Chromebooks, Ipads to serve as writing aids

Written by Dick Mason, The Observer October 26, 2012 01:48 pm

Seventh-grader Madison Moody displays one of the 20 new Google Chromebooks she and many other students at La Grande Middle School now have access to. Mady Bell, a LMS seventh-grader, is on the left and also holding one of the laptops. DICK MASON - The Observer
Seventh-grader Madison Moody displays one of the 20 new Google Chromebooks she and many other students at La Grande Middle School now have access to. Mady Bell, a LMS seventh-grader, is on the left and also holding one of the laptops. DICK MASON - The Observer

Wildhorse Foundation grants fund purchase of 32 devices that will be used to help students at LMS and Central strengthen their writing skills 

Many students at La Grande Middle School and Central Elementary are using new high-tech tools to help them hone their writing skills.

The students are finding it easier to develop their writing skills thanks to $12,000 in grants three teachers at LMS and Central received for the purchase of computers. 

The grants, all from the Wildhorse Foundation, provided funding for the purchase of 20 Google Chromebooks at LMS and 12 Apple iPad 2 tablet computers for Central.

At LMS the Google Chromebooks are being used by students in Ali Kretschmer’s language arts classes. Kretschmer credits the Google Chromebooks with making it far easier for her seventh- and eighth -graders to draft and revise works they are assigned to write.

“They are making a big difference,” said Kretschmer.

The new laptops at LMS were purchased with a $7,000 grant from the Wildhorse Foundation, for which Kretschmer wrote the application.

Kretschmer said the laptops also are making it possible for her students to collaborate on assignments. Teams of students are able to work on a project simultaneously on the laptops since they allow the same document to be shared.

Previously Kretschmer had no laptops in her classroom. This meant that she had to take her students to the LMS library where there are desktop computers the students can use to compose and complete their writing assignments.

Kretschmer noted that this was an inefficient process since time was lost taking students to and from the library. 

The new laptops are also a time saver because they come on within three seconds, less time than the desktop computers in the LMS library.

The 12 new iPad 2s at Central are in the classrooms of fifth-grade teacher Leslie Graham and third-grade teacher Kristy Boyd. They were purchased with money from a $5,000 Wildhorse Foundation grant Graham and Boyd applied for.

The computer tablets are helping students in a wide variety of subjects, in some cases because they make learning more enjoyable. Graham cited spelling, which is improving among her students, as an example.

“It is more fun for them to look up words with the iPads than with a dictionary,” she said.

Graham added that the writing skills of her students are improving because the iPad 2s make editing and revising much easier. 

The computer tablets are also allowing students in Boyd’s and Graham’s classes to connect with elementary school classes in the Hermiston and Pendleton school districts via the Edmodo social learning network for students and teachers.

Through Edmodo the work of students at the three schools is posted on a website only students in the classes at Central and in the Hermiston and Pendleton classes have access to. 

Only the best work of each child is posted on the Edmodo site so students have incentive to do a good job.

“They are making sure that they use their editing skills,” Boyd said. 

She also noted that when students know that their work will seen by others, they take more time to do a better job.

The computer tablets in Boyd’s and Graham’s classes have to be shared since each of their classrooms have just six. Boyd said that the limited number of computer tablets is good in one sense because it inspires students to work faster since they can use them only 15 minutes at a time.

“They are on task with their iPad time,” Boyd said.

Students who miss the time set aside for them to use an iPad because they are late for school do not get to make it up. Boyd said this gives her students more incentive to get to school on time.

One of the most popular features of the iPads is one which allows people to make video recordings of themselves. Students in Graham’s and Boyd’s classes are required to use this function to record brief reports about projects they have completed. The process of giving the reports reinforces the knowledge they have obtained, Graham said. 

“They reflect on what they have learned.” 

The iPads complement the computers available to students in Central’s computer lab and are being shared by Graham and Boyd with other classes.

Boyd pointed out that the new iPads are filling an important need since the families of a number of Central students have limited or no computer availability in their homes.

“There is a digital gap,” Boyd said.