Third graders at Iron Station Elementary are becoming more prepared for a technology-driven future. Thanks to a grassroots effort spearheaded by Brandon Finger, assistant principal at Iron Station, all of the students in the third grade received a Chromebook to be utilized while they are at school.
“We raised nearly $12,000 to provide Chromebooks on a one-to-one basis,” Finger said. “According to the state school report card, 52.7 percent of our kids are economically disadvantaged, which is nearly 3 percent higher than the state average. Our kids don’t have access at home to technology. We want to put it in front of them here.”
Finger’s goal is to give the students at Iron Station 21st century learning skills. He cited a study done by Dell Technologies that said that 85 percent of the jobs that will be available in 2030, which is when these students will be graduating and going into the workforce, have not even been invented yet.
“With low-income students, there’s a correlation that says that they don’t do as well in science, technology, mathematics and those disciplines so we want to flip the switch and change that,” he said. “We want our kids to have these opportunities.”
To the best of Finger’s knowledge, verified by the director of elementary education, this is the only third grade class that has Chromebooks on a one-to-one basis.
Much of the learning done on the Chromebooks is through Google Classroom. The students are able to get instant feedback from their teachers on their work. The work is graded automatically by the software and students can communicate immediately with a teacher if they have problems.
“With that instant feedback it also gives teachers the data they need to be able to change or tweak a lesson plan,” Finger said. “It keeps all the data for you. It’s paperless, no more, ‘my dog ate my homework’ or ‘I lost my homework.’ It’s radically and completely changed how our third graders learn.”
Funds are currently being raised to purchase Chromebooks for this group of third graders to use as they enter the fourth grade. The funds are being raised through grants, the Timken Company has partnered with the school, they’ve had fundraisers at school and donations have come in from the public.
Teachers for the third grade have had to change the way they teach now but have completely jumped on board with Finger, who is new to the school this year, on this new endeavor. While results are not final and can’t be released yet, Finger said that third grade testing has done better this year.
Despite Iron Station Elementary having a “day at the beach” fun day on Wednesday, Jennifer Burgin’s third grade class were happily engaged in learning about honey bees on their Chromebooks. Some read the e-book silently while others used headphones as they studied.
“They are better at discerning information from our nonfiction texts vs. fiction texts,” she said. “In the past, informational texts have been difficult for this age group. These kids can read a newspaper article and tell you from that article what was the important information.”
What’s provided via Google Classroom aligns with the standards of instruction and are kept current Burgin added. In the past, it was the teacher’s responsibility to find the information to align it with the text and to make it more relevant to the classroom. It provides the teachers and students with more resources – right at their fingertips. The students are also able to take virtual fieldtrips through their Chromebooks, which aids in their learning.
“I’ve seen a huge difference in their learning,” Burgin said. “Plus, because we were able to get the Chromebooks at the beginning of the year, it’s been a continual process.”