It’s a new school year and suddenly, the old metal computer carts that used to appear in the classroom have vanished. Now, Jamesville-DeWitt has rolled in a new set of black carts full of, not Macs, but Google Chromebooks. Students have also been introduced to a new interface called Google Classroom, where teachers and student can interact via technology.
Last year, some teachers, such as English teacher Matthew Phillips, were part of a test run with the Chromebooks. He was able to use them with his classes and found they increased productivity and the students really seemed to like them. Others, such as history teacher Jamie Crawford and health teacher Melissa Moore, were not so fortunate. Mrs. Moore said that she wished that she was introduced to the new system prior to this school year, possibly before the summer. "It would be interesting to see how teachers are using it now. Like how many teachers are actually using it in their classrooms and what are they doing with it," said Mrs. Moore
Mr. Phillips noted that while there are some upsides and downsides to the new system, he likes to use the Chromebooks as much as possible. "I'm trying to get used to the new interface [because] I've been using Blackboard for years and years," he said. Phillips went on to explain how Google Classroom and Blackboard are quite different so they have different positives. Phillips said that one of his classes was split as a handful of students liked Blackboard better and the majority really liked Classroom better.
Principal Paul Gasparini agreed with many teachers that once the students and teachers get started, past some minor speed bumps, Google Classroom is a great way for students to turn in work and stay connected to their classes. "I think (the transition to Google Classroom) has been a seamless transition. We thought it was a good direction to go in," he said. The switch to Chromebooks was through BOCES as they manage the apps for education. "You know we just think that [Classroom] offers a lot of promise for our teachers and our students, and we're really following the students' lead on this," he said. Gasparini noted that it is easier having things stored "in the Cloud" and that many students write an essay on their phone or tablet. "It really is the most efficient way to work, and that's why we are going in that direction. It really gives us so much flexibility," he said.
Chorus teacher Beth Quackenbush agreed that once students got past signing in, finding their password, etc., using the Chromebooks went smoothly, “ for about 95 percent of the kids in (her) class.” She explained that the biggest problem occurred with transfer students who did not have a school email yet or kids who forgot their passwords. “Once [the students] are on then it's awesome. They like that they can just do (assignments) from home. They can drill their pitches and just come back to me. It made a huge difference in the quality of our concert because I was able to spend so much more time actually using the content versus just teaching the content,” said Mrs. Quackenbush.
Junior Carolyn Kolceski wishes that all classes had it; “if we’re going to do it then we should do it throughout.” She agreed that the teachers should have been better introduced to Classroom so that more teachers use it. The teachers “can pretty much do anything, they can do Google Drive, which is fine except on the phone it can be really weird...it doesn’t show up right.” Some students, such as junior Jenny Hossain, think that the school should’ve gotten updated Macs instead of Chromebooks. “I honestly like the Macs better because the Chromebooks don’t have a caps lock button.” Hossain also noted that the battery life of Chromebooks falls short of Macs, but overall she “love(s) Google Classroom, it’s so easy to sumbit work.”
Junior Aygul Amurlayeva said that she liked the new Chromebooks and Classroom, but but also misses the caps lock key. Amurlayeva likes how Google Classroom is easy to access from home. Mr. Phillips noted that the Chromebooks boot up faster and have less technical problems than the school's old Macs, "I really gained, I would say, 15 to 20 minutes of class time. I found that for the past few years I've been avoiding using the carts." Phillips also acknowledged some frustration students have had over the missing capslock key. There seems to be mixed reviews throughout over the switch to Chromebooks. However, across the board, students and teachers alike seem to enjoy using Google Classroom.