Year 5-6 of the Domino primary school in Den Ham, Overijssel, have already been working with Chromebooks for about a year, and they were so enthusiastic about that this year children in year 3-4 have all received their ‘own’ Acer Chromebooks. Since then, certain reading assignments are proceeding more effectively and the pupils are picking up on the instructional material more quickly.
“Our mission is offering suitable instruction that matches up with the children’s development”, says Director André Dunnewind of the Domino primary school. The school is working with the most modern teaching methods: “Along with a number of pc’s and other digital devices, we now have around 65 Chromebook 11 N7.”
Dunnewind is supported at his school by a team of fifteen teachers, supporting personnel and an internal supervisor. Furthermore, the school has around one hundred pupils and is a part of the VGPO de Oosthoek (Association for Reformed Primary Education). This association consists twelve primary schools spread out over seven communities in Twente and Salland.
Here are the main benefits that both teachers and students have observed in these Acer Chromebooks, directly from their words.
Concerning the use of Chromebooks, for which there is a broad spectrum of didactic software available, the advantages mentioned are greater flexibility, decreased work pressure for teachers and the fact that children can adjust the speed of study better to their individual capabilities. How does this work at Domino primary school?
“The Chromebooks aren’t just a good support for the pupils, but also for us as teachers”, says Heidie Overweg, “As soon as children in the class start working on their Chromebooks, we as teachers are relieved from work to a certain degree. But it is, of course, not the case that computers can replace teachers. Giving instruction and supervising children is and remains an important part of our profession.”
“On my Chromebook, where the monitoring software is activated, I can see what the children are doing”, Overweg continues. “When children are completing an assignment, you can see through the colour code who is doing well and who still needs help. We can also track the browser history and intervene when necessary if they are looking at sites that are not suitable for children. It’s most of all the “strong” pupils who really make a game out of it: they go on too quickly if the material is too easy. Thanks to the monitoring function you can correct them directly.”
“The children who work with Chromebooks are wearing headsets, do their assignments and watch short instructional films. The cool thing is that they get direct feedback” Overweg emphasizes. “This is in contrast to before when they did their assignments hand-written which they then handed to the teachers and had to wait to see how their work was graded. The direct relationship between doing an assignment and seeing if the answer is right is good, whether one is working on desktop computer or Chromebook. Most of all it takes the time-consuming grading and correcting of written assignments out of our hands. The downside is that children are writing less and less and that their handwriting is often not the most beautiful. We are trying to do something about this in a separate program.”
“The added value of digitally supported instruction is evident. The pc’s which are available to pupils, are also carefully planned in. Along with this we have looked at what our other options are”, says director Dunnewind. “We find iPads and Android tablets too limited and laptops are too expensive, too heavy and hard to secure. Chromebooks seem ideal. They are compact, light, safe and have a good keyboard and a large screen. In our case it’s a touchscreen. Children are used to this through their smartphones and tablets and they start working with them really quickly.”
Furthermore, thanks to the cloud educators and pupils have very good educational programs and platforms available for the school. Dunnewind: “In our school, children learn about numbers on the Chromebooks using “The World in Numbers” do language exercises with “Taal Actief”(Active Language) and as a school we make use of the organisation model “VierKeerWijzer” (FourTimesWiser), which allows us to realise customised instruction. With the planning program “Gynzy”, which is especially made for children we are able to make simple daily schedules for the pupils with, for example, spelling, math and geography exercises.”
“Our IT-department has kept a sharp eye on the market and since Acer made us a great offer and has great Chromebooks in its inventory, all pupils in the year 3-4 now have their ‘own’ Acer Chromebook”, Dunnewind says of their purchasing process. “There is no application software in the Chromebooks themselves. Everything is in the cloud, so you have to have a WI-FI network with good coverage. We optimised ours by adding extra support points.”
The pupils don’ take the Chromebooks home with them Dunnewind explains: “We bought special storage cabinets with power outlets. In the evenings the Acers charge up to 100% and the battery life is sufficient for them to make it through the whole school day or even longer. If children want to finish something or look something up at home, they can log in to their accounts with their own pc’s. But we really don’t encourage that. A child also needs time to play outside.”
“Another advantage of Chromebooks is that children learn to work very accurately”, says Overweg. “If you want to write a letter or a sentence or an assignment hastily, you have to enter all the letters correctly on a Chromebook, including comma’s and periods. Otherwise the program will mark it wrong. Furthermore, a great plus point is that children with dyslexia, thanks to working on Chromebooks, comprehend things more quickly. This is because there are often short instructional films built into the reading material. Instead of having to read instructions, which, in the case of children with dyslexia is slower and less effective, they can watch a short film with a spoken explanation. If needed, they can watch it twice and then they really get it. But other children also do better with Chromebooks. The final test for year 5-6, which just spent a year working with Chromebooks, has never been so good in the section on punctuation!”
“Both the children and the teachers are unanimously enthusiastic about Chromebooks”, Dunnewind says in conclusion. “It demands a bit of effort because everything is documented and coded and you have selected the right software and activated it. But on the balance digitally supported instruction, along with taking some of the load off of our teachers, also yields considerably better results with the pupils. For us, the use of Chromebooks is a true success story.”
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