The Student Perspective on Chromebooks at Leyden High Schools [guest post]
The student perspectives below are from Justyna Chojnowski, Amina Patel, and Joaquin Cardenas at East Leyden High School.
For a greater perspective on our 1:1 initiative please see our past four guest posts:
- Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks?
- The Logistics of Chromebooks at Leyden
- What Can You Expect When You Move Learning to the Web?
- Tech Support Internship: Student-Led Support for Leyden’s Chromebook Initiative
When Scott McLeod and I first discussed this series, the first four posts seemed obvious. It wasn’t until after the second post that Scott suggested it would be good to hear directly from students. For anyone that knows me, I usually think this way as well, but I know with the topic of 1:1 computing there are some pretty intense feelings among educators. We all want to see transformational practices every time the device is powered up during school hours. I think it’s important to consider – and I think what the following student perspectives demonstrate, – we have to realize that no matter the level of tech saturation in their lives outside of school, that this introduction of ever-present connectedness during school is something very different for students too. So my approach with the following students was to ask them to simply share what some positives and negatives were with their first few months of this newfound access to the Web. Here are their unabridged responses…
Joaquin Cardenas (Junior)
When I found out last year we were going to get chromebooks I didn’t think there was going to be much of a difference in my typical school day. That my classroom atmosphere wasn’t going to change much. That is only partly true so far in the time I have spent with my chromebook. There have been many positive changes with getting a chromebook, but whenever something changes, there tends to be some negatives as well.
Now that we all have chromebooks, I think I have seen more responsibility among the students. Rarely, does someone forget to bring their chromebook to class. It has taught me how to become more responsible and take care of something that is worth more than your pen and pencil. To me, the major and most helpful difference in having a chromebook is Google Docs. The ability to be able to write, save, and share a document all online is remarkable. You can’t lose what you have written because your document is automatically saved. It is easier for teachers to help you with your writing because now they can directly comment on your paper. You can collaborate more with your peers when you share a document with them and can work on it at the same time. It can also benefit teachers because there isn’t the excuse anymore of that “I didn’t print it”, or “my computer wasn’t working”. Teachers can now see exactly what the student did to the document and at what time they made any changes. Because of the addition of the chromebooks, teachers can place everything online, like the agenda, calendar, homework, etc. If a student is absent he can check online to see what he missed. Having chromebooks opens up the classroom to many resources that are online to get a better understanding of what you are learning. With all the good things that come with having chromebooks there are also some negatives.
As I said before, you have to become more responsible when you receive the chromebook, not just by taking care of it but by what you do with it. During class you may be able to get distracted by browsing the web. Also you can’t use the chromebook for certain classes like math because there aren’t many uses for it. The chromebook come with some distractions but it is worth it for the type of learning atmosphere that the student receives to prepare him for the future.
Justyna Chojnowski (Senior)
Upon hearing that we would be getting Chromebooks that would be ours, most of the student body at Leyden was beyond excited. The teachers, on the other hand, not so much. I, personally, have never been much of a computer person and would rather write out my own papers and not rely on a piece of technology that could break or not connect to the Internet. However, over the last couple of years, the Internet and I have become extremely close friends, especially when I needed help with Physics homework. Because of this, I was also very excited to receive the Chromebooks. The prospect of obtaining a Chromebook was very appealing, seeing as we would have access to an unlimited supply of information from all over the world except, of course, the sites that were restricted. This would not only help us further our knowledge, it would also enable us to collaborate with people from all around the world. I think, this reason was one of the major reasons that made getting Chromebooks so exciting.
Nevertheless, we faced, and still sometimes face, a major obstacle: incorporating the Chromebooks into the classroom. This has been a struggle from the beginning. The Chromebooks possess such great power that some teachers are overwhelmed and do not know how to use the Chromebooks to their advantage. Furthermore, sometimes it is impossible to incorporate the Chromebooks into a classroom, for example my Calculus AP class. Sure, we have Math XL, an online program for homework problems, but writing out equations and symbols on the Chromebook takes way longer than writing them out on paper. Or the Chromebook decides that it doesn’t want to work properly, such as when OpenClass does not want to “open.” I understand the incorporation of Chromebooks into the classroom is a work in progress, but it can be stressful on both the teacher and the students when something is not going the way it is supposed to. Teachers not only have to change how they teach, they also have to make sure that students are on task and not roaming the Internet. Sometimes the Chromebook is a major distractor and functions the reverse role of distracting instead of helping the students.
Although the Chromebook possesses some disadvantages, it in turn has a lot of advantages that can be utilized by students and teachers. One of the best things about the Chromebooks is being able to share and simultaneously collaborate, revise, and work on the same document. This allows students to complete an assignment or project without having to meet up outside of school. With busy schedules and a lot of other schoolwork, this feature ensures that students turn in their assignments, especially group projects, for they cannot use the excuse of “I wasn’t able to meet up with my group.” Sharing documents is also favorable to teachers. Teachers can view what a student is doing as they do it and are also able to access who is doing what on each document, thus in turn giving each student the grade they deserve based on the amount of work they completed. In addition, the Chromebooks are light and portable, and, in some cases, replace the back-breaking weight of carrying a stack of books. As I mentioned before, the Chromebooks offer students and teachers access to a huge supply of readily available information. This is turn can be utilized, propelling students and teachers alike into the future of technology. With a head start, students will know how to work different programs on their computers, use the Internet to obtain extra information, and eventually leave an amazing digital footprint that others will be able to view.
We, here at Leyden, have begun the process of leaving a digital footprint. Administrators, as well as teachers, are promoting the use of the Chromebooks in a positive manner, such as starting the Twitter hashtag #leydenpride. Many of our students have participated in using this hashtag. Search #leydenpride on Twitter and the results will portray students talking about our school in a positive manner as well as many different activities going on at our school and in our community. I believe, that the Chromebooks have presented students here at Leyden with many opportunities, and will continue to do so even more effectively once all the kinks are worked out.
Amina Patel (Junior)
Google Chromebook, if you mentioned these two words to me last year I would have stared at you in confusion, but now it has changed my way of thinking. It all started back in January when I was doing a service event for a club, I had to give my opinion on what I thought of these chromebooks and how other teachers can learn, it was some sort of edcamp. I honestly had no idea what I was going to say, but being me I winged it and gave it my best shot. After talking to other teachers from our school I realized that Leyden is a very privileged school, being able to have 1:1 for each and every single student is phenomenal. Having the chromebook has changed my experience here at Leyden in a postive way.
Being a junior here at Leyden has given me two years without the Google Chromebooks. I have been in the place of using simple pencil and paper in every class, I have had a basis of comparison between the classroom environments. I can honestly say the use of the Chromebooks have made my job as a student easier. The hassle of printing, the worry of late assignments, and most importantly the ease of communication with my teachers. In particular I am in an AP English class, the teacher (Mr. Narter) had us watch the political debates, and apply the things we are learning in class to the significance it has in the debate. Well, the problem was that the debate is after school hours, and instead of having the inconvenience of writing an analysis, he send us a link to a website called Today’s Meet. This website lets you log on to a specific group and have a group conversation, this made watching the debate more entertaining because you essentially had your fellow classmates right there. And trust me we had heavy debates going on. But thinking about the difficulty of this tasks without the chromebooks, made it somewhat impossible. The ease of the chromebooks with the students doesn’t go quite well with the teachers.
We live in the age of technology, with such easy access to internet the world is at our fingertips. With the chromebooks learning has becoming easier but in the case of the teachers, teaching has become harder. To implement learning online is a difficult task especially for teachers who have been doing it for years. In my opinion teachers aren’t using the chromebooks to the full extent, there has been quite a gap in the adjustments between paper and digital.
Twitter, many people know what this is and many people do not, simply put, it is a social networking website. I started using Twitter because being a teenager and using social media went hand in hand. At first it was just place to post tweets aimlessly, but has we all received chromebooks it started gaining popularity here at Leyden. Sooner than I thought the hashtag #leydenpride had started trending within our school. Students, including myself, would use it to tweet about amplifying school spirit, and other activities we were taking apart of at school. It has gotten so popular that even our own teachers and administrators were using it. Yes, my principal (Mr. Markey) is a huge twitter fan and was using the hashtag all over the place. Because the hashtag had such great popularity I had an idea, my entrepreneurship class was creating new leyden wear. Why not put #leydenpride on it? So, I got the class to agree and we sold wristbands, and t-shirts with the hashtag #leydenpride. It helped encourage students to not only have pride in their school but pride in themselves and their own self-achievements.
I would like to thank our three student contributors to this post for their candor and willingness to write some “extra’ this week. Also, I would like thank Scott McLeod for the work he continues to do to support and promote this type of integration of technology in our education system. We all may have a different vision of where education is headed, but I hope we all understand that the Web is going to be vital part of our world moving forward. Since we never deprived our students of the printed word for the past several centuries, I hope the same holds true regarding the Web.
Note from Scott
Leave the students a comment or question. I bet you’ll hear back!
I greatly appreciate the willingness of Jason and the other Leyden staff and students to contribute to this guest series on Chromebooks in schools. Chromebooks are a new approach to 1:1 computing for most educators. It’s wonderful to have an opportunity to hear lessons learned from a school district that is ahead of the curve on this front. Thanks, Leyden!
If you’re doing something interesting with technology in your school that you think might be of interest to school leaders, I’d love to hear from you. There are many educators and school organizations doing incredible work out there. I try to use my guest posts to publicly honor and share some of that work. Read over my guest blogging guidelines and drop me a note!