Recently members of the Questeq team had a chance to talk with teachers at Avonworth School District to discuss their recent move to Google Apps, Google Classroom and Chromebooks. Prior to 2013, the availability and reliability of technology tools was a concern for many teachers within the district. Educators were still enthusiastic about using technology but couldn’t always count on having the tools available when needed.
Questeq became the Educational Technology Management partner of Avonworth in June 2013. Since then, the district hasn’t looked back and continues to re-envision their educational technology strategy.
Under the direction of Questeq Director of IT Shawn Stoebener and other Questeq team members, we stabilized the IT department (rightsized staff and skills) and infrastructure (Network, Wireless, Content Filter, Email) over the first year enabling Shawn to focus on implementing strategic initiatives. As part of the new strategy, the district implemented HP Chromebooks and the Google Apps suite for students in grades 6-12. The district more recently implemented Google Classroom when it was released earlier this calendar year. Due to the increased availability and reliability of their technology, teachers have renewed confidence to use these tools more frequently in the classroom.
Ms. Emily Hickman, 8th grade English teacher, uses Google Classroom extensively for students to access class materials. Due to the ease of use and instant availability of information, it removes excuses and helps to maintain student engagement levels. About her technology philosophy, Ms. Hickman shared, “Technology is only as good as what you use it for.” She also uses Google Classroom as a way of providing information or sources that she wants her students to access when researching a topic. This method provides a model for her students for evaluating and using valid information sources.
In addition, Google Docs is utilized for collaboration during grade-level team meetings. Agendas are created using the collaborative tool so that all group members can have input. Parent contacts are also kept current through the use of Google tools. The immediacy of updates to pertinent information allows all teachers to be informed.
Ms. Amanda White, 7th grade English teacher, uses Google Docs and Classroom with her students. The availability of the Chromebooks has allowed her students more classroom time for writing and research. The peer editing process has been simplified as students work and share in small groups while using Google Docs to make comments and revisions. Ms. White has found that students are more collaborative and are receiving more feedback on their projects. This increased peer collaboration has lead to better projects and more student engagement.
Students at Avonworth are happy with the access to information and tools both at home and school. One student shared that due to illness, she had missed several days of school and was still able to keep up with assignments and class work. In addition, the availability of school email helps students communicate much easier when working on group projects.
Mr. Doug Pastore, Creative Writing teacher, also utilizes Google Docs for the peer editing and review process. Mr. Pastore sees the students being active and not passive learners in his classroom. Google Docs has changed how students work by allowing them to post assignments and comments anywhere and anytime. During a recent satire class discussion, the students were able to access information on the Chromebooks to quickly share learning and knowledge with the rest of the class.
The enthusiastic teachers that we spoke to at Avonworth all encourage their fellow educators to give the technology tools a try if they haven’t already. The tools are easy to use, reliable and can easily fit into a teacher’s busy schedule.
The district is one of the fastest growing in the area and opened a brand new primary center for students in grades K-2 for the 2014-15 school year. In addition, Avonworth was selected to join the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. We featured this honor on our site earlier this year. Great things are happening for students at Avonworth and we are privileged to partner with them on this journey.