Author Archives: Jilli Hume

Charter schools use technology to explore history and diverse perspectives

Editor's note: Small schools are seeing great success with Google for Education tools. We spoke with educators and administrators from smaller districts across the United States to better understand how technology has helped them innovate, create more efficient processes, and make a positive impact on their students. This is the second in a series of posts where we explore the impact small schools are making on their students. To learn more about using Google for Education tools in charter schools, visit us here. 

Charter schools are small but mighty. While they don’t have the resources and support an entire district has, they do have ambitious goals when it comes to educating their students. We’ve encountered a number of charter schools who are leading the way in their use of technology to help students become inquisitive learners, fostering in them a desire to learn about the world around them. These charter schools are using interactive experiences to spark students’ imaginations, encouraging them to learn about international landmarks, social issues in their communities and historical events that have shaped our country. They’ve found that when students acknowledge diversity in their communities and the world, they’re encouraged to think about how they can create positive change beyond the classroom.

Greater exposure to social issues and diverse perspectives 

Teachers at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School use technology to host discussions about current events, giving every student a voice — including those who are quieter in a traditional classroom setting. For example, after one teacher shared an article with her class about conflict in the Middle East via Google Classroom, every student had the opportunity to comment and share his or her opinion via a text-based discussion in Classroom.

"The most interesting thing I learned from classmates during Google Classroom discussions is how they interpreted a book we read,” says Lena Gallager, an 11th grade student at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School. “We were able to compare our thoughts on the book and build ideas off of each other.”

“When we discussed poetry using Google Classroom, I gained a sense of others’ perspectives. Google Classroom made it really collaborative and easy to share knowledge on the topic,” says fellow 11th grader Nicolas Villarosa.

Along with having open conversations about international news, students at Brooklyn Prospect are encouraged to learn about the issues affecting their own communities. One 10th grader wanted to understand what his peers viewed as the most concerning global issues. As his end-of-the-year project for the international baccalaureate program, he created a survey in Google Forms to collect his peers’ opinions on the topic. He then used those responses as inspiration to compose a musical protest album to raise awareness for the gravity of the issues.

“Technology is helping our students become citizens of the world by cultivating their awareness and giving them a global view,” says Tyra Frederick, educational technology coordinator and high school English teacher at Brooklyn Prospect.

Interactive learning about our forefathers 

Exposing students to a global curriculum at a young age is vital for them to become well-rounded, culturally aware citizens. In addition to teaching geography and history, many schools teach classes about international current events. They also explore how historical events have shaped a city’s identity.

Westlake Charter Schools, for example, encourages students to become curious learners about their pasts. When eighth grade history teacher, Caroline Gaea, gave students an assignment to map the Manifest Destiny across the United States by dropping pins in Google Maps, students went above and beyond. They engaged in critical thinking, not only commenting on the significance of a location at a particular moment in time, but also noting the overall importance of that moment in the broader context of American history.
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An eighth grade student at Westlake Charter Schools comments on a city's role in the Manifest Destiny 

“My favorite part of the project was being able to be creative with information and make it fun to read,” says Maya, an eighth grader at Westlake Charter Schools. “There were so many different ways to learn the same thing, so each student was able to customize their experience.”

Even after that assignment was complete, students took the initiative to dive deeper into the topic — they impressed their teacher with a historical map of the United States, using layers in Google Maps to show the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.
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Westlake Charter Schools students create a collaborative, historical map in Google Maps 
“This project made me even more excited to learn about American history because the Google tools give us an opportunity to express our knowledge on a whole new level,” says Grace, an eighth grader at Westlake Charter Schools.

“Mapping out the places and presidents of that time period made it feel like we were there because we understood it better,” says Jada, an eighth grader at Westlake Charter Schools.

Taking virtual field trips around the world

Students at Challenge to Excellence Charter School are using technology to travel outside of the classroom. When a second grade student traveled to India for a family vacation, his classmates virtually went with him. The student took a tablet so he could take pictures of his trip and share them with the class. Back in the classroom, students researched the landmarks that their classmate was visiting and had a real-life view of places like the Taj Mahal using Google Earth.

“It was so fun to be able to take my tablet with me to India to take pictures and then send them to my class,” says Arushi, a second grader at Challenge to Excellence Charter School. “Mrs. Stewart shared the pictures with the class before I even got back home.”

“When the student came back from his trip, his classmates showed him all the pictures and information they’d collected,” says Julie Stewart, technology integration specialist at Challenge to Excellence Charter School. “You could feel their excitement — the project helped take my students outside the four walls of the classroom.” These are just a few of the ways charter schools are inspiring students to think big and learn about experiences beyond their own. What do you think? What are the best ways for schools — public, independent or charter — to approach a global education?

Source: Education

3 ways independent schools can implement new technology without raising tuition

Editor's note:Small schools are seeing great success with Google for Education tools. We spoke with educators and administrators from smaller schools and districts across the United States to better understand how technology has helped them innovate, create more efficient processes and make a positive impact on their students. This is the first in a series of posts that explore the impact and successes of small schools. To learn more about using Google for Education tools in independent schools, visit us here.

Teachers and staff at smaller schools are experts at stretching resources and keeping close tabs on expenses. For independent schools, it’s important that tuition remains affordable. Historically, bringing new technology solutions into classrooms has presented a tough choice for these schools: buy new devices and software and raise tuition, or maintain tuition while settling for out-of-date technology that doesn’t position students well for the future. Today, schools are discovering that technology can not only be affordable, it can also help teachers and staff save time and increase productivity.

Keeping tuition affordable 

St. Jude Catholic School in Indianapolis maintained the balance between technology upgrades and affordable tuition by introducing Google Classroom and Chromebooks to their students and faculty. Google Apps for Education, a suite of productivity and collaboration tools that includes Google Classroom, is free for schools, and Chromebooks cost a fraction of what other tablets, desktops and laptops cost. “We’re a tuition-based school, so having the ability to expose our students to advanced technology, such as cloud computing, without drastically increasing tuition is a huge benefit,” says Joe Shelburn, principal at St. Jude Catholic School.
Students at St. Jude Catholic School use Chromebooks to work together on a project
At Lake Catholic High School in Mentor, Ohio, school leaders faced a similar situation: they wanted to buy laptops for every student, but were concerned their budget wouldn’t stretch. “We didn’t have enough state funding to cover the entire cost — the purchase had to come out of the school budget, and we didn’t want to raise tuition to do it,” says Taylor Smith, the school’s technology coordinator. Chromebooks quickly became the school’s top choice for its 1:1 program, since they didn’t break the budget starting at $149 per device. Chromebooks are also easy for the school to maintain. Quite simply, they don’t have many technical issues, and any issues that arise are easy to fix. They’re also light and sturdy, making them easy for students to carry.
Students at Lake Catholic High School work on some homework after school

Limiting time spent on paper-based tasks to spend more time on student programs 

Time is another precious resource — particularly at schools where staff members wear multiple hats. As is the case with many educators, teachers at Jackson Preparatory School in Jackson, Mississippi, regularly dedicate time outside of the classroom to grading papers and coaching sports teams. Laura Bishop, head of IT at Jackson Prep, says, “We’re always looking for ways to give our teachers more time to be involved with their families and community.” When the school switched from legacy software to Google Apps for Education, teachers no longer needed to spend hours on time-consuming tasks like printing and organizing paper assignments. “I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of time I spend in front of the paper copier this year,” says Hunter Upchurch, a Spanish instructor at Jackson Prep, noting that worksheets and quizzes can now be shared through Classroom. The saved time not only gets put back into student programs like sports and music, it helps teachers reduce their “homework”— so they have more time to spend with friends and family when they go home for the day.

Giving IT more time to focus on strategic projects 

When teachers and staff are able to shift away from the slower, paper-based processes that once ate up their time, they make room in their busy schedules to work on projects that would normally be pushed to the backburner, or on creating spectacular lessons for their students. Modern, easy to use technology like Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks can also help IT staff save time on things like computer maintenance and training, so they can focus instead on solving more strategic, challenging problems.

Switching from desktops and legacy software to Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education has allowed Joe Schultz, tech support specialist at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Illinois, to reduce the amount of time spent fixing PCs, maintaining their old Microsoft server and troubleshooting tech issues. “I’m less busy solving technology-related problems than I was a few years ago,” Schultz says. He plans to devote the saved time to projects like improving network efficiency.

Schools like the above are adopting classroom technology that not only helps keep tuition affordable, but also allows teachers and staff to do more with their limited time. Here are 3 ways you can do the same at your school:

  1. Shop around: There are many devices on the market, so find the ones that meet your students’ unique needs. For example, tablets can work well for younger students who can’t yet type on a keyboard, while laptops may be suitable for older students who spend a lot of time on research.
  2. Automate what you can: Use online tools to eliminate admin tasks that waste time — like copying worksheets or grading paper exams 
  3. Look to the cloud: Reduce IT maintenance, training time and overall costs with easy to use and easy to manage cloud-based solutions. 
Is your school saving time and money by getting creative with technology? We’d love to hear your tips. Share your story below or on Twitter and tag us (@GoogleEdu) or include the #GoogleEdu hashtag.

Source: Education