6 tips for making the most of your Chromebooks

Learn how one educator got started with Google tools and Chromebooks in the classroom to become a paperless pioneer.

4. Provide a rubric and a model.

“I just don’t understand how to get an A on this,” Nick complained. “You’re looking right at the rubric,” I replied. “I know, but it’s just words,” he said, “I don’t get what to put on each slide.” While at first, I didn’t understand what Nick meant, I realize now that for many students, a rubric isn’t enough. I thought my rubric for the group slideshow on a literary movement was fail-proof with clear requirements like “6-8 slides,” “at least 5 sources,” and “5 + images.” However, for students like Nick, it was difficult to translate these written instructions into what the slideshow was supposed to look like.

I was so excited by the possibility for student freedom that Google slides offered my classroom, I had forgotten that many students struggle when not provided with a lot of structure. Therefore, I created two sample “A+” slideshows on literary movements that none of the groups were covering that I uploaded to my Google Classroom stream.

Although it took extra time to create these models for every project I assigned throughout the year, it was worth it because I saw so many groups referring back to the models over and over again and noticing requirements they had missed. While the fear tends to be that too much scaffolding leads to spoon-feeding, I found that most groups actually pushed way beyond the model I provided, but found comfort in having the curated A+ model to ensure they were on the right track.

computer habits

5. Demonstrate your omniscience.

“Don’t your students mess around on the Chromebooks? How can you see what they are doing?” were the resounding questions other teachers on campus asked me when they heard I had gone paperless in my classroom. I had to be honest. The truth was that sometimes students did mess around, and sometimes I couldn’t see what each one of them was doing. I had even caught Nick copy-pasting silly photos into his group slideshow and typing over other students’ slides.

Incorporating one-to-one Chromebooks meant relinquishing a little bit of control, but the opportunities and educational growth I had seen in my classroom made this sacrifice more than worth it. In order to keep behavior in check and mitigate problems with students like Nick, I spent 10 minutes showing my class all the ways I could see and track what they had done online. For instance, I modeled that by clicking “All changes saved in drive” at the top of a student’s shared Google slideshow project, I could see an entire revision history of what each group member had added and when they had added it. Thus, I could tell if they had copy-pasted from a website or if a single group member had done all the work alone.

Once students knew of this capability, I could truthfully create rubrics based on an individual student’s positive contributions and productivity to a group project. So, when Nick complained that one of his group members had done none of the work on the group project, I could verify that this was true and justify giving that student a lower grade. This omniscience I had demonstrated also kept Nick from posting more silly photos in his slideshow.

happy classrooms

6. Promote student fearlessness.

I noticed quickly that when students struggled with a tech platform or something unexpected happened with their computer, they were often scared to try to solve the problem on their own. They were worried they might break or delete something. I thought about how much more they would learn if they experimented with the devices when something did not go as planned.

To model this behavior, I explicitly taught my class how to undo actions in Google and how to take items out of the trash. I started giving students quick five-minute challenges that asked them to learn how to use a specific function like inserting a chart or a footnote without my help. In addition, I openly showed students how I would use experimentation and the internet to troubleshoot and solve any tech questions from students I didn’t know the answer to immediately. By promoting fearlessness, students became more willing to seek answers for themselves and learn from mistakes.

There’s no doubt that going paperless can be intimidating, especially if you are one of the only teachers at your school site doing it, as it requires you to change so many of the procedures that allow you to maintain law and order in your classroom. However, it is doable and worth the effort. By modeling for your students your ability to incorporate new technology into your classroom in stride, you make the process easier for them to mimic. By the end of the year, even my most vocally anti-tech students like Nick preferred working on groups on their Chromebooks to working alone with a pencil and paper.

 [Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Common Sense Education.]

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