As the year progressed, Morgan said the kindergarten team discovered a number of tools and strategies that helped students best use the Chromebooks to enhance their learning. Students’ Google Passwords were written on their name tags and each student had their own Google account.
“Let kids explore the Chromebooks,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to let them make mistakes–they’re not going to mess something up that can’t be fixed.”
Following is a list of some of the tools Morgan and her fellow educators used:
“I know it seems kind of crazy to attempt Google Classroom with kindergarteners, but when we started it mid-year, we realized we wished we’d started it sooner,” Morgan said. Google Classroom let Morgan push assignments to her students while also giving them more control over their work–something educators hadn’t given the young students enough credit for, she added.
“The thing we found most beneficial of anything was having Ok Google,” Morgan said. “The thing that helped our kids the most was Ok Google.” All users have to do is click on the user icon at the bottom right of the Chromebook, select “Settings,” and click to enable. Because kindergarten students are learning to read and reading levels can vary widely, Ok Google works for everyone because it takes voice commands. It also helps students with their speech, Morgan added. “The determination you saw on their tiny little faces was just remarkable,” she said.
Morgan used Google Tone to send sound-activated clickable pop-up links to students’ Chromebooks at the same time.
Google Share to Classroom
Using this extension, Morgan could instantly push websites to her students’ Chromebooks.
Google Slides really allowed students to take ownership of their learning and projects, Morgan said. She used slides to create alphabet and reading journals, and students soon became adept at changing their themes, font and colors. They used Ok Google to find Google images of objects beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
Because many of her students lacked strong math skills, Morgan used Google Slides to create manipulatives and simple math problems to help students get back on track. Students used Google Classroom’s “turn in” button to send their assignment to Morgan, who graded it and sent it back.
Screencastify lets users record their screen, camera, microphone, and anything else that happens on their computer screen. “If you’re going to be absent and you really want to teach something, use Screencastify and record the whole lesson. All students have to do is hit play,” Morgan said. “If you need to give an oral assessment to 5 different kids about 5 different things, you can record those different things and put all the students on different devices. We all know how much time assessments take.”
“If you aren’t using Seesaw now, you have to,” Morgan said. Seesaw lets students create digital portfolios and share content with teachers and parents. For example, when Morgan’s class learned about the butterfly lifecycle, students created videos and uploaded them to Seesaw, then posted QR codes in the hallway that brought up the corresponding videos.
Chromebooks also offer many accessibility features, including a screen magnifier, and on-screen keyboard if students have trouble manipulating keys or the touch pad with fingers, a large cursor, a high contrast mode, and more. All of those featured are located under accessibility settings in order to help students if they have low vision, delayed fine motor skills, or other needs.
You can contact Jamie Jo Morgan on Twitter @JamieJoMorgan or via her website, which includes a link to the presentation described in this story.