Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Week in Student Tech: Chromebooks, CDs, and Robotics

Who said the week before vacation couldn't be productive?  This past week, I was able to work with my student tech team at Searsport Elementary School on three different occasions, and boy were we productive!  Here's a recap in the week that was in Student Tech.


A new Lenovo Chromebook
One of our 40 new Lenovo Chromebooks.
Just this week, we received a shipment of 40 Chromebooks to be deployed upstairs for use in grades 3, 4, and 5 at Searsport Elementary School. Chromebooks are laptops that operate almost exclusively online, with no programs installed on the computer's memory except for the Google Chrome browser.  These laptops are sleek, portable, and will accommodate what the second floor classrooms do well because nearly everything they do on the computers is online.  Best of all, they are new and significantly less expensive than most other PCs, and SES is now running on laptops that are all four years old or newer (versus last year, where the laptops were between 7 and 10 years old).  Because the Chromebooks are a little different than the MacBooks we are accustomed to, our process for getting them ready is a little different, but basically comes down to:
  • Preparing the new carts and labeling the shelves;
  • Unboxing the laptops, unwrapping contents, inserting battery into laptop;
  • Labeling the laptops and chargers;
  • Wiring the carts/plugging in the chargers;
  • Putting the laptops in the cart
On Tuesday, we began this process with the fifth grade tech team.  In about 40 minutes, they were able to finish unboxing and labeling fifteen of the laptops and chargers, and most of those were wired into the cart.  Both carts were also labeled for each laptop, so students would know where to put them.  The early release day gave me some additional time after school to meet with the members of the fifth and fourth grade teams that volunteered to stay.  The fifth grade team helped fill the fourth grade team in on what they were working on, and they caught on very quickly.  It only took about forty-five minutes to finish unboxing and labeling the rest of the laptops, wiring the carts, and putting the laptops onto the shelves.

Makenzie, in grade 5, leads Justin and Emma, grade 4,
through the process.
Ellis, grade 4, entering the serial number of his group's
Chromebook into the spreadsheet so they can be verified.

Genesis, Justin and Emma, helping to move Macbooks
between carts.
Now that the Chromebooks were ready to go, it was time to move the MacBooks they are replacing. On Friday, four members of the fourth grade team assisted with this process.  The upstairs MacBooks were moved downstairs to replace the laptops down in the Kindergarten wing, since those ones are a little bit older, so we could take them out of the building.  Members of our fourth grade team helped with this step, moving the carts around the building in pairs, adding new labels to the now-Kindergarten laptops, and organizing the extras into piles that I needed to bring elsewhere.

The two Chromebook carts, ready for use.
This summer, I prepared all of the laptop carts in the building, with many of the same steps as we just used on the Chromebook carts.  By myself, some of the carts took upwards of three hours to prepare, but with my tech team, we were able to effectively prepare four carts in about the same time.  When the students return from their break, forty Chromebooks will be ready for use, and we will have 110 laptops in the building total.

Burning CDs

Among our other projects was burning copies of the CDs of the leadership songs the students made with Mr. Cannon.  Our goal is to make a copy for every student in the building to bring home.  That's about 220 CDs!  The CDs take around 3-6 minutes to burn.  Students began helping to make copies last week; the fifth graders on Wednesday and the fourth graders on Thursday.  The good thing about burning CDs is that it can be done in the background while the students are working on something else.  So, they "multitasked" while doing it.  Multitasking can be a challenge for younger students, but I think they did a nice job of managing it overall.

On the early release day, we did some more multitasking (more on that later), and burned about 90 CDs in less than two hours!  Along with what we burned in the previous week, that gave us nearly all the CDs we needed.  Now, we are just waiting for labels so we can apply those to the CDs, and then we can start sending them home.

Robotics Inventory

Mckenzie, grade 5, and Emma working on inventorying
a robotics kit.
While students were burning CDs, they were also inventorying LEGO robotics kits.  Given the nature of these kits and how students use them, pieces get mixed up and lost all the time.  It is important to do an inventory so I know which kits are missing which materials, and replenish them (I have a couple of tubs of "spare parts."  I had four fourth graders and four fifth graders there, so I had each fifth graders partner with a fourth grader for this task.  Each group got quite a ways into the inventory, so I just need to follow up on what they didn't finish.  Still, a great start to the inventory process, as I have ten kits to inventory in total.

As you can see, we were hard at work this past week!  I'm looking forward to what the new year brings!

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