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Using Tablets and Google for Education to Support Early Elementary Learning

The right mix of technology and activities can help to establish foundational skills in grades K-3

At the Challenge to Excellence Charter School (C2E) in Parker, Colorado, educators are using tablets and Google tools in surprising ways to foster creativity, collaboration and content creation in grades K-3, while also establishing a foundation of knowledge-seeking skills that students will use in later grades. In this web seminar, educators from C2E discussed how the school is using Android tabletswith Google Play for Education both inside and outside the classroom for research, projects, field trips and more, how these tools have helped students take ownership of their learning, and the keys to a successful implementation at any school or district.

Kristin Kahlich: The Google for Education team provides you with a complete solution across the platform of Google Apps for Education, across devices that you can use on that platform, and then strong educational content that you can use on those devices. There have been a few exciting changes at Google recently.

First, schools now have unlimited storage in Google Drive. That’s the place where you store your documents, presentations and pictures. Second, Google Vault, which is our archiving and e-discovery tool, is now free and available to all Google Apps for Education domains. Finally, we launched Google Classroom, which is now included as part of the Google Apps for Education suite. It helps teachers
manage their classroom workflow and helps students keep track of announcements and assignments for each of their classes.

In addition to the platform, Google also offers schools a choice of devices through both Chromebooks and Android tablets for education. While Android has been a household name in the consumer space for a while, the Google for Education team worked with schools to build a specific educational offering that was truly designed for learning and made specifically for the classroom. We designed a program that makes it easy for schools to deploy devices into the classroom, to discover strong educational content for their teachers and students to use, and then made it easy to deliver those apps out to the right users.

At this point, there are six different approved tablets. There are seven-inch devices, 10-inch devices, tablets with keyboards, tablets without keyboards—but all of them were designed to be affordable, durable and easy to scale. Whichever of these devices you choose, you also need a second piece, which is a license for Play for Education.

When it comes to set-up, one thing that we heard from schools was that it can often be difficult to deploy new devices. With the Android management license, we give you an easy way to set up and deploy your tablets. To do so, you simply configure a few controls in your admin panel, then you pick a tablet to be an admin tablet and you install an app on that device. Then setting up all of your student devices is as simple as taking that admin tablet and bumping it to a blank student tablet. That creates a student tablet that is equipped for everything they need in the classroom.

Also, if you are not quite ready to go 1-to-1, you can set up each tablet with up to five unique usernames and those students can share the device. Play for Education is a site that houses Android apps and Chrome apps that have been specifically vetted by ed-ucators and approved for classroom use. Any school that has purchased a Chromebook license or an Android tablet license will have access, and any teacher or admin can manage the apps available to their students from a simple web page. There is no need to collect devices, take them to the tech department, or mess with a bunch of cords. It’s simply a matter of finding an app on a website, adding a student, and clicking submit.

If you are interested in getting started on Google Apps for Education, you can just go to our website, Google.com/edu, and click on “Get Google products.” You won’t have to pay anything, because Google Apps for Education is 100 percent free and 100 percent without ads.

Beth Mossholder: We have over 700 tablets and Chromebooks in our school that we manage with a very small IT department. We have one full-time system admin, a contract admin, one part-time person, and myself who are managing all of these. Everyone has as a device that is managed through the Google Apps admin console, and also every teacher has access to Google Play for Education to be able to disseminate content to their students.

We adopted Google Apps in 2010, and since then have adopted a lot of unique ways to use it, from paperless planners to using tablets and devices. Google Apps for Education is at the heart of how our students learn every day.

Julie Stewart: I love the fact that my students can move away from the traditional learning spaces where they are at desks all day long to actually being able to take their device to an area where they learn best and collaborate with their peers. My students are using apps that make them think outside of the box, which gives them such a great opportunity to be able to try new things that they might never have been able to do before. We have many families whose children have to travel outside of the country for an extended period of time, so virtual field trips have become a highlight of our students’ days. Traveling students used to take a composition book to journal about their trip and then report back to the class with an oral presentation. Now I’m able to send a tablet with these students, and they chronicle their journey and then share it with the class via email and photos. The class can research the places visited by a traveling student, and then they can all share what they have learned when the student returns.

Beth Mossholder: We’re also using some Generation 2 Nexus 7 tablets with Dash robots to teach robotics in our elementary classes. We’re encouraging kids not only to get exposed to robotics, but also coding skills. The robots were used by all of our elementary classes by the end of the last school year. The creativity and problem-solving I was able to witness made each of these classes so much fun.

Julie Stewart: We also love Google Hangouts. Recording the history of a survivor of three major wars, for example, was a truly amazing learning experience for my students. The learning went deeper than a textbook could have evertaken them. My students researched about this three-war veteran and then came up with questions to ask him, and shared their questions with me via Google Docs. And then the actual day of the Hangout we got to ask him their questions and they got a live response, which gave them a truly authentic experience of history.

Beth Mossholder: We asked some of our students about tablets and how they played a role in learning. A student named Laura said: “They helped me learn by opening another world to tech. I learned new and cool things by fun apps that were like games but make your mind smarter, too.” And another student named Katie said: “They helped me learn because I’m a visual learner and I like getting to figure it out.”

I have also found that my life has totally changed by using tablets and Google Play for Education in the classroom. I am excited to come to work and share in these adventures with Julie and our other teachers and students.