According to Peter Lacey, Education Lead for Acer Africa, the question is not if the Chromebook will enter South African classrooms, but when and how. Selborne Primary School based in East London decided to partner with Acer to introduce the Google Chromebook as part of their classroom learnings early in 2013. Through the Acer Premier Partner Program, Acer Africa has managed to successfully provide technology solutions to over 120 schools across its network. The success, according to Lacey, lies in the fully customisable solutions that Google and its platforms provide.
After comparing several solutions, Selborne Primary School’s governing board decided that the Google platform will be the best vehicle to move the school into the next phase of its technology journey. Sarah Friend, Grade Seven teacher at Selborne explains that, “ease of use is probably the stand out feature for me. This allows each pupil to use the device according to their unique learning ability”. And this is what makes the Chromebook unique to any other netbook.
“The Chromebook supports the learning material of a school’s current curriculum – continued Friend – while allowing a pupil to expand this learning with additional online tools via the safe and secure Device Management System (DMS) and it’s always up to date”. The robust build of the device and selection of applications allows both educator and pupil to get the most out of the learning process. A recent study supports this claim reporting that more than 60% of students have indicated that their learning experience is enhanced by the Chromebook. “As an IT administrator of the school, I can manage our Chromebooks, the learning material and other Chrome devices, from a cloud-based Admin console or DMS”, says Friend.
“Since its introduction to the South African market, late in 2013, the Chromebook has had a clear and lasting value add in the local education sector”, says Alister Payne, MD of Google Cloud Solutions. Payne refers to the advancements of technology in the classroom as Tequity, or Tech Equity: “Bringing tech into the learning environment creates an enhanced learning experience”. According to Payne, Tequity reaches further than only the physical accessibility of devices, but the convenience of accessing information via a device as well as the simplicity thereof. Technology should never be introduced to a classroom to replace educators, but rather to aid the facilitator to support pupils during the exploration and curation process.
“This is the future of learning” says Lacey, “Students become content creators rather than content consumers”. With a plethora of applications and collaborative tools at their disposal, each student consumes learning material according to their capabilities, making it a lasting experience. “There are different apps for everything from dissecting a grasshopper to taking a tour through ancient Egypt. Google Chromebook is an essential and interactive tool for the 20th century learner” says Lacey. By making this paradigm shift more emphasis is placed on exploring and comprehending content rather, than following a graded curriculum based outcome.
Another feature that is unique to Google Chromebook is the mobility. Students are able to work on group projects whether they are in the same room or not. Additionally, teachers are also able to evaluate how individuals contributed to group projects. Via the Google Classroom Assignment application, teachers schedule assignments on any subject and are able to track its project. This could be seen as an attempt to get a paperless classroom, creating a greener learning environment.
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