Modernizing the Classroom: Top Services that will Improve Teaching with Chromebooks

October 18th, 2019

Today’s Community Contributor is Peter Iles, Director of Instructional Technology at Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee, WI. He has been involved in implementing and utilizing technology in the classroom for 8 years.


Schools across America are all speeding towards 1:1. In less than 10 years Chromebooks have gone from non-existent, to the majority device in schools in the country. I know this because I was the first teacher to implement them in a small school in Oshkosh, WI in 2011. Since then, I’ve worked with Google and other companies to make devices like Chromebooks more powerful tools and not just glorified notebooks. Currently, I teach and serve as the Director of Instructional Technology at Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee, WI. In my experience, the services and tools a school provides on Chromebooks are just as important as the devices themselves.

My requirements for a great teaching tool are that it has to do one of two things.

1. It has to make student learning more effective. 

2. It has to make teaching more effective or efficient.

 When it does both, you have a slam dunk! Here are my favorite services for teaching in the Chromebook classroom.

Peergrade

Peergrade provides a digital space for students to peer review writing assignments.When I showed Peergrade to a bunch of English teachers, they lost their minds. It allows teachers to write a rubric, students to anonymously upload their work, and then their classmates to give feedback through the teacher guided questions. It hits on so many levels; collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and it doesn’t have to take up any class time if your students take their Chromebooks home.

Imagine that you have assigned your students an expository essay. In the old style of teaching you might assign a rough draft and then half of your students wouldn’t bring it finished on the day it was due. Their class gets wasted working on finishing it and the other half share their papers, except students are typically ineffective feedback givers. When students know who they’re critiquing they’re too harsh or too kind. In order for students to practice giving feedback they need objective questions and anonymity. 

With chromebooks and Peergrade, students login with their google account, share what they’ve written, and then critique anonymously. On the back end, teachers get a percentile score based on how well the students met the rubric. It continues to be the only way I’ve convinced students to write a first draft. 

In an experiment guided by Dr. Douglas Reeves, I award 50% of the students’ score on whether or not they submitted a first draft, and the other 50% on whether or not they implemented the feedback they received from their peers and myself. I was interested in seeing if Peergrade was actually improving my students’ writing or not and so I compared data from a previous semester on the exact same papers. It turns out that papers that had been Peergraded scored 2/3 of a letter grade higher than the previous semesters.

Screencastify

How many of us have forced students through days and days of presentations that ultimately didn’t feel like a great environment for developing presentation skills? Now, what if you could reclaim that class time and teach your students how to record themselves on camera? Screencastify teaches students how to create professional digital recordings and integrates seamlessly into your Google system. Our World Language teachers love this because students can record themselves speaking in other languages and share them with their teachers. Now, our teachers can hear the development of every student, not just the ones they’re standing nearby. 

Another area where Screencastify can be used is in Fine Arts. Our band director sends out music to his players and they can then record themselves playing it individually. All they have to do is click the icon in their extension bar, record their play, and share it right back. Now, he can hear all the instruments in his orchestra individually and give them feedback privately. This creates a personal loop for feedback between the teacher and each student. The best teachers give timely and effective feedback to their students. In a traditional fine arts setting you may have dozens of students at once, so giving specific feedback can be a challenge. Screencastify makes that possible.

Wooclap

Need a formative assessment feedback tool that’s more powerful than Socrative and less gamified than Kahoot? Wooclap to the rescue! This site integrates with Google Slides and Powerpoint so that teachers can get feedback from every student at critical points in every lesson. It’s completely free for K12 teachers, and there are over 12 different question types, way more than most competitors.

One tactic I train teachers on is called “hinge questioning.” It’s the critical point in the lesson where the teacher needs to know whether to go forward with new content or turn back and reteach. Without chromebooks, teachers had to use manipulatives to gauge knowledge, or worse, read the room with non-verbals. With Wooclap and a well written question, I can know where my class is at in terms of whether or not they’re ready for new material.The outcome for students is more effective teaching because fewer students are being left behind by being silent. that teacher can’t ignore the data when every student is held accountable for a response. 

Think of the way your teacher asked questions in the classroom. It probably went something like this…Question is asked, wait time was probably 2.5 seconds, 4 hands went up, 1 was called on, the correct answer was given, the teacher moved on. What are the problems here? The wait time is too short, no question should be asked without at least 5 seconds, and preferably 7 seconds, wait time. Too few students were brought into the discussion. You could argue that 99% of the class was not participating! With a tool like WooClap, you can gain 100% participation and have valuable data in the moment that informs your instruction, which makes you a better decision maker for their learning.

Feedback is the Key

You might notice a common thread with all three of these tools, they’re all based around feedback, because that’s what good teachers do. That’s how they improve the learning of their students, provide timely, effective feedback.