Dell Chromebooks and Classrooms: A Winning Combination

Dale Basye

See for yourself how today’s teachers are using Dell Chromebooks to bring 21st Century learning to their students.

Technology is an essential and proven tool in helping students to explore the world, gain self-confidence, and expand critical thinking skills. With this in mind, Intel Education—in early 2015—gave away four sets of ten Dell Chromebooks with Core i3 processors to schools across the country.

We were amazed at the resourceful ways educators were using the devices to boost their students’ love of learning and kindling curiosity in the world around them: even students who have had little or no opportunity to experience the positive influence of technology in the classroom. Some highlights include:

  • “Their favorite activity so far has been using the Chromebooks to do coding.”
  • “I’ve always liked using technology, and these [devices] have allowed me to expand, give more independent research projects, and integrate them with my projector/laptop and tablet.”
  • “My school is a type of ‘Alternative School’ for at-risk, and trauma based students. Many of these students have not attended school on a regular basis due to various life circumstances, and they have not been exposed to this type of technology. I can see a positive change in some of their behaviors because they are being taught how to use this technology and how it can help them move forward in a more positive manner.”

Opening Up a World of Possibility for Neglected Children

Stonebridge World School Elementary Minneapolis, Minnesota

Upon winning the Dell Chromebook devices, Stonebridge World School Elementary put five in each of the school’s two kindergarten rooms. Kindergarten teacher Janice Aziz already had headphones so she simply purchased adapters so that they’d work with the new Chromebooks. She then had ten computer mice donated so that her young students—whom had little or no experience with technology—could easily make the most of the devices.

“My students are homeless, abused and neglected,” Aziz says. “Most of my students don’t know how to sit to listen to a story: not because of bad behavior but because they have never had books read to them. Having Chromebooks in the classroom has opened the world up to these kids.”

Stonebridge World School Elementary is currently using the Chromebook devices during the school’s reading block to enhance student-reading skills. Each student has their own account to Reading Eggs—an online reading program—where they are leveled according to their skills.

In addition to Reading Eggs, Aziz can now utilize solutions such as A-Z Reading (another online leveled reading program), Tumblebooks (animated picture books), Starfall (a solution to improve reading scores),Shepperd Software,(math practice and critical thinking games), BrainPop Jr. (for students to virtually explore the world around them) as well as other websites to benefit students and improve their ability to succeed.

“The Chromebooks give me additional tools to help differentiate and reach all of my students,” Aziz says. “My kids know about defeat. So I want them to experience the feeling of winning and knowing that they can do anything they set their minds to.”

Young Makers Making the Most of What They Have

Michie Elementary School Michie, Tennessee

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, jobs in STEM fields are predicted to increase 17 percent by 2018: a statistic that Michie Elementary School STEM teacher Lisa Horton is constantly reminding her students.

“I have a STEM classroom that engages students in grades fourth through eighth every week,” Horton says. “They create games, make movies on iPhones, build furniture, have designed and created a hovercraft, and are currently working with hydraulics. My class, however, is concentrated on the Science, Engineering, and Mathematics aspects of STEM due to a lack of technology available. I have many tools for my students to design and create projects, but lack the portability of laptops.”

Michie Elementary School has five one-to-one classrooms that were implemented nearly a decade ago. While that served students adequately for the first couple of years of the program, funding diminished and now what was once the latest technology is now virtually obsolete: with students usually opting to utilize the desktop computers in the school’s two computer labs. Needless to say, a classroom-set of Intel-based Chromebook devices was not only a welcome surprise for the school, but one that quickly became an integral part of Horton’s curriculum.

“In essence, they are ‘makers’: and they are good at it,” Horton—a thirty-year Michie Elementary teaching veteran and The Sky’s No Longer the Limit grant-winner—says of her students. “They are curious about learning and creating new things, but they also get excited about sharing their work and progress with others. With Chromebooks, students can research, consult experts online, connect and collaborate with other STEM communities, and share their projects globally. Not only can they share their projects, they can also share their own ‘how-to’ articles.”

The initial challenge for Horton was setting up Google accounts for all of her students. The school had to have parents’ permission to set up email accounts for each student: starting with seventh and eighth graders (with a handful of parents not providing consent) and having fourth, fifth, and sixth graders simply logging on to the devices as guests.

After getting used to the cloud, students have made good use of the Chromebooks. They have become quite proficient at storing files in the cloud and accessing files both at home and at school without need of a flash drive. Students have used the devices for research projects in social studies, to view online mitosis/meiosis simulations in science class, and to collaborate with students in a neighboring school about a hydraulics project for STEM class. Their favorite activity so far, according to Horton, has been using the Chromebooks to do coding.

“They used the website to learn how to program video games/simulations of their own using ‘blockly’ rather than a text code,” she explains. “My students have been amazed at their own progress and some have expressed an interest in learning more about computer science.“

The only thing the students haven’t been using since the Chromebook implementation is, apparently, the school’s set of iPads.

“Before the Chromebooks, students thought that they had hit the jackpot whenever they got to use one of the school’s 15 iPads,” Horton says. “Now, when given a choice, eight-out-of-ten students choose the Chromebooks over the iPads. They’ve been the best resource we’ve had in years, with many of our teachers all wanting a set of their own now. Our administration is planning to add more when school starts next year!”

Technology Helping Challenged Children to Succeed

Mayer High School Mayer, Arizona

The community of Mayer, Arizona is—by and large—very low socio-economically speaking, with a large number of unemployed residents with only a high school education, if that, and a high degree of drug and alcohol abuse. While some neighborhoods are better off than others, some areas are so poor—according to Mayer High School teacher Cheryl Taylor—that just living in them makes a child officially considered “homeless”.

Taylor is a special education teacher in a self contained EDP (Emotionally Disturbed Person) classroom, teaching a class of emotionally disabled high school students. When she first arrived at Mayer High School, Taylor found that the children in her class had little or no exposure to the outside world with no concept of geography and current events.

“Most of the students thought they’d never leave the area, would never graduate from high school, and would certainly never go to college,” Taylor says. “I was shocked to find that few of these young adults had any idea of what they might want to do after high school. The farthest they looked into the future was where the next party was going to be. I’ve set out to expose these adolescents to the world, and the opportunities that are out there for them.”

Due to these challenges, Taylor—a teacher since 1998—has employed most every learning method to connect with and motivate her students. Generally, if she hears of something new that might be of use, she tries it. Taylor’s technological interest and expertise—she has built computers and is an avid digital photographer—has her utilizing any technology that Mayer High School can provide. Unfortunately, the school has only one computer per class, and two computer labs with older technology. Luckily for Taylor’s class, she won a set of Intel-based Chromebooks.

“They saved my life the first week we got them,” she says. “They came during our state AZMerits testing, and it all had to be done on computers. Each of the kids took a Chromebook and worked away, as happy as clams, in whatever seating position worked best for them. With the state’s insistence on computer based testing, keyboarding skills will become paramount, and I can think of so many other things I’d like to use the computers for.”

In addition, Taylor and her class have been using the Chromebook devices for social studies assignments, on geography projects, and reading books together. One high point, according to Taylor, was the ability to expand her class’s research capabilities, so that—in studying Asia, for example—Taylor didn’t need to dominate the class projector and present: all of her students could, instead, spend the class period researching then presenting and sharing themselves. The devices have allowed Taylor to expand her curriculum, assign more independent research projects, and integrate these projects with her class projector, laptop and tablet.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for my students,” Taylor says. “The Chromebooks increase my students’ interest, and helps open the world to them in ways that might normally be unavailable. Mentally ill children are often forgotten, shoved out of the way, or put into a ‘storage’ program, just to get them out of school. I want better than that for these kids. I want them to succeed, and to become responsible, healthy adults. These Chromebooks would help me do just that.”

Gaining Pride, Gaining Confidence & Gaining a More Positive Future

St. Francis-St. Joseph Home for Children Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

For most, school is a chance to gain vital skills and prepare for the real world. For others, school can be a student’s last chance to turn their lives around: their last chance for a positive educational and personal outcome.

The Saint Francis-Saint Joseph Home for Children is an “alternative school” for at-risk and trauma-based students. Many of these students have not attended school on a regular basis due to various life circumstances, and come with a myriad of issues: suffering from abuse issues, abandonment, learning disabilities, mental-health problems, and anger management. Some can go home on weekends to visit family, and are granted “community access,” while others are not.

Sharon Kosinski, Secondary Science Teacher at Saint Francis-Saint Joseph Home for Children, employs a number of learning methods to reach her class: gauging her students’ attitudes and feelings each day and adjusting her methods accordingly, hoping for success. When Kosinski won a set of Intel-based Chromebooks for her classroom, she was ecstatic. While all classrooms of the Saint Francis-Saint Joseph Home for Children are equipped with SmartBoards and computers designed for teacher-use, as far as student technology goes, there was only a very small computer lab consisting of six PC laptops. Having a set of Chromebooks in her classroom, Kosinski surmised, would serve as a remarkable tool in guiding students through the STEM educational process: a major step to promoting academics, research, creativity, and a hands-on experience which can change a students thinking and learning process.

“Almost immediately I saw a positive change in student behavior,” Kosinski explains. “The Chromebooks have become an incentive for students who were no longer vested in their education. Some felt hopeless. By using the Chromebooks, more students have become engaged and are feeling confident about their chances for success.”

The students are using the Chromebooks for many varied projects, including: researching methods of designing a protective device which will enable a raw egg to survive a 75 foot drop; researching the impact of volcanoes and ways of predicting activity, then building specific volcanoes; and—for Forensic Science—researching fingerprinting, ballistics, crime scene sketching, profiling, evidence collection methods, protocol, and jobs in the field of forensics. Kosinski has purchased a “Stem Learning System” which includes the tools for robotic exploration, construction, working with small machines, and other components.

“We recently finished a wonderful project on Endangered Species,” Kosinski shares, “and the students were so excited to get to work. There was pride and a positive grasp of knowledge. One student looked at me and said, ‘Thanks, Mrs. K: Now I feel like a real high school student.’ I asked her what she meant and she said, ‘Using these new computers makes me feel like a real student. We didn’t have anything like this in my old high school in Philly.’”

Some challenges with the Chromebooks—in addition to the relatively gentle learning curve for the devices—have included monitoring student Internet usage without incorporating firewalls that would end up blocking a majority of potentially useful research information. Kosinski is looking into monitoring programs to block personal activities, freeze screens, or shut down personal use for any student breaking the computer usage rules yet—in the meantime—she simply remains diligent: finding that the majority of her students are so happy with the devices that they don’t want to lose their privileges.

“The Chromebooks have opened doors, and windows, for engaging my students,” Kosinski says. “For now, the sky is the limit for us. The Chromebooks are state-of-the art tools that are affording my students the opportunity to learn science on a global basis and apply concepts to the ‘real world’. They are gaining pride and confidence in their academic ability to move on from our school and be re-integrated into a traditional school because they are working with the latest technology and will not feel inadequate when using new equipment and research techniques. These devices are playing a significant role in making some students value their education and strive toward a more positive future.”

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At A Glance

Stonebridge World School Elementary Minneapolis, Minnesota

Stonebridge World School Elementary— located in Minneapolis, Minnesota—is a tuition-free K-6 public charter school that provides a unique combination of a global curriculum, a variety of services and a central location designed to provide a first-class education to Minneapolis students. The school has an approximate 12:1 student-to- teacher ratio and focuses on building global citizens through reading, writing, and math combined with arts, technology, Spanish, and physical education to educate the whole child.

Michie Elementary School Michie, Tennessee

Michie School was built in 1954, in the Southeast corner of McNairy County in West Tennessee. The population of Michie is approximately 7,000, with the majority of workers commuting to work in nearby Corinth. The school serves approximately 400 students in Pre-kindergarten through eighth grades with a staff of roughly 30 teachers, as well as special education teachers, a speech therapist, gifted coordinator and behavior specialist that meet with identified students on a weekly basis. Nearly 79% of Michie Elementary School students are on the free/reduced lunch program.

Mayer High School Mayer, Arizona

Mayer High School is a public high school in Mayer, Arizona. The school has nearly 200 students—with 78% having subsidized lunches—and approximately 15 staff members. Schools in this district operate on a four-day school week and—according to state standards—40% of students are considered proficient in math and/or reading.

St. Francis-St. Joseph Home for Children Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Saint Francis-Saint Joseph Home for Children has been serving the needs of Philadelphia-area dependent and delinquent youth for over 165 years through residential and educational programs, case management, and both in-patient and outpatient clinical services. The school currently has 25 faculty members and 90 enrolled students: with all of the students considered “at-risk” and participating in the free/reduced lunch program. Approximately 70% of the school’s students are male and 30% are female.

Dell Chromebook 11 Quick Stats

  • Processor: Intel Haswell Dual Core x86 processor
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3L
  • Storage: 16GB SATA SSD
  • Battery: High-density battery supported by a 4th Gen Intel® processor provides up to 7 hours of power
  • Connectivity: WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth and Connect/Sync (connect with other Android phones/tablets and other devices running Chrome browser)
  • Security: Built in multiple layers of security to prevent viruses and malware; automatic updates for installing new software or upgrading security
  • Form Factor: 11.6” screen size, Sub 1” height, and less than 3 lbs
  • Speed: Easy to use; boots in seconds and comes with Google apps

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