Editor’s note: Today, as part of Teacher Appreciation Week, we’d like to highlight Lucie deLaBruere, former technology coach and consultant, and all her fellow educators at St. Albans City School, a K-8 school serving 670 students in St. Albans, Vermont. Schools can get started with Going Google and see what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.
St. Albans City School has seen its fair share of tough times, especially in the last few years, but we don’t let a struggling economy get in the way of our promise to give our talented students the best learning tools available. We just chose to adopt technology that’s both affordable and easy to put in our kids’ hands – Google for Education. Google’s tools have helped level the playing field at St. Albans City School by bringing teamwork and collaboration to school projects.
Our students face challenges that would normally impede them from using the kind of premium technology available to other students across the country. Many don’t have their own computers at home, split their time between different parents’ homes, or attend after-school programs where they don’t have access to their homework or class materials. In our search for better learning tools that would address these challenges, we discovered we could use Google to provide each student with a digital locker that could be accessed from anywhere.
Students figured out before we did that they needed better ways to work together – many had already discovered Gmail and Google Docs and were using the apps for projects. When we made Google Apps for Education available for the entire school, the students quickly and enthusiastically joined in.
One of the first times that these tools helped provide a game-changing learning experience was when we conducted the “City Lights” project a few years ago. Our 7th and 8th graders used GPS devices, Google Apps for Education, Google Maps, and Google Earth to map locations of every streetlight in the city, then researched the link between crime and the lack of lights. They even presented their research to the St. Albans City Council – all with Google Docs and Slides. They got to experience civic engagement first-hand and watch how their recommendations played in the design of the city. More importantly, it showed students the impact they could have when empowered with Google tools.
I’m happy to say this impact continues today. Every day, students and teachers find new ways to weave Google into learning. Google Drive lets students offer peer feedback on writing assignments. Google Hangouts and Slides bring teachers from countries like India, Canada, and Japan into St. Albans classrooms. Google Presentations helped 3rd and 4th graders create e-books suggesting names and background stories for a new city fire truck. Some of the students shared their views:
“Being able to talk to the class in India was great because it’s so different. It was interesting to see what their school was like, what they eat, their culture, and how they live in general.” – Ethan
“The ‘Around the World in 180 Days’ project opened up my outlook on other cultures around the world. Learning about other cultures was a life-changing opportunity.” – Katherine
I work now with a handful of schools in Vermont, but I still consider St. Albans “my school.” Students there continue to uncover new ways of improving our community, like how they’re teaming up with local bike club members and parks employees to improve trails at the nearby Hard’ack and Aldis Hill recreation areas. This work will also reduce the amount of nitrates and other pollutants getting into Lake Champlain. They’re hiking every trail in the system, and will add coordinates, descriptions, and images into Google Maps. Eventually, students will report on their findings using Google Apps.
Google tools have become so essential to everyday learning that my colleagues and students now cannot even imagine getting through the day without them. Google Apps for Education, along with Chromebooks and Nexus 7 tablets with Google Play for Education, have helped transform St. Albans into a state leader for its use of technology, not just in the classroom, but beyond the walls of the school in the community.