Since I received my own Chromebook Cart, I’m now looking back and reflecting on what I’ve learned about teaching in a 1:1 classroom. There are so many aspects that no one ever tells you about, so I’m going to pass along some important tips. This is Part 1 of the series that will focus on storage, workspace, management, and troubleshooting tips. Part 2 will focus on Google Classroom, Google Apps, and general tips.
Let’s talk about storage! First of all, I have one cart with 26 Chromebooks (and 24 students). Each Chromebook fits nicely into a slot in the cart that physically I have near the front of my classroom. Why in the front? I’m in a building built in the 1950s and it is all brick. That means 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 Chromebook cart is plugged in. The cart is plugged in while the Chromebooks have a separate charger cord built into each storage slot. The Chromebooks do not charge if the cart is not plugged in. Here’s an important tip: each row charges separately on an alternate cycle. This means not all Chromebooks are charging simultaneously so it takes time to have them all fully charged.
Also, think about access. With 26 students, they’ll need to line up to get their Chromebooks. So the cart is 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 Chromebooks. Sometimes, Chromebooks will lose all their charge in the middle of assignments. Having an extra one ensures the student can switch to the extra Chromebook and continue working. If not, the student has to wait at least half an hour to have some charge to finish an assignment.
I do not charge the Chromebooks every day. My schedule is to plug them all in for recharging on Fridays and Wednesdays. The only exception is during state online testing. During testing, the Chromebooks are charged daily to make sure they will be fully charged for the test. Do not have each child plug-in their Chromebook. Instead, have a charge monitor who can plug and unplug the Chromebooks when necessary. It will save time and ensure that each Chromebook is charged.
Finally, I secure the cart 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 Chromebooks were all still there. So now I usually have a student remind me to do it before they leave for the day.
STORING ACCESSORIES TIPS
Let’s talk about accessories, namely Headphones. Oh, vey! 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 baggies to the storage box, I have one student in charge checking to make sure the headphones and mice are in sealed baggies.
A better alternative is to have students bring their own earbuds to store in a small baggie!
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 2 seater desks for the single-seater desks because our classrooms went up to 30 students!
The single-seater took up less space. But now that my district has reduced class size to 24, I went back to the two-seater desks! Why? Because the single seater has limited space as they only measure 24 inches by 18 inches. It’s a challenge for students to fit the Chromebook, the mouse, a paper and textbook all at the same time.
Also, we don’t use the Chromebooks 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 pictures 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 the 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 is 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 a screen, students become uncomfortable, squirm and get 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 workspaces.
When we use the Chromebook, each student walks to the Chromebook cart to retrieve the computer. The student needs to set up and log in. This can take a lot of time! You have to work that into your schedule! Eventually, the students store the carts quickly as the year progresses. I assign each student a number that is equivalent to a Chromebook. Each student is also assigned the same computer for the entire year. That way, I can vary the way the students retrieve their Chromebooks 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 Chromebooks all day long, it’s also hassling to have the students get and return their Chromebooks to the cart several times a day. So instead, I have the students make room in their desk and slide the Chromebook 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 Chromebooks when I had to teach or point something out. So now I have a system. I use a 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 5 minutes. If I need more than that, I have them close the Chromebooks.
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 5 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 Chromebook away for the entire day and print out what they would have been working on. Instead of working on the Chromebook, 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 a student to interrupt me when I’m working in small groups or with another student. So I’ve taught my students the 3Rs of Chromebooking.
This is one of many tips all students should and must learn so they can problem solve their tech problems themselves. 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 Chromebook will usually fix about 99% of problems. Students save their work to the cloud on Google Drive so nothing is lost.
One time this year, I had a student rotate the screen on the Chromebook 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 Department!).
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 Chromebook unusable (like the tilted screen).
Even though I’ve spent four years in a 1:1 classroom, I still follow this tips and suggestions!
Don’t forget to check out PART 2 of this series.
You might want to follow my Google in the Classroom Pinterest Board.
Until then, please share your ideas and suggestions below in the comment section.