Fair Oaks sixth grade students are clicking back through the sands of time.
Taking complete advantage of the latest technology and the students’ ability to access it, Fair Oaks sixth grade teachers Laura Billings, Vincent Eisman and Keith Burns have married Egypt and Google Chromebooks.
More specifically the staff of three collaborated together on the sixth grade required Egyptian Project, tweaking, adding and developing a program which is now outlined and utilized through the students’ Google Chrome.
Earlier this year all three of the classes went live with Chromebooks, Burns’ was the pilot classroom for Fair Oaks.
“We modify it every year,” Burns said of the Ancient Egypt project, noting review of what the students bring and offer each school year as result of the assignment. The three teachers work as a team to keep the project both challenging and current as students and interests evolve.
Using the basic format, point structure and creative offerings from previous years, the team was able to develop an on-line ‘go to’ to help the students digitally develop the project which best suits them. Within the teacher’s website they find the “Ancient Egypt Project” link and within this link possibilities become abundant. Web links, photo offerings and project sheets all literally within a click of a button.
“We can look for really good innovations this way,” Eisman shared.
“All the technology pieces are offered within the classroom,” Burns said, adding that the students are given designated time to work on the project with their classroom Chromebooks.
As the teachers discuss the latest enhancement their enthusiasm becomes apparent. Terms and direction once not fathomable are now commonplace for this new generation of learners.
“Google sites are new to us this year,” Eisman said. “They’re learning not only about Egypt, but about Google sites as well. They can access this information at home as well, if they have internet at home or even a smartphone.
“It makes it an exceptional way to cover that technology ground,” he added.
There are a number of components which make this new approach exciting to both the teacher and student.
No more are students going home with excess amounts of paper outlining the project and the varying options. Through the web approach, they may view it all online, work on it online or have the page (which interests them) printed in the classroom (if not an at home option).
As the students work from home or classroom virtually, the teacher has the ability to access their work and offer feedback or notes to their work.
“If my daughter is at dance, I look into Google and review work, keep and add things, all from my phone,” Eisman said of the freedom and teaching tools now offered in the new format.
“I have been teaching for 27 years,” Burns said, “and all along there’s been this promise of bringing technology to the classroom. Now, they really have it.
“We have opened up a world that wasn’t there before,” he added. “Oakdale has been very supportive in the way of technology.”
“We’re leveling the playing field,” Eisman stated of the students’ and teachers’ growing abilities. “When you look at studies there is a digital divide. It’s a great equalizer. As you use the technology more, you realize how much you can change and raise the bar.”
The educators each echoed sentiments of encouraging the students not to spend a lot of money on their projects. Emphasis is being placed on spending time researching and creative energy producing something which both interests them and makes them proud.
“In terms of resistance, there’s been none,” Eisman said of the first year online direction. “There’s really no reason, because everything that’s there (teacher website) was there before.”
“We use this stuff to teach them about Egypt and technology as well,” Burns said of the overall scope of utilizing Google. “Google is forgiving, in the sense that you can go back.”
Eisman and Burns acknowledged that they are learning the technology, just as the students are. It’s proving to be a positive growth process for teacher and student, both noted the students now share excitement and enthusiasm with one another as they work through their chosen projects.
“It’s about the time you spend, not about the amount of money,” Burns said.
“You just have to dive in,” Eisman said of the Chromebooks. “You have to be willing to try and … they are.”
To view the latest set up offered by the Fair Oaks sixth grade teachers visit www.oakdale.k12.ca.us, and visit the Fair Oaks web page.