Students at Fairview Elementary typed stories into an application on their Chromebooks and an animated character read the stories back to the students.
Students at Fairview Elementary typed stories into an application on their Chromebooks and an animated character read the stories back to the students.
May 2, 2013

Two teachers at Fairview Elementary are taking full advantage of some Google Chromebook laptops that were recently purchased by the school.

Kindergarten teacher Tina Netusil and third-grade teacher Sara Hamilton said using the Chromebooks in their classrooms has been key in implementing the 21st Century Skills portion of the Iowa Core.

"For us, it's problem-solving," Netusil said. "The kids are asking, 'What do I do? What's my next step?' and they're figuring it out for themselves."

She said allowing students to have their own computers forces the kids to sit back and think about what to do if their computer screen goes black or if everything freezes.

The students are also learning proper language and terms to use with the technology.

As far as activities for students to do on the computers, the teachers say there are plenty. And the sites are getting easier to use.

Hamilton and Netusil have been using a program called Symbaloo. The program allows teachers to set up websites and then they set up pictures that kids can click on that take them directly to other websites so the students don't have to type in long website addresses.

"When they typed in the website before, almost every time someone missed a letter or a symbol and it wouldn't work so they'd raise their hand," Hamilton said.

The teachers said Symbaloo is similar to the website Pinterest, only the links take the students to interactive games, books and writing activities.

One activity the students have completed using the computers was a writing exercise. Netusil's kindergartners and Hamilton's third-graders teamed up to type a story that was written by the kindergarten students into an application.

When the students were finished typing the story, an animated character read it back to them.

Netusil said that project was particularly nice because it's hard for her to get around to every student during writing activities. She said that project allowed the third-grade students to give feedback on the stories and tell the kindergarten students how they could improve their writing.

"It's like have an extra set of hands," Netusil said.

The computers have taught the students more than just how to do online activities.

"Patience. It helps them because they know they have to sit down when the computers are out and work," Netusil said.

She said the students have to go through every step of a process to get to the website they need, and just doing that can be a learning activity.

At this point, Hamilton said, she'd be lost without the new technology. She has technology, whether it be Chromebooks, iPads or Mac Books in her room four days out of the week.

She said that technology is going to be a growing part of the school's education.

The students are as excited about learning from the technology as teachers are about using it.

"They're excited about learning," Netusil said. "We do old-fashioned-type activities with flashcards, but they prefer to do it online."

According to Chromebooks websites, the devices are designed to be used while connected to the Internet and support applications that reside on the Web, rather than traditional personal-computer applications that reside on the machine itself.

Netusil and Hamilton have been school guinea pigs for testing out the Chromebooks. They've spent the last two years taking 10 classes from a computer guru from Colorado who Superintendent Rob Cordes brought into the district to teach a few of the teachers how to implement technology.

Netusil and Hamilton have been presenting the information from their classes to all teachers at the school as they take their classes.