If you see Marshall High School junior Rana Altayawi intently texting on her cell phone, she could be writing a paper instead of casually chatting with friends.
Northside ISD went Google this academic year, providing kindergarten through 12th grade students with access to Google Apps for Education. For some of their courses, the majority of their work is done online, meaning anytime they have access to the Internet – at school, at home, or on their cell phones – they can complete assignments, conduct research, and work with their teachers and classmates.
“It helps with collaboration because you can keep going beyond the classroom. I’m more comfortable online and it’s normal for us,” Altayawi says.
The Google apps platform includes a virtual classroom, where teachers can create and share assignments with students, and apps for calendars, e-mail, and instant messaging. There are also Google Drive tools similar to Microsoft Office – word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation tools. Students have unlimited digital storage space and access to the apps 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their e-mails can only be sent to teachers and students within Northside ISD.
In Barbra Bloomingdale’s English III AP classes at Marshall High School, students estimate that with Google Apps more than 80 percent of their work is now completed online.
Pictured left to right are: Allison Pritchett, junior; Barbra Bloomingdale, teacher; and Rana Altayawi, junior.
“We’re still doing the same things we did before, but we’re just using technology to facilitate the conversations,” Bloomingdale says.
Bloomingdale piloted Google Apps with her students last spring before it was expanded district-wide. It’s not mandatory that teachers use Google Apps, but in a writing-based class like English III it has been a good fit.
“It doesn’t make the teacher’s job harder but it requires you to adjust your mindset,” Bloomingale says. “If you’re not used to technology there can be a learning curve. There are technical issues to overcome, but the students want this. They are trying to convince other teachers to start using Google Apps.”
Students have access to netbooks during class and say that the paperless environment has organizational advantages. There are no papers to lose, e-mail notifications provide important reminders, and class time isn’t the only opportunity to communicate with the teacher.
“I don’t have to make time to ask questions because we can e-mail and ask questions anytime,” says junior Cristian Aguirre. “Now it’s just part of what we do.”
Students also like the peer editing capabilities within assignments, allowing them to comment on each other’s work and offer suggestions. Their teacher can do the same.
“I hope other classes start to integrate Google apps,” says junior David Ramirez. “It will help with college readiness because it makes you feel more responsible and independent.”
For more information about Google Apps for Education in Northside ISD, click here.