School Librarians and Chromebooks at Ithaca City Schools
Submitted by Casey Conlin.
Armin Heurich is a Library Media Specialist at Ithaca High School. He was part of the group put together to determine if the 1:1 Chromebook Project, which gave Chromebooks to 4,000 Ithaca City School students, was viable, and how it could best be implemented in Ithaca City Schools.
The summer before the rollout of the 1:1 Project, Armin trained teachers in Google Classroom, part of Google Apps for Education (GAFE), which is similar to Blackboard. In the training, he could see light bulbs going off over the teachers’ heads as they realized how the software could be used to enhance their lessons. In the first year, Google Classroom is being used by 85% - 90% of the faculty, which has led to a better learning experience for the students, who no longer have to worry about forgetting their homework assignments, lugging around huge stacks of paper, or losing those huge stacks of paper. Indeed, most homework in Ithaca Schools is now assigned, completed, and submitted electronically, which has led to a huge decrease in the school’s paper use, and the exoneration of dogs suspected of eating homework all over Ithaca.
In his work with the students, the Chromebooks and available web apps allow Armin to engage in project-based learning initiatives including an assignment for a Forensics class, where students learn about how to analyze crime scenes, study the psychology of serial killers, and collaborate on a video reporting their findings. For their video projects on infamous serial killers, they gather images, video clips and sound recordings and save them to their google drives. Then they use WeVideo software (a web app) to edit their videos, which also includes their own voice-overs, transitions and titles. Since they are using the free version of WeVideo, students are limited to 5-minute long pieces, so they subdivide the video and work in groups. Armin teaches the software, provides as-needed tech support and creative suggestions, and then assembles the separate video components to create the finished videos. Previously, the limitations imposed by having only two computer labs to serve all of Ithaca High School would have made it hard to find time for a project like this, but the Chromebooks have turned every classroom into a computer lab, and balanced demand for the two labs at the library.
The Chromebooks and web apps offer many opportunities for project-based learning initiatives. Armin has helped students in Participation in Government class create 30-second campaign ads for actual political candidates to learn principles of media literacy. He showed the 10th grade English students how to use SoundCloud to record short reflective stories based on the NPR series This I Believe, and to use WeVideo to make video interpretations of MacBeth scenes and themes using music and images of their choosing and Shakespearean quotes. Economics students create Google Slides presentations about famous economists and entrepreneurs, and Armin embeds their presentations onto Google Sites websites, where students are then required to use the comment field to provide detailed critiques of their peers' work.
Armin reports that the Chromebooks have freed him from many pesky Tech Support issues that accompany regular computer labs and Windows and Apple machines; the reliability of the Chromebooks allows him to focus on more meaningful library work. As the first school year with the 1:1 Chromebook Project closes, Armin is looking forward to using data to see what kind of impact the project has had on student performance in Ithaca City Schools. If you have any questions about the 1:1 Chromebook Program or project-based learning initiatives, you can contact Armin Heurich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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