Sunday, November 20, 2011

Student Voice Matters

This past September I was fortunate enough to attend a professional development program on the Chromebook at the Google offices in New York City. At the conclusion of the workshop, I immediately began to think about the potential of this computing device in my school. However, something was missing. The missing piece to making a decision of this magnitude was the thoughts and advice from the most important constituency in schools, the students. So I floated an idea to Google, which at the time I didn’t think would ever pan out. I asked them if I could bring back a group of students from New Milford High School so that they could try out the devices and provide me with feedback as to whether or not they would be a good fit for our school. The idea was enthusiastically embraced.
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On Monday November 14, 2011, I took ten students from our STEM Academy on an amazing adventure to the Google offices in New York City. This would turn out to be the most exciting and meaningful daylong trip of their high school experience. The agenda for the day was as follows:
  • Tour of the offices and themed floors.
  • Chromebook overview and hands-on time with the device.
  • Special meeting with “Googlers” to learn about what it is like to work there, the application process, and the diversity of programs that they work on.
  • Lunch in one of the five specialized cafeterias.

Since this was an Academy experience, I gave the students an assignment that had to be completed after the trip (which comes back to why we were at Google in the first place). Each student had to write a persuasive essay explaining why I should or should not purchase Chromebooks for the school. I reinforced the fact that they, not me, would make this important decision. I don’t know who was more excited about this, the students or me. Students have begun to send their essays to me using Google Docs and I can’t resist sharing one of them here. The following is the persuasive essay by senior Amanda Howell:

On Monday November 14th, myself, along with a small group of students, had an unparalleled opportunity. We were able to visit the Google offices in New York City, and try the Chromebooks that Google has come out with. Not only was the trip to Google an amazing experience, but also to be able to test out technology that could be beneficial to my fellow students was an amazing personal experience.

I found the Chromebooks would be a great investment for New Milford High School for several reasons. These reasons include the computers simplicity, speed, and value. 
 The first, and perhaps best quality of the Chromebooks, is its simplicity. This I personally love, but I also think will be a great quality for the student body. The Chromebook has the least hassle of any computer I have ever surfed the web on, and it was an extremely refreshing experience to be able to boot up and go. The students here at New Milford will be able to turn on their Chromebook, enter their information, and begin working on whatever they desire. I believe that this feature will be particularly useful for a classroom setting because students will need no instructions on what to do. It wastes time in a classroom when teachers have to give their students instructions on operating devices, but not with the Chromebook.

Time, and speed in particular, is another fantastic aspect of the Chromebook. Personally, my P.C takes what seems like forever to boot up, but not the Chromebook. You press the power button and within eight seconds you have access to the World Wide Web. Eight seconds is extremely fast, and will save time in classes. This high efficiency will also be beneficial for a classroom setting because the students will have an ample amount of time to perform research, or whatever else the class requires. This is in contrast to the laptops teachers have access to now, which take what seems like the whole class period just to start up. Not only is the start up for the Chromebooks fast, but also the computer itself operates faster than any other computer the school has. 

The final aspect of the Chromebooks that make them beneficial is value. The Chromebooks are extremely reasonable compared to other laptops, such as Macs. The value of the Chromebooks is so high because of accessibility. There are many times that students are working on a project, or doing research, but when they sign on the next day, the computer they were using is not available. This problem is completely eliminated with the Chromebooks because students can pick up and go from any of the computers. Students are not saving their work to the computer, but rather to their account. This not only increases accessibility, but security as well because without your password no one has access to your account.

Over all, I believe that because of all these aspects of the Chromebooks, they would be a great asset at New Milford High School. The book’s simplicity, speed, and value place them in a category, which no other technology is in. They would be extremely helpful in bettering the student’s education and learning experience here at our school. They are an extremely smart investment, and I am even considering one myself.

Once all of the essays have been submitted and reviewed I will meet with this group of students and inform them of my decision to purchase or not.  This decision will be made entirely from their input.  The point here is that students are being placed in positions to make important decisions as part of our school transformation efforts. By involving them in this process it is our hope that they will take more ownership of their learning. After all, students are the reasons why we do what we do. It only makes sense to involve them as much as possible.

1 comment:

  1. Amanda wrote a nice essay. I wonder what the other students will be saying. I also wonder what they can write about their trip to Google and what they saw. Would they have any ideas on how to make school operate more like Google does? Let us know the final outcome, and if you buy, from where and the costs and implementation you go through.