Upper School Composition Classes Embrace Chromebooks
While students in Ravenscroft’s 7th and 10th grades eagerly await the arrival of their own Chromebooks as part of Ravenscroft’s mobile learning community initiative – set for launch in early February 2012 – 58 upper school students (26 sophomores, 19 juniors, and 13 seniors) have been using a set of Chromebooks during the second half of their semester long English Composition classes this fall.
Early feedback from faculty members and students is positive. Marcia Jones, Upper School English Department Chair, noted that the Google Chromebooks “provide fast access to the internet for research, student documents can be accessed from any location by using Google Docs via Ravenscroft’s Google Apps for Education accounts, and the sharing and collaboration features of Google Docs aids in reviewing student work.” The one downfall noted by Ms. Jones – “It’s a Word world.”
To date, Microsoft’s Office Suite has certainly reigned supreme. When it comes to word processing software, Microsoft Word has left in the dust such notable software packages as WordPerfect and Lotus Notes. In fact, in the mid 1980’s there were 57 different word processing programs available and 25 years later Microsoft has emerged as top dog. Today, however, 61 out of the Top 100 US News & World Report colleges and universities are using Google Apps for Education. Chances are, then, that Ravenscroft graduates will find Google Docs as the word processor of choice when they graduate and matriculate to the college of their choice.
In addition to using Google Docs, the Upper School English Composition teachers and students were also taught how to use NoodleBib to incorporate electronic note cards into their research papers by Elise Thrash, Upper School Librarian. One noted feature of NoodleBib is its ability to export note cards as a Google Doc. And with NoodleBib being a web-based tool it is easily accessible via the Chromebooks.
According to Noodletools.com, NoodleBid is “Powerful note-taking software that promotes critical thinking and creativity combined with the most comprehensive and accurate bibliography composer on the Web.”
Question & Answer with Brian Kelly, Upper School English Teacher
Q. How have the Chromebooks changed your interactions with the kids?
A. Honestly, they have not. I use the Chromebooks as a tool and attempt to integrate them seamlessly into what I already do in class.
Q. Has having access to the Chromebooks changed how your classes work?
A. Yes. Without needing to reserve lab space an extra step is removed from our class work and projects. In addition, we no longer need to transfer what the students write by hand in class to a word processor. We’re more efficient in our work.
Q. What about your planning from the viewpoint of reserving lab space? Can you be more spontaneous if you want?
A. Absolutely. And once the newness of the Chromebooks wore off, the students see them simply as tools that provide access to the medium in which we conduct class.
Q. What have been the challenges?
A. Ensuring the kids aren’t surfing the web in class. In all honesty, this has been very manageable as the kids know when it’s time to work. In addition, there have been some minor issues with the Chromebooks jumping WiFi signals instead of automatically negotiating access.
Q. What are the positives of having the devices?
A. There are too many to note. I’m happy to have these devices available as it is how I prefer to teach.