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St. John Middle School Gives Students Blended Approach with Technology

Nov 06, 2015 09:06AM ● Published by Julie Slama

By Julie Slama

Draper - When sixth-grade social studies teacher Derek Block asked student groups to work together researching and writing assignments, he said the students embraced the idea.

“With our new Chromebooks, they thought it would be more exciting and would be fun since they would have extra time on the computers,” Block said. “Through using Google documents, they’re able to access them anywhere, create one document and add to it, and I’m able to see who is working on it and give them immediate feedback.”

Principal Jim Markosian said with the addition of four carts of Chromebooks this year, there are 160 Chromebooks for students to use — in addition to the traditional computer lab and iPad cart.

“There are a lot of ways for incorporating technology in teaching, and the computer lab is now an old concept,” he said. “The trend in education is now 1-to-1, meaning each student has a device. At St. John’s, we don’t think that students need to have the devices all the time, as it can be a distraction at this age to be looking at SnapChat or Instagram, so we’ve introduced a blended approach — it’s another tool along with the notebook and pencil for the teacher to teach; it doesn’t replace the teacher.”

The $45,000 in new technology was funded thanks to more than $8,000 donated by parents at the school’s annual Blossom Ball fundraiser, and a “very generous grant” from the ALSAM Foundation, said Nevah Stevenson, director of advancement.

Markosian said this helps connect the technology from the Smartboards at St. John the Baptist Elementary to the “bring your own device” concept at Juan Diego Catholic High School, uniting the entire campus.

“The Chromebooks are age-appropriate for our students and can be used for research, quizzes, writing papers, short essays and an assortment of needs our teachers can use. They’re really multi-faceted. When students use them for math and art, they’ll use them differently than when they use them in science, history and technology classes,” he said.

  Block asked his Exploratory class to use the Chromebooks for a fast food web hunt to learn proper diet needs.

“It added excitement for our students and it’s more environmentally friendly than having them fill out a worksheet. They have fun taking notes on them. It’s giving them real-life applications so they’ll be used to technology as they continue beyond the classroom,” he said.

English teacher Amanda Corbin said her students use the Chromebooks three to four times each week for vocabulary quizzes or working on their research paper for the upcoming school science fair.

“We work together with the biology teacher on the research part,” Corbin said. “I’ve been teaching them how to research, look for ideas, cite their sources and they save it on their Google account. They can pull it up anywhere, give comments through peer editing, make needed changes, turn in drafts where both teachers are able to give suggestions, and then they can reflect and fix their papers. They never have to retype and they’re able to see all the ideas at once.”

Once the research portion is completed, Corbin said they will copy and paste it into their lab report.

“It makes it so much easier and they’re excited to use the Chromebooks. That excitement is channeled into their reports, and we’ve been able to see the difference already,” she said.

Corbin assigned her Exploratory students to read a book, then create a script from it on Google documents. She said students have been more engaged and staying on task with the assignment than in years past.

“They’re sharing and understanding more, so they’re wanting to work on it more at home or where they can to make their assignments better. They’re just excited when they’re using Chromebooks,” she said.  

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