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posted: Fri, Feb 27th, 2015

Technology changes everyday classroom instruction 

A group of Internet-based computer applications that became widely used at Mount Olive High School this school year has recently been introduced at the elementary and middle schools. For third-grade teacher Darcy McHale, the instructional and organization benefits are already being seen. 

Google Apps For Education and Google Classroom are programs designed exclusively for education and work seamlessly with each other. Google Apps for Education includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. Because they are web-based and the documents are stored in the cloud, the applications allow students to work anywhere and collaborate on projects while they are miles apart. The applications and documents can even be accessed on smartphones and tablets.

Google Classroom is a classroom management tool that allows teachers to create and post assignments, provide feedback, and communicate with their classes. In addition, Google Classroom allows students to organize and complete their work, turn it in, and communicate directly with their teachers and classmates.

Mrs. McHale and her students were quick to embrace the new tools. Now you’ll often find laptops on the desks of her kids instead of paper and pens. 

“It didn’t take long for students to get the hang of it all,” said Mrs. McHale. “They’re digital natives. After a while whenever I would review a process or application they would say ‘OK, we’ve got this, let’s move on.’ Using computers and the apps for schoolwork is completely natural to them.”

Helps the writing process

The Google apps really focus on using information, not finding it. They’re tools for productivity.

Mrs. McHale has found the programs particularly useful for helping students with their writing. While students are working, Mrs. McHale can look at live thumbnail views of the entire class’s Google Documents and quickly assess how well each student is doing. If some are struggling, she can conference with them in person or she can also comment instantly online. This real-time assistance during the actual writing is particularly helpful since it provides guidance while students are actively engaged in the creative and thought processes.

The class also uses the tools in Google to share their documents with their classmates. Mrs. McHale emphasizes peer feedback as an important part of writing and re-writing. Google makes peer feedback easy by compiling student comments right on the screen.

The Google suite has unique collaborative features too that allow students to work on projects simultaneously in a way that tracks the contributions of each student. The students recently partnered up on a writing project that involved comparing and contrasting. After reading a Cherokee legend and an informational article, pairs of students co-wrote essays about the Cherokee based on what they had learned. Each student was able to write in the same document as his or her partner at the exact same time.  

Other uses

The other uses of the Google tools and related products in everyday instruction are far and wide. Mrs. McHale regularly assesses her class’s understanding of a math lesson by having students answer a few short math problems using Google Forms and then instantly computer-checking the responses. This quickly shows her who needs a little extra help and time on task.

Google has also opened the doors of communication like never before. Students can contact each other and ask school-related questions. They can even email Mrs. McHale; for example, if they have questions about that night’s homework assignment.

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