CHROMEBOOKS: Making it look easy

My district recently purchased (and is in the process of distributing)–like–ONE MILLION Chromebooks for students. I may be exaggerating, but barely. They’re stacked like a fire hazard in heaps in the Tech Services basement and have quickly been sprinkled like fairy dust in primary, middle, and high, with a whole cart reserved for one lead technology teacher at each school. The kids there squealed with joy and were immediately put to work on the Chromebooks, resulting in delight and phrases like, “Can we stay in from recess and do Khan Academy?”

Unfortunately, a 1:1 Chromebook classroom doesn’t happen automatically. Feel free to respond audibly with a big “DUH,” but the things that aren’t automatic are worth exploring; the little things that make it look like it happens with ease aren’t so easy to notice–unless you’re looking. My lead technology teachers have been hand-picked for their ability to be wizzes at integrating tech into the classroom in meaningful ways. So what do they do that makes this thing look easy?

Create processes for starting activities:

1. Assign each Chromebook and student a number, and have them always use that Chromebook. This not only streamlines the Chromebook-grabbing que, but help teachers track breakage, theft, and general funny business. If you know that Suzy in 1st period and Jenny in 2nd period always use Chromebook #15, when you notice something strange about #15 during 3rd period, you know who to consult. Match them up with the number on your roster or assign them a number based on seats. But whatever you do, DON’T create a paper sign in and sign out sheet and tape it to the cart. Trust me on this; this is a logistical nightmare.

2. Make them open a set of tabs that you’ll be using–not just one at a time as you need them. Plan out the sites you’ll be using, and direct the students to open all of those tabs at the start of the lesson. This will significantly decrease lag-time between sites or activities.

3. Adopt a digital lesson plan landing page that’s always used–a teacher website, Google Classroom, a shared document. Teach the students to consult this page with questions before, during, and after a lesson. Once students are trained to check the lesson plans digitally, they’ll ask far fewer questions about the activity–at least process-related questions. Including simple, step-by-step directions and links to online activities or shared docs will eliminate the need to repeat yourself a zillion times.

Let kids teach themselves:

4. Encourage students to share (and model) new things they find related to the hardware or software. If a student figures out a keyboard shortcut that the class might find handy, have him speak out and show the class. If they found a quicker way to search for images in a document, let them model that on an overhead.

5. Rely on students to help their neighbors or table-mates. Instead of running around the room to answer each hardware- or software-related question, allow students to help each other. Generally, there’s a kid close by that can quickly show another how to do something. Not only does this take the load off of you, but it gives students chances to be leaders and teachers, and gives them ownership of their learning and their devices.

Create process for ending or transitioning activities:

6. Give students a set amount of time to wrap-up their current activity or thought. Simply telling them they have two minutes to finish up where they are and allowing them that time will make transitioning and ending activities smoother. Telling them to stop and expecting an immediate response is unrealistic, and–frankly–rude. A kid might be able to instantly put away a piece of paper, but shouldn’t be expected to slam shut a  Chromebook; give them a moment to finish up, log out, and calmly close the device.

7. Just as there should be a process for retrieving their Chromebook, students should be taught a process for returning them to the cart or storage container. Send them back row by row or in small groups so you don’t end up with a cluster of kids pushing each other out of the way to put their device back.


I am not engaged.

It is 3:10 on a Friday (well, it was when I started drafting this post). The coffee buzz is gone. I’m starving, I’m squirrely, and I am most certainly not engaged.

I’m not whooping and hollering and raising my hand. I’m not running around playing four corners with a big ole smile on my face. I’m not curiously seeking answers to well-posed questions.

My boss is not in charge of keeping me entertained. It is not his responsibility to make sure that every hour of every workday we’re all enthralled and actively participating in inquiry. It is absolutely not his job to make sure that–even now, when I have 17 minutes left of work on a Friday–Evyan is ENGAGED.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my job. I am genuinely happy to do what I do (just about) every day. I have all of the tools I need–and more–have a glorious amount of autonomy and the support to make meaningful things happen. I work for a school district that’s just big enough to hold weight and just small enough where it’s kinda like Cheers.

But, unless you’re–say–Kim Kardashian and you get to go shopping on an unlimited budget for a living, there are plenty of times when work isn’t engaging. So why, then, are we putting so much emphasis on engagement in the classroom? If the aim is to prepare kids to be “college and career ready,” shouldn’t we teach them–at least part of the time–how to power through stuff that (generally) isn’t really all that fun or interesting? Are we doing society a great disservice by discouraging traditionally un-engaging things like old-school lecturing and note-taking? Will our kids be able to sit quietly at two-hour meeting without falling asleep or screaming obscenities because they’re bored and don’t know how to handle it?

I’m not arguing that we should purposely torture students in order for them to be stand-up, well-behaved citizens. Well, not entirely. I’m arguing that we seem to be leaning towards a world in which teachers are expected to provide students with a learning environment that is bell-to-bell active and in which students should always be happy participants. It’s just not realistic, and–I’d say–it probably isn’t a good idea.

This, my first post, may make me one of the most unpopular people on the internet–especially if Charlotte Danielson reads this (which–I mean–I’m sure she’ll do–right?!). I encourage you to argue with me. And I look forward to arguing back.