Apologies for the click-bait title, but I wanted to drive home the idea that, without buy-in, Chromebooks are no more than (very) expensive paperweights! And who needs a new paperweight? Then again, does anyone these days still use a paperweight? Or know what a paperweight is?! I am dating myself and digressing at the same time! Oh by the way, wondering why I have a beautiful featured image that seems to have nothing to do with technology or Chromebooks? Read on and you will discover why…
As a coach, it is gratifying to see teachers leading the way with technology and embracing the use of Chromebooks as part of their daily pedagogical practice. These teachers are affording their students the opportunity to explore learning possibilities that could not exist without the use of the aforementioned Chromebooks. By using this technological tool on a daily basis, effectively complementing the already-engaging curriculum facilitated by the teacher, students can become used to bringing their devices to class in the same way that they would bring a textbook, paper, or a writing utensil.
Unfortunately, I have heard many staff say that some students do not bring their Chromebooks to class. Or, if they do, they are not charged. I can certainly sympathize with a student not arriving in class prepared with the necessary course materials. With 27 years in the classroom as an English teacher, I also felt the frustration with students not bringing their novel or play to class. “But we read from it every day!” I used to exclaim before allowing them to either go to their locker or, in habitual occurrences when the locker visit took far too long, allow them to work alongside one of their peers who had arrived prepared to learn. While frustrating, thankfully these unprepared students formed a very small minority of my class, most of whom showed up prepared to learn every day.
So why do the majority of our students come to class on a daily basis prepared to learn, carrying their textbook and binder?
Habit. Created by staff who model the behaviour. Daily.
Students have been trained for years that they need to come prepared to class. However, do you really think that when all students start to learn this habit around Grade 4 they immediately comply and come prepared? Of course not. By Grade 10, they have had SIX YEARS to develop this skill and some students STILL come to class unprepared!
So can we really expect all students to always remember to bring in their Chromebooks every day when they haven’t even had them for a year? Probably not. With that being said, I am going to offer up a few suggestions on how you as the teacher can both build and model this new habit with your students so that they feel the need and/or desire to bring their Chromebook to school every day.
In order for students to effectively build the habit of bringing in their Chromebooks to school each day, teachers must be using the devices every day in every class they teach.
Now I have never been one for saying that technology has to be used throughout your lessons every day. However, technology can be used where possible to make the lesson richer, more engaging, more inquiry-driven, and more meaningful. I feel that if the students know they will be using their devices in every class, every day, even for as little as 5 to 10 minutes, and that the use of the technology is meaningful, then they will start to build the habit of bringing it in.
I feel that as teachers we are helping our colleagues if we use the devices every day. If the students know that all teachers are embracing the use of the technology as a team, then they are more likely to follow their mentors’ (that’s you) lead and bring their device in. Can you imagine students forgetting to bring in their phones? Or not charging them the night before so that they don’t last the whole day? This hardly ever happens because students know that they will be using their phone every day. I tell students to charge their Chromebook in the same place and at the same time as their phone. In the morning, when they grab their phone, they also grab their Chromebook and leave the plugs in the wall. A fully-charged Chromebook will easily last the whole school day, even being on the entire time. Of course, being closed and in sleep mode will help them last even longer. At night, it is plugged in with the phone and the cycle (and habit) is built.
One very simple but effective way for teachers to use Chromebooks every day is by using it as the frame (beginning and end) for your lesson. For me, the habit that I would want my class (and hopefully my school as a whole) to embrace is one where students know the daily routine as soon as they walk into the classroom. Kids love and crave routine (even if they do push back at first).
The daily expectation should be that students:
- Come to class, sit down, and open up their Chromebook.
- Enter their virtual classroom, whether that be Google Classroom, D2L, or Moodle.
- View the Learning Goal and (if applicable) Success Criteria for the day (which the teacher has provided beforehand).
- Begin work on a Digital Entrance Ticket (5 minutes).
- End the class with a Digital Exit Ticket (5 minutes).
Entrance tickets can be used as a way of focusing the students at the beginning of class when students can be excitable and off task and can be completed while the teacher is taking attendance and getting things ready for the lesson. Exit tickets can be scheduled to appear in Google Classroom (for example) in the last 5 minutes of class and replaces the often “dead” 5 minutes in a period, when everyone stands up and clusters around the door waiting for the bell to ring. Instead, students are engaged in active reflection, knowing that their teacher will be reading their work and perhaps responding to them.
Entrance and Exit tickets can be done very simply by the teacher. In Google Classroom, for example, the teacher can use the “Ask a Question” feature and ask for the student to type (or speak using Read and Write or Google Docs) the answer to a specific question either as a review of the previous lesson or as a way to focus on the upcoming lesson and perhaps activate prior knowledge. Or the teacher can create a more generalized template on a Google Doc and “Make a Copy” for each student. Then the student has the ability to add a personalized journal reflection entry at the end of every class where they answer such questions as “what did I learn today?”, “why am I learning it?”, and “how can I tell that I have learned it and what can I do if I haven’t?”. These answers can be viewed (and potentially assessed) very quickly by the teacher as a diagnostic, as a way of seeing gaps in students’ knowledge and understanding, as a way of connecting with students who admit they are unsure about aspects of the lesson (far less of a risk than raising your hand in class), or simply as a way to ensure that students are thinking about what they are learning (metacognition).
Research says that it takes 66 days to form a habit. With your guidance, and having you model the use of technology by using your ILP every day, students should be used to bringing a charged Chromebook to class every day by the end of the first semester that they have it. Yes, you will still get a few that forget on a regular basis and some that never bring them at all but you can only try. I believe that employing this daily routine will have the majority of your students coming to class prepared.
I challenge each and every teacher to give my suggestion in this blog an honest try. Let’s get back to the beautiful picture of Rome at the top of this blog. When dealing with staff at my schools, I like to quote a cliché. I remind them that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And it wasn’t built by one person. It took time, and it took people working together and supporting each other. But, in the end, all of the work was worth it. Let’s work as a team and help students create the habit of bringing their devices to afford them the opportunity to use technology in meaningful ways. Let’s be leaders and allow all of our students to have the experience of being 21st century learners. Let’s prepare them for the future!
If you have a suggestion of something that you have done that has helped students to create the habit of bringing Chromebooks to class every day, please share it with me in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading, thanks for being a role model, thanks for being a leader in technology, and thanks for all the hard work that you do on a daily basis to prepare kids for life!