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Google Chromebooks provide personalization, collaboration for mSchool


Editor’s word: As of late’s visitor blogger is Elliot Sanchez, founder and chief government officer of mSchool, a benefit corporation (B Corp.) that helps community centers and schools in the United States open “microschools” to connect children with structured online learning opportunities. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

At mSchool, we want to see every student receive an incredible, personalized education and make it easy for schools to provide that type of learning experience. We also believe in the thoughtful integration of technology into education.

There are many powerful, fantastic tools available today to help students learn, but using them in the right way to get the right results can be a complicated, and often costly, process. We work directly with local community centers and schools to open – in two weeks’ time and for about $5,000 – accredited one-classroom “microschools” staffed with academic coaches from the local area. Through our adaptive learning program, mSchool gathers over 250,000 data points on student learning in each classroom. That data allows us to individualize our curricula to a student’s needs and adjust based on each student’s performance.

We offer a technology-rich education option for students, grades 3 through 12, to deepen their math understanding and prepare for Algebra I. This includes multimedia content, interactive animations, tools for creating digital graphs and charts, and formative assessments. Chromebooks are now a big part of that experience. In our pilot classrooms, students used a range of devices – mostly donated equipment – including laptops, PCs, Macs, and tablet computers. But when we were ready to expand our program this year from 30 students to more than 200, we needed to find technology that could grow with us. We considered several different options, but Chromebooks really stood out.

First, we liked the web-based management console for managing Chromebooks and user access. We needed the ability to manage the student experience in a quickly growing number of classrooms across the country– from around the corner in New Orleans to rural South Dakota. We can remotely control which sites students can access which allows us to help them stay on track with their learning. With Chromebooks, students are spending more “time on task.”

Cost was another primary factor in our decision to use Chromebooks throughout our classrooms. We were able to put a Chromebook into the hands of every student we’re working with this year. The low cost of replacement of the Chromebooks also means we can leave them with the community centers at the end of the academic year.

We never want technology to be a barrier to learning. And with Chromebooks, it isn’t. Students are able to access our cloud based adaptive curriculum and work at their own pace. Chromebooks are allowing our students to engage in ways they weren’t able to with pen and paper and static content like printed books. They also help us to instruct students in a personalized way. And they enable collaboration: students can work through problems independently, but when they get stuck, remote teachers can see exactly what they’re working on and help to guide them.

In 2014, mSchool will expand into five states using grant funding we received this year as part of the Teach for America Social Innovation award. And it’s the reliable rollout and scalability of Chromebooks that will help to ensure we can open all the classrooms that we’ve planned.