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The City Journals

Elk Meadows Fifth Graders Embrace Chromebooks

Nov 06, 2015 11:14AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama

When Elk Meadows fifth-grade teacher Sandy King realized the technology curve in front of her students a few years back, she began embracing the use of computers and iPads in her classroom.

Realizing the limited supply at her school, she has written several grants for technology equipment as well as books and materials needed for her students.

“The Jordan Education Foundation and others have been so willing to help me over the years in seeing that these students have the opportunity to learn,” said King, who has taught for 29 years. “I’m really grateful.”

Recently, a $5,000 Century Link grant and a $1,500 STEM Action Center grant helped pay for Chromebooks the fifth-graders in her class use. 

King said they are beneficial since they cost less than other computers or iPads, there’s no extra charge for keyboards since they’re built in and “they do everything we want them to do. It’s like having the best of all worlds” for students.

“Kids are different learners today than 10 years ago. They need to engage in their world and break out of the four walls of the classroom. They’re connecting with others around the world,” she said.

One of King’s assignments is to have students collaborate on projects with students in Australia, China, Canada, Europe and across the United States. They’ve helped each other with math problems and also have read and discussed books. 

Last year, Sydnie Durham remembered making connections to people in New Zealand by discussing the book, “The Fourteenth Goldfish.”

King also asks her students to collaborate with peers on solving a real-world problem and sharing their findings by posting it online.

“It gives the students a global connection and understanding of other students, schools and cultures,” she said, adding that it also has opened the door to teachers sharing lesson plans.

King uses free computer game-based programs to help students identify learning deficits. The programs then individualizes learning so students will understand a concept before moving on to other lessons. 

King’s former student, sixth-grader Carson Reid, said that the math programs helped him.

“I studied my math facts online,” he said. “There were bubbles that I could click on if I didn’t understand and needed help. Once I got it, the computer kept challenging me so I didn’t need to go ask a teacher each step of the way. Plus, it improved my typing.”

King said that often students or companies will ask about a program or application.

“Some of these we’ll learn together as a class and the students will show me what they learned and teach me new apps. It’s a new world, but the things that they’re learning are awesome,” she said.

Students also may be able to use the technology to make videos of science experiments or to livestream items they share about themselves. 

Another project has students researching online about a topic of their choice. Then using tools available with the classroom technology, they could make an application, create a movie, comic or video game or introduce some other way to share it “more than a PowerPoint and put it out there to the world so they have a greater audience,” she said.

King invites parents to learn the programs and apps and has set up a class Twitter account and Instagram account.

“I want the door to be open for parents, to be involved, to see pictures and videos of what we’re doing in class,” she said.

King’s former student, Elizabeth Myers, said she is grateful for the experiences she gained from using technology in the classroom.

“I taught my mom how to use the programs and realized I was learning more than just math or science or social studies,” she said.

Fifth-grade students also use the Chromebooks for anything from traditional keyboarding to learning code. Many of the traditional worksheets now are traded for online activities and quizzes.

Fifth-grader Marissa Johanson said that her class has had fun getting to use the Chromebooks.

“We’ve been doing so much on them and I’ve been learning more on Chromebooks than I would have on paper,” she said.

King said although it has challenged her to provide and learn the technology, it has been worthwhile.

“It’s definitely a different shift from the past ways of teaching, but we still learn cursive the old-fashioned way and we are screen-time sensitive. However, when you look ahead and see all the programs the students will need to know in junior high, these kids are a step ahead in understanding and using them already,” she said.