Reaching out to 'digitally native' schoolchildren
Taking a break from their own classrooms Wednesday, 30 teachers were schooled in how to use online technology to better communicate and collaborate with students.
School officials say that Google Apps (short for "applications") will modernize local classrooms.
Google Apps includes a way to make documents at no charge to the Del Norte County Unified School District -andensp;no software or hardware needed.
Using a Google email account (Gmail), teachers and students can share documents, videos and photos, and chat online about assignments.
All of this can be accessed from any computer, any time, said Rae
Fearing, a science teacher at Del Norte High School who has been leading
the way in using Google Apps.
"We're taking learning into the 21st Century," she said.
Google Apps is more engaging for students and teaches them technology
skills, said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Don
It's also a "great communication tool" for teachers and students, he
The school district's new website was also built using Google Apps.
"We've done this for next to no money," Olson said.
Fearing came to the district with the idea of using Google Apps last
fall. She wrote a grant and was awarded $30,000 to train teachers on how
to use Google Apps.
Mark Hammons, an instructor in Fresno and a Google-certified
teacher, has been instructing Del Norte teachers on using the apps
during a three-day workshop concluding today. Eventually, all teachers
will receive training.
"Once a teacher gets a hold of tools, they get excited," Fearing
said. Technology "is a way to engage students."
Just the other day, one of Fearing's students was having trouble on a
spreadsheet. Through Google Apps, she and the student were able to look
at the document at the same time and talk about what changes could be
Fearing said that by sharing documents online, teachers and students
will be less likely to lose assignments like they would a piece of paper
or even a misplaced email.
Changes and comments regarding an assignment can easily be
disregarded when they're on a piece of paper, Fearing said, but students
seem to take these suggestions to heart when done electronically.
"These are digitally native children," she said, who respond to
technology they're already using and have been most of their lives. "We
(teachers) have to come up to their level."
Education is moving away from using textbooks toward using technology
more, Fearing said. She had her students build a website on a chapter
from the course textbooks to review for upcoming finals, she said,
showing how she can acess her students' sites from her Gmail.
Computer skills will also help students get jobs later on, she added.
Students can collaborative with each other by chatting and sharing
documents online, she said. Work on documents is tracked, so that when
students work in teams, teachers will be able to see who did what work,
Next school year, all upper-level students will have Gmail accounts.
Using the calendar application, teachers can put their notes and
assignments from each school day on a calendar for students to review.
During the workshop, Hammons told teachers that they can set up
reminders for a test or project due date for students on their calendar
and even send them text messages.
Since learning about Google Apps, Fearing has had her students
building websites. More teachers are catching on to the idea of having
Nicole Cochran, a seventh grade teacher at Smith River Elementary
School, puts her lesson plans on her site for students to see what they
missed if they're absent from school. This is especially helpful for
students who return to Mexico with their families for a period of time
to catch up with their schoolwork, she said.
Mary Michelle Cupp, a fourth grade teacher at Redwood Elementary
School, said that eventually more teachers will be using Google Apps and
designing their own websites, but it will take time for everyone to get
"It will take some practice and getting used to," she said.
Brett Lauble, a computer teacher at Crescent Elk Middle School, where
students built their own website, said he's been pushing the district
to use more modern technology and sees Google Apps as being the wave of
"That's typical of education," he said. "We're still here and then we
make a big leap - this is the big leap."
Textbooks are going online and mobile technology like iPads is
becoming more commonplace, he said.
"Web-based is the future, no doubt," Lauble said. "We're on the right