New technology welcomes students in Western Springs
Ashley Klem is Western Springs Elementary District 101's new technology coordinator, and teaches fifth grade at Laidlaw School. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 31, 2012 12:58AM
WESTERN SPRINGS — Based on the integration of 30 Google Chromebooks to the fifth-grade classrooms at John Laidlaw Elementary School, teachers are finding new ways to use technology during the school day and students are responding with an upsurge in motivation.
A Chromebook is a type of laptop that uses Google Chrome, the Google-based web browser, as its operating system. It can run thousands of different applications that are stored online through the cloud.
One example of an application that students utilize in the classroom is Google Documents. This application allows students to write an essay on their own computer, then other students, or the teacher, can access online to read and edit. It also allows a group of students (maybe even in another class room or at another school) to login on their own laptops and corroboratively create and edit one document.
“It’s a much more dynamic process with the help of the Chromebooks,” said Ashley Klem, fifth-grade teacher and technology director at Laidlaw Elementary. “It allows me to check in more easily, and because it’s collaborative work, it means that kids get more out of it.”
She also noted the collaborative model and the integration of technology more like how things run in the workplace.
Klem, who just assumed the title of technology director this school year, played a vital role in helping the school obtain the Chromebooks.
“I became very enamored of the technology we already had last year when I started at District 101, and I attended some technology training courses the district offers. I found out about the Google Apps for Education Suite and got really excited about its possible uses,” said Klem.
But she realized the district needed more reliable access to the technology. The school had just 30 Macbooks and needed more.
With Google and Klem’s help, Laidlaw received grant money to purchase the laptops, and they have been in use in the fifth-grade classrooms since February. The Chromebooks are reserved for the fifth-grade students, and students in third and fourth grade use the Macbooks. Laidlaw also recently purchased over 200 iPads. These will be used primarily by children in kindergarten through second grade because of the simpler touch screen technology.
Laidlaw does not require students to have computer or Internet access at home, and a computer lab is available at the school for any student who wants or needs to use it.
Klem says that she, as well as the other fifth-grade teachers, continue to find innovative ways to use technology in the classroom.
“I record reading discussions with the laptops so if a student says something really poignant or interesting, we have it saved and I can use those points for teaching tools,” said Klem. “It also means I can play parents the recordings so they can hear their child participating in the discussion.”
Students and teachers have also used the Chromebooks to create online quizzes that are accessible through Google Documents. Once the quizzes are completed, the students who created it can input the scores into Google Spreadsheets and average how well everyone did, what questions were most commonly missed and other analytical data.
“The best part of the addition of technology in the classes is that students are just so excited and motivated,” said Klem.
“I had kids last year that were reluctant writers. They weren’t motivated to write another draft or do more editing. But, when you do the project on the computer, and let them type it up and have a chance to share it online with their peers, now the kids are like ‘Oh please, can’t we work on it some more? Can I do another one?’”