All second- to sixth-graders at Waiahole Elementary recently began using their own school-issued Chromebooks throughout the day as part of a program that develops leaders for the digital age.
The Kaneohe school rolled out the electronic devices and digital learning environment as part of the Future Ready Hawaii program this school year. Unlike common computer labs, where students share the same device, Waiahole pupils keep their own laptops all day.
Waiahole is one of three Windward District schools (Castle High and Sunset Beach Elementary are the others) with 39 other schools Hawaii-wide accepted into digital education and collaboration effort, supported by 1:1 devices. It builds off of lessons learned in the Access Learning pilot launched in School Year 2013-14.
Waiahole invested $15,000 from community fundraising into its long-term plan to prepare students for college, career and community. Learning with laptops, using virtual learning opportunities and techniques gained by teachers in the program’s professional trainings, is blended with traditional classroom learning.
“Every day I use Chromebook my brain stretches more and more,” said Grace Cronkright, grade 5. “I have never in my life learned this much in a month.”
Waiahole students can access online reading and math lessons, and practice exercises through IXL and KidBiz programs. “You get to learn on so many websites, and it gives our brains time to play games,” said fifth-grader Taylor Chung.
Principal Alexandra Obra and the teachers can exchange emails with their grade-schoolers, and the kids can also email the student council.
“Each student has a Google account with email and in most classes, they can access their daily schedules through their individual accounts,” Obra said. “Their schedules list the materials that they need to gather for the day, assignments they must submit and homework they must do.”
“I have never in my life learned this much in a month.”
— Grace Cronkright, grade 5
Audits of the Access Learning program showed increased collaboration, engagement and equity among the eight pilot schools, with all teachers, administrators and students having equal access to technology. (Learn more from the presentation to the Joint Education Committees of the state Legislature last February). Feedback sources included student and parent surveys, and teacher-perception data. Students reported that learning was more fun, and teachers felt more organized, with everything in one place and the ability to share information quickly.
“When we do our work, it is easier and faster than using paper and pencil,” said Jacob Punivai, grade 4. “It makes it easier for my teacher to teach and the students to learn.”
Other benefits include learning about and taking responsibility for digital citizenship – understanding social media, cyberbullying, privacy and Internet safety. Students must score 100 percent on a test about online behavior before receiving laptops.
Future Ready supports families as they transition to high-tech access. There’s ongoing parent education plus a family contract that features a “Kid’s Pledge” to sign.
“I have no phone or anything at home, so it has been entertaining to learn about a computer,” said Hanna Hendricks, grade 5. “I love how advanced it is. It makes my schoolwork easier.”
“Students are more excited about learning,” Obra said. “They see us taking risks and then they feel motivated to try new things and move outside of their own comfort level.”
Next, Obra plans to apply for the program’s Fast Track component. If selected, Waiahole will receive one year of free tech support and more professional development for teachers. (Fast Track is available to schools that have received the necessary leadership training, taken the Future Ready Assessment, developed a Future Ready Implementation Plan, and committed to the programmatic and evaluation components of the Future Ready Fast Track Program. Learn more: HIDOE Future Ready Hawaii plan.)
“The biggest change for our students is the realization of these Chromebooks’ impact: The opportunities are endless and connecting with the world is virtually effortless,” said teacher Pam Alo.