At St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School (DOM) in Bracebridge, the classroom is not only a place for learning core subjects but to prepare students for life in an ever-changing technological society. DOM students have the edge because every student is given a Chromebook to use for the school year.
Chromebooks are laptops that only connect to the internet through Google. Students can access all of the Google products that they need for school: Google Drive, Docs, Youtube, and most importantly, Google Classroom.
In most, if not all classes, Google Classroom is used to submit assignments, post agendas and announcements of completed work; essentially, it is the electronic version of a real-life classroom. This helps keep everyone up to date, even students who might need to be absent. Mr. McDonald, librarian, teacher and school Chromebook expert describes the benefits for both teachers and students. “Chromebooks have given students a chance to explore and develop their own ideas and interests at their own pace. When a student has full access to the internet, the teacher is no longer the “gatekeeper” of all information. The teacher’s role changes to “facilitator” to guide students through finding and using information. Students’ learning improves as they have more opportunities to engage in their own ideas along with the teacher’s direction.”
Chromebooks for every student started as a joint project between the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) and the elementary schools including Saint Mary’s Catholic School in Huntsville and Monsignor Michael O’Leary (MMO) in Bracebridge during the 2011 school year. Since then, the schools have never looked back, said Mr. McDonald. “We were excited that students could work collaboratively on Google documents and teachers could edit work through the “sharing” function. At the time, we mostly used it for English courses, but other teachers quickly adapted the Chromebooks to their own curriculum. As Google expanded products and extensions, teachers now have functions like maps, voice-to-text, online quizzes and Classroom to track marks and submissions. The technology has quickly grown because students and teachers have found easy ways to incorporate it into learning and enhance our traditional approach to education.”
Originally, DOM had 30 Chromebooks in a cart as a mobile lab. Grade 10 students were given Chromebooks to use full-time in 2013. By 2014, the school had a Chromebook for every single student.
Since the start of this project, Chromebooks have changed the way teacher’s teach and students learn. From a student’s perspective, Chromebooks mean less handwriting, easier research and more accessible technology for everyone, including students who may not have had the opportunity otherwise. Access to Chromebooks also means that lazy snow days are a thing of the past – now students can attend all of their classes remotely should bad weather mean the cancellation of busses. This means that students and teachers never feel the need to “catch up” in terms of curriculum – it all gets covered in a really manageable way.
Google Suites and Chromebooks have given teachers an invaluable way to engage with students in a meaningful way. Mr.McDonald agrees, “Chromebooks give teachers lots of opportunities to provide students with quick and thorough feedback. On paper, a teacher can only write brief comments on an essay after it is handed in. With Chromebooks, students can work on their essays in class and get immediate feedback when they share it with teachers early in the writing process. Teachers can edit work and provide detailed feedback and links to improve the writing. Chromebooks also let students work at their own pace. If a student needs to review a class agenda or lesson, Chromebooks mean that crucial information is just a click away any time of the day.”
This year, every class (with the exception of math) at St. Dominic’s is located within Google classroom, with teachers embracing the Chromebooks, as well as learning how to use new features and websites, such as Kahoot (an interactive quiz and competition website), to enhance student learning. Both students and teachers love Chromebooks – they make learning fun and more effective than ever before.