Jo Smith and Michael McDonald are the Year 5 teaching team at Hughes Primary School where they are implementing a ‘BYOC - Bring Your Own Chromebook’ program. The school first began with a ‘BYOD - Bring Your Own Device’ program 3 years ago and after having students bring any device to school, they have since decided to allow just the one! The main issue they found with using other laptops was the need for different software updates which could be disruptive. They say that the advantage of Chromebooks are “they just work!” Students who had other laptops were often much slower while they waited for their laptops to load and log on. Michael says, “It’s just so much easier for what we need. In High School it may be totally different, I don’t know as I’m not in that space. We don’t need Windows-based devices, we’re happy with Chrome.” Jo also commented that “the workflow is smoother” as they are not distracted while waiting on the technology to start.
Students are expected to be responsible for their Chromebooks. They take them home each day and charge them overnight, as well as completing all updates at home. There is no charging at school, so no messy cords everywhere! Discussions were had with the students about charging at school being an OH&S issue. At the start of the year students sign a contract outlining their responsibilities. Alongside this, the school also acknowledges it’s responsibilities to students.
- Students will take care for their device and secure when not in use (each child is assigned a locker for their device).
- Chromebooks are charged and ready for use each day (they will not be charged at school).
- Ensure all online communication is related to learning and is respectful for others, using the THINK principle.
- Keep all passwords and personal information confidential and secure.
- Tell the teacher or a trusted adult if you receive a message that is inappropriate or makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Use the Internet for research and ensure it is relevant for learning and is appropriate.
- Actively participate in all learning activities that focus on Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety.
- Making sure students can connect to the school Wifi.
- Setting-up and management of student accounts.
- Access to school-based and associated third-party software
Parent information sessions are run in Term 3 of the year before to prepare for the use of Chromebooks and to join the parents on the ‘Hughes Primary School journey of BYOC’. This is when some of the the home responsibilities are outlined to parents, as well as explaining why their students will use Chromebooks, their benefits, a vision of how their use looks in the classroom, what they will do and the programs they use. Jo explained “When we first started, it was a lot harder to get the parent buy-in but now that they have seen it and we have had a lot of siblings that have gone through, they can actually see the benefits of it.”
The most common issues that are raised by parents are:
1. Screen time - it is explained to parents that the students have a maximum of 2 hours screen time over the entire day (not in 1 block) but generally they only use it for 45 minutes to 1 hour over the day. The school’s belief it that the Chromebooks are a tool for learning, not the purpose of the learning.
2. Ergonomics - “We ensure that kids are never just on the floor on their device, they are at a desk.” Jo and Michael pointed out that this would be more difficult to implement in a classroom without adjustable furniture.
3. Chromebook Responsibility - They have had comments such as “My child is using their Chromebook hunched up in bed” or “My child is still using their Chromebook at 9pm”.
It is communicated to parents that the management responsibility of Chromebooks are a partnership by both teachers and parents. At school the teachers have duty of care and this is taken over by the parents outside of school hours.
On my visit, it was a pleasure to be in the classroom as the students arrived in the morning. They walked in, marking the roll by swiping their name on the Smartboard, then went straight to work. It was obvious the students knew what to do and what was expected of them - they were ready to start their day of learning from the moment they walked in the door (and avoided the wasted morning ‘busy time’)!
Their morning is called the ‘Learning Portal’ which they explain as their “Get your brain ready for learning program”. The kids come into class, take their seat and begin their work straight away. Their Google Classroom is set-up for them with any resources they need, plus they know exactly what they can do in that time. Students have access to resources such as ‘Hour of Code’ (https://code.org/learn), online typing, maths, ‘Geo Guesser’ (https://geoguessr.com/) and ‘Smarty Pins’ (https://smartypins.withgoogle.com/).
The classes use the THINK principle.
‘Before posting and commenting online is it True, Helpful, Important, Necessary and Kind?’
When they first begin using their Google Classroom with a class they allow students access to add comments. These have then been a rich tool to use in assessing whether or not the comments use the THINK principle. The teachers have fully unpacked this concept with their students and it is embedded in their classrooms both online and offline. They have made use of the E-Safety Commission’s programs to promote Cybersafety. For more information, visit: https://esafety.gov.au/.
The students also used a Dylan Willams formative assessment technique using the coloured (green, yellow and red) cups to self monitor their progress during the lesson. By showing a green cup students demonstrated that they were working towards the learning intention. A yellow cup indicated that they required assistance but could continue with another element of their learning and a red cup on display meant they needed assistance to continue with their learning. This technique helped to reduce the amount of wait time, hands-up and unnecessary and possibly distracting movement around the classroom as the teacher could triage the support as needed.
The classes are both using all aspects of the G-Suite as well as utilising other online resources. Whilst I visited, after the ‘Learning Portal’ morning session some students left to go to band practice. The remaining students were then combined in one classroom and set to task with the website: ‘Soundtrap’ (https://www.soundtrap.com/). Students were asked to ‘Create a piece of music to represent a warm summer’s day’. Some of my observations in the classroom were:
- A couple of students had forgotten their device so the teacher had spare headphones and Belkin Rockstars (which are audio splitters) allowing more than one student to use the Chromebook at a time and still be able to hear.
- Teachers would say “Headphones out to show you’re listening” and the students all complied either taking out their ear bud or moving their headset off their ears and onto their shoulders.
- Students were give a 20 minute time-limit to create and teachers roamed during that time and listened to individual student work.