Although even the youngest children are considered tech-savvy today, there exists a difference between a child who knows how to use a tablet to watch videos and a child who knows how to navigate a device for active learning.

The thought of giving 30 kindergarten students their own Chromebooks might be daunting. But for one classroom, the move yielded some surprising results for student engagement, learning progress, and for students with special needs.

“We had surprising outcomes from students with special needs,” said Jamie Morgan, an elementary school teacher in the Wichita Falls ISD in Texas. In her classroom, she had students with ADHD, ODD, autism, visual disabilities, intellectual delays, and gifted and talented students. “Chromebooks made it really, really easy to differentiate instruction–I can’t imagine doing the differentiation that needed to be done without having the Chromebooks,” she said.

Because her class from the previous year was high-achieving, no one expected this new class to achieve the same test scores. And although Morgan’s new class entered with “scary” test scores, by the end of the year, their test scores surpassed the high scores of her previous class. Much of that achievement is due to the Chromebooks, Morgan said.

“That was with Chromebooks in every kid’s hand, all year long,” she said. “We used those Chromebooks every single day, all day long.”

Morgan began the Chromebook initiative by hosting a “Meet the Chromebooks” information night for her kindergarten parents. Parents filled out Google Forms with student information and also used the Forms tool to sign up for parent-teacher conferences (Morgan’s tip: Use Google’s Choice Eliminator so that time slots or other options disappear as soon as a parent selects that option). Morgan also uses autoCrat, a Google add-on, to take data from spreadsheets and merge it into documents.

(Next page: Resources Morgan used to enhance the Chromebooks in class)