This post originally appeared on the blog Two Boys and a Dad-Teacher.
Since I received my own Chrome Book cart, I’m now looking back and reflecting on what I’ve learned about teaching in a 1:1 classroom last year. There are so many aspects that no one ever tells you about, so I’m going to pass along some tips. This is Part 1 of the series that will focus on Storage/Accessories/Workspace and Management/Troubleshooting. Part 2 focuses on Google Classroom and general tips.
Let’s talk storage! First of all, I have one cart with 29 Chrome Books (and 26 students). Each Chrome Book fits nicely into a slot in the cart that I physically have near the front of my classroom. Why in the front? I’m in a building that was built in the 1950s and is all brick, so electrical outlets are few and far between. At the front of the classroom is the only outlet not being used and that is where the Chrome Book cart is plugged in. The cart itself needs to be plugged in, while the Chrome Books have a separate charger cord built into each storage slot. If the cart is not plugged in, the Chrome Books will not charge.
Also, think about access. With 26 students, they’ll need to line up to get their Chrome Books. So the cart should be in an area that gives them easy access. Since my cart is at the front of the room, students are lining up on the rug area where there’s lots of space. Also, if possible, have extra Chrome Books. Sometimes, Chrome Books will lose all their charge in the middle of assignments. Having an extra one ensures the student can switch to the extra Chrome Book and continue working. If not, the student has to wait at least half an hour to have some charge to be able to finish an assignment.
I do not charge the Chrome Books every day. My schedule is to to plug them all in to be recharged on Fridays and Wednesdays. The only exception is during state online testing; they are plugged in daily to make sure they will be fully charged for the test. Do not have each child plug in their Chrome Book. Instead, have a charge monitor who can plug and unplug the Chrome Books when necessary. It will save time and ensure that each Chrome Book was charged.
Finally, the cart needs to be secured each day before I leave. The cart has two doors that interlock. Then a padlock goes on to lock and secure it. The padlock is a combination lock. Some older carts have a key padlock. I prefer the combination cart because if you have a substitute or someone taking over your class one day, it will be easier to leave the combination than a key. Oh, yes. Don’t forget to close the doors and padlock it before you leave! I didn’t do that one day came back to school the next day to a wide open cart! Thankfully, the Chrome Books were all still there. So now I usually have a student remind me to do it before he or she leaves for the day.
Let’s talk accessories, namely headphones. Oh boy. My district purchased these large, unwieldy headphones with the pigtail-type cords. Of course, there was no plan or advice on how to store the headphones. So we all defaulted to storing them in large baggies with the mouse. And you guessed it: The mouse is also NOT wireless. One more cord to deal with. It is VERY important that you do not just throw the headphones or mice into a basket or box and hope they WON’T get tangled because they WILL.
I learned this lesson the hard way. One day I looked in the box and instead of the headphones being in the baggies, there was this HUGE tangled mess of headphones and mice. It took about 30 minutes of hard work to untangle the mess. Never again! The Tech Teacher said that one school had to actually throw away the tangled mess because it could not be untangled. Several hundred dollars thrown away! So, every time students return the headphones baggie to the storage box, I have one student in charge checking to make sure the headphones and mice are in a sealed baggie. My team has decided that next year, we will have the students bring their own earbuds to store in a small baggie in their desk.
When business set up workspaces for employees, they usually take into account what type of work the employee will have to do and provide appropriate desks and chairs. Unfortunately, school districts don’t. Many years ago, I traded my two-seater desks for the single seater desks because our classrooms went up to 30 students! The single seaters took up less space. But now that my district is reducing class size to 24, I really want to go back to the two-seater desks! Why? Because the single seaters have limited space as they only measure 24 inches by 18 inches. It’s a challenge for students to fit the Chrome Book, the mouse, a paper, and textbook all at the same time.
Also, we don’t use the Chrome Books all day. So when we’re not using them, they are sometimes in the way. One way around the space issue is to have students share a textbook when needed. I have also taken pics of the pages of a textbook and uploaded them with their assignment so it eliminates the textbook. There are pros and cons to that. The pro is that it frees up workspace and gives the student additional practice reading text online. The con is that reading online is very different from actually having accessible text in your hand. Sometimes, a balance must be sought so sometimes they use a textbook, sometimes an online resource.
The chairs we use are your standard plastic student type chairs. After 20 minutes of sitting and staring at the screen, students become uncomfortable, squirmy and stiff. I give my students permission to get up and take stretch breaks at their desk when they feel they need it. Maybe one day we’ll have large, ergonomic work spaces.
When we use the Chrome Book, it takes time for each student to go and get the Chrome Book out of the cart and get set up. You have to work that into you schedule! My students have gotten better and quicker at it since the beginning of the year. Each student is also assigned the same computer by number for the entire year, so I can vary the way the students retrieve their Chrome Books so it goes faster. Sometimes, I call up students by rows or odd numbers or even numbers or by multiples of 5.
But since we don’t use the Chrome Books all day long, it’s also a hassle to have the students get and return their Chrome Books to the cart several times a day. So instead, I have the students make room in their desk and slide the Chrome Book in or turn it sideways on their desk to still have room to work.
It was very frustrating at first to get the students to stop working on the Chrome Books when I had to teach or point something out. So now I have a system. I use this noisemaker to get everyone’s attention then I say 45. Forty-five means put your screen at a 45 degree angle so you can’t see the screen but can see me. I use this technique if I only need their attention for no more than five minutes. If I need more than that, I have them close the Chrome Books.
Trust me, they just can’t resist looking at the screen, fiddling with the keyboard or trackpad, or playing with the mouse if it’s more than five minutes. Of course, you’ll have those one or two students who try to work anyway, so for those I just take the computer away. You will also need a system in place for chronic or serious violators. I usually just take the Chrome Book away for the entire day and print out what they would have been working on. Instead of working on the Chrome Book, they will be using paper and pencil instead.
Technology does not always run clean and smooth. It’s glitchy. Who knows why one student can access a web page and another can’t? I know I don’t want to be interrupted by a student who needs tech help when I’m working in small groups or with another student. So I’ve taught my students the 3Rs of Chrome Booking. Sometimes, just hitting the refresh arrow is enough to load the page. If that’s not enough, close the tab and open it again. When that fails, it’s time to restart. Restarting the Chrome Book will usually fix about 99% of problems. Since all their work is automatically saved in the cloud on Google Drive, nothing is lost.
One time this year, I had a student rotate the screen on the Chrome Book 90 degrees and we could not figure out how to get it back. I had to put in a Technology Support Ticket to my district. Yes, students will mess with the settings, but you MUST from day one make it clear that if they mess with the settings, they mess with YOU (and the Tech Dept.). Students all want to change settings, but if you don’t know how to set them back, it becomes a huge time waster and sometimes makes the Chrome Book unusable (like the tilted screen).
Don’t forget to check out PART 2 of this series.
I’m a veteran teacher of over 30 years having mostly taught in 3rd grade, though I’ve also taught 1st and 2nd. I’ve never taught in exactly the same way every year because I enjoy trying new ways and trying out new things. Last year was my first year in a 1:1 classroom with Chrome Books. I’m so excited for this year! Why? Because last year, I developed quite a few digital interactive notebooks to go along with all my units and take advantage of all that technology. I can’t wait to share them with you in my TpT store! Check out my Pinterest board on using Google in the classroom. On a personal note, I’m a single dad of two boys, one of who is entering middle school next year! You can see us on our Instagram. Also, check out my blog as I continue to share more ideas from a 1:1 classroom.