I did my observations at Boulevard Elementary in a second grade class and worked with my cooperating teacher to answer some questions that would be helpful to understand if the students in her classroom decided to create a digital story. My cooperating teacher utilizes technology in her classroom a lot so she has experience with all of the questions I asked her and was very knowledgeable about the school’s technologies.
The classroom has Chromebooks available to use, each grade level has about 15-30 Chromebooks, so it is up to the teachers in that grade level to decide how to share them. In second grade, the teachers worked out a system that each classroom could take five Chromebooks a day and if a classroom needed all the Chromebooks in one day, the teachers would talk with the other teachers in second grade and verify that they could use all of the Chromebooks. In addition to Chromebooks, the classroom has several Playaways, which allow students to listen to books through the device. The classroom has about five Playaways and the device is also available in the library. The classroom also has a Smartboard that is used everyday during almost every lesson. The school has a computer lab that teachers can reserve, however, it has been closed a majority of second semester due to testing.
The Chromebooks are newer so they typically always work. If there is a problem, it is typically because the Chromebook was not charged properly overnight. The school used to have laptops that the classrooms could utilize, however, the laptops had a lot of problems and often did not work. The Smartboard and Playaways have never had any problems.
Most web 2.0 applications are blocked at the school. The students are not able to go on social media or YouTube. The school tends to take a strict approach to blocking websites and will block sites that are not strictly educational. However, if a student would need one of the sites unblocked, for example, they would need YouTube unblocked if they were making a digital story, the school librarian has the ability to temporarily unblock websites that a student may need.
The students use Chromebooks every single day. In math and literacy centers, the students rotate to a center that uses the Chromebooks. The teacher tells the students what websites they are able to go on for the day. The websites are usually game based. For example, they use Raz-Kids, Compass Learning, Book Flix and OverDrive. In addition to using the Chromebooks during centers, the student also use the Chromebooks for research. For example, while I was observing, the students were working on a biography project. The students worked in groups and researched an important person in history. While the students researched, they used Chromebooks, in addition to books. The students used Kidtopia, Brain Pop, and Kiddle. In addition to the Chromebooks, the students also use the Smartboard everyday. During math centers, the teacher has the students come to the Smartboard to explain problems. The students really enjoy using the Smartboard to explain their work. While using these technologies, the students are using them in a mix of independent and collaborative learning. When the students use the Chromebooks during centers, the students are using technology in an independent manner, however, when the students use the technology during research and to share their work with the class, the technologies are being use in a collaborative manner.
The technologies really enhance the student’s learning. When the students use the Chromebooks at their centers it is a great tool because the students are able to use the websites to move at their own pace. Before the school got the Chromebooks, the teacher stated that using the laptops made learning difficult because they were not reliable and often times the students were not able to effectively use the technology. No students in the second grade class had cellphones so cellphones were not used as a distraction to impede learning but they also could not be used to supplement learning.
My cooperating teacher utilizes a class website to communicate with families and let them know what their students are studying. In addition, the teacher uses a Smartboard everyday. The Smartboard is used to review the schedule, work on math, work on literacy and work on other projects. The teacher also has many math manipulatives that are utilized during math lessons. During time between lesson, the teacher utilizes a website called GoNoodle, which contains many fun videos that get the students moving. These videos are called brain breaks. The teacher also shows Book Flix during class which are videos of books being read.
The teacher strongly believed that technology only enhances the learning of the students. Without all of these resources, the student’s learning would not be as dynamic. The teacher stated that the only time she believed that the technology impedes the learning conditions is when the technology does not work. There was one day, during second semester, that the school did not have power and the teacher said it was difficult to adapt all of her lessons because the use of the Smartboard, Chromebooks, and other applications are so ingrained in all of her lessons. Luckily, power outages are a rare occurrence!