simple pie charts and bar graphs to maps, organization charts, pivot tables, and more. More »

7. Use Templates

Documents, spreadsheets, forms, presentations, and drawings all have templates. Rather than creating a new item from scratch, you can use a template to give you a head start. You can also create your own template and share it with others.

I find it useful sometimes to just browse through the templates to see some of the creative ways people use Google Docs. More »

8. Upload Anything

You can upload just about any file, even if it's not something recognized by Google Docs. You've got a finite amount of storage space (1 gig) before Google starts charging, but you can upload files from obscure word processors and download them to edit on a desktop computer.

That doesn't mean you should underestimate the types of files you can edit from within Google Docs. Google Docs will convert and allow you to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. You can also convert and edit files from OpenOffice, plain text, html, pdf, and other formats.

Google Docs even has a built in OCR to scan and convert your scanned documents. This option may take a little longer than regular uploads, but it's worth it. 

9. Edit Your Documents Offline

If you like Google Docs, but you're going on a trip, you can still edit your documents on the plane. You need to use the Chrome browser and prepare your documents for offline editing, but you can edit Documents and Spreadsheets. (Other files are view only)

You can also use an Android app to edit your docs from your phone. More



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