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Blue Hills freshman Daniel Obichie uses his Chromebook in the school library.  Photo by Judy Bass.
Blue Hills freshman Daniel Obichie uses his Chromebook in the school library. Photo by Judy Bass.
Blue Hills Regional Freshmen Receive Chromebooks

By Judy Bass

Technology is a key aspect of 21st-century education at Blue Hills
Regional Technical School in Canton, a fact recently underscored by the
distribution of Chromebooks to the entire freshman Class of 2017. 

As Blue Hills Academic Director Jill Rossetti indicated, they are
expected to be an exciting and versatile tool for facilitating learning, as
well as teaching.

As Social Studies instructor Wapaemi Wariboko put it, “With the introduction of
Chromebooks to the ninth grade classes, as a class, we are taking an adventure
into the digital world.” 

“A Chromebook is
computer with everything built in that weighs about two to three pounds,” said Rossetti.
“There is no software to install. Applications and files are stored in the
cloud.  Chromebooks use the Chrome OS,
updates automatically, apps are built in and you can find thousands of apps in
the Chrome Web store.  Chromebooks have
built-in virus protection.  Chromebooks
use Google Drive to store files and photos which are automatically backed up.
They have a 6.5-hour battery life which lasts the entire school day.”

Rossetti continued, “Chromebooks
are less expensive than laptops and computers and they are easy to manage and
deploy. Students can’t change critical settings and nothing they do is stored
on the device. Chromebooks also play nicely with other devices so students can
acccess their accounts from any Chromebook, computer, tablet, or iPad at school
or at home.”

Many teachers at Blue
Hills are already making it a requirement for their freshmen to bring their
Chromebooks fully-charged to class, Rossetti explained. 

“Basically, a student
opens the lid,” she said, “connects to the Wi-Fi network and begins working
within eight seconds. Students use the Google Apps Suite (which is free for schools)
to do word-processing assignments, create spreadsheets, create web pages,
create presentations, and forms. They can also use 21st-century
tools to e-mail, blog and conduct research. Students can discover an infinite
number of resources on the web, use the Chromebook anywhere, anytime and work
together in real-time.  They can use
Google Drive, Gmail, store videos, music, pictures, and they are PARCC-testing
compatible.” 

[PARCC is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness
for College and Careers, a group of 18 states plus the District of Columbia and the
US Virgin Islands which are collaborating on developing a set of K-12
assessments for English and math geared to measure preparation for college and
careers.]

“In academic classes,”
according to Rossetti, “students are writing papers, creating presentations,
taking notes, homework, getting homework help through Khan Academy [a
non-profit educational website featuring free resources galore that are available
to anyone in the world to facilitate learning in dozens of subjects], and
conducting research. 

“For example, in
English class,” Rossetti said, “teachers can offer real-time feedback by
logging in to a student’s shared paper. In Biology, students accomplished their
first WebQuest over the winter break and cover items in Biology that they
cannot cover during normal class time. They can use Google Maps and Google
Earth in Social Studies projects and Spanish projects. Using Google Forms,
teachers can create, give and then grade quizzes on the spot. All of these
things will help improve student achievement.”

Biology instructor
Stacy Hedges is using Chromebooks in her classroom for organization, sending
out import links, note-taking, and virtual labs.  The device has helped to streamline her
workload, too, she said:  “I have been able to
create a weekly calendar of all activities-class work-test quizzes-and upload
all assignments-then send it to everyone at the same time. The beauty of this
versus doing it on the board is I can edit it as the week changes. I would
always do a daily one and now it’s a whole week at a time. 
Also, I have
been creating worksheets or downloading worksheets that go with video clips of
hard topics. Students watch video and answer questions using their headphones.
Students are able to go at their own pace.  I have had my honors students conduct their research
using Google. I have been able to send visual aids to students that contain
actual color and headings.”

Teacher
Wapaemi Wariboko said, “One
of my goals is to use the Chromebook to increase students’ engagement in the
class.  We started by sharing documents and folders; for instance, I
shared with my students a primary source Document Analysis assignment. 
Since it is a shared document, I am able give instant feedback, identify
students struggling with the assignment and redirect such students.  Some
students have also started sharing homework with me on their Google drive which
enables me to identify ideas and concepts that needs to be developed or
re-taught in class.”

Academic Director Rossetti
is enthused about the myriad ways that Chromebooks can enhance the learning
process for Blue Hills students. “The Chromebooks help support instruction by
increasing student engagement.  We are
teaching students to collaborate on the Internet and we are preparing them for
life after Blue Hills. It’s all about lifelong learning. When school ends for
the day, learning can still continue. Students can access the Web, apps, and
files anywhere, anytime.  Students can
collaborate on homework and continue learning at night and on weekends.  Students are doing higher levels of thinking,
becoming critical thinkers, problem-solving, creating, writing and learning to
communicate effectively in classes.”

Daniel Obichie, a freshman from
Randolph studying Engineering, said, “I have been using the Chromebook to type
notes for particular classes in which the teacher uses PowerPoint presentations
to teach the class from a projector. I have used it for this purpose in my
Honors Biology I and U. S. History classes. For Honors English I, I have been
using the Chromebook to do literature homework and class work by creating
Google documents and to refer to them for discussion in class. For Honors
Algebra II, we sometimes use the Chromebook to utilize a graphing calculator
app called “Desmos” to help us with complex algebraic equations, quadratics,
and other types of math problems that require a lot of calculations.”

Obichie continued, “I think I
will do better in my classes because I am using a Chromebook, because it will
help me to pay attention in class more by taking as many notes as I feel are important
from the teacher, and it will make accessing my assignments and getting them
done easier to do, so it is simple to do and pass in assignments from different
teachers all in one device.

Blue Hills Superintendent-Director James P. Quaglia wrote an article
on the significant advances in instructional technology at Blue Hills for the
newsletter geared to parents and guardians (see entire text on front page of
“The Parents’ Pages” for Nov. 2013 on bluehills.org under the Students
and Parents tab).

“So what is next on the horizon?” Quaglia wrote.  “Well, every class from now on will be issued
a device such as a Chromebook upon beginning at Blue Hills Regional.  So in three more years, every student will
have one as an indispensable aid to his or her education here at Blue
Hills.  The thing that is obvious to any
older adult like me is that the students are eager for this move, and they will
need little guidance from us in order to make effective use of the devices. The
happiest surprise is the way in which the staff is initially embracing the
shift in technology-based education.  I
sense that this process may bring out the best in our educational
professionals…and especially our students!”




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