A HUGE thank you to MassCUE for their support of the Freedman Gossip project. This grant was used as part of a cross curricular project between writing, technology, music, and the arts. The Chromebooks were primarily used in the music and writing portion of the project. The grant met our goal to increase knowledge. More than anything, we learned that many Google products are not compatible with the technology that that is already in use for the music classes. To continue to use the Chromebooks, we will need to learn how to use different music technology software. Receiving this grant was a blessing for a classroom teacher. We learned how to incorporate Google Docs in the classroom, and discovered the tremendous value the Chromebooks add to collaborative writing. Students were able to work together on four different machines on the same story, editing and revising as a team. From this project the classroom teacher has developed other collaborative learning experiences for students using the Chromebooks. The machines have revolutionized her teaching practice in many ways. She is now able to give positive and constructive criticism within a written piece, students can then check their work, and she can visit the revision history. This has also become a strong communication tool amongst students and the classroom teacher. Lastly, she no longer has to lug papers home to correct. She can log on right from my own laptop! Our art educator facilitated the students in a visual interpretation of gossip through paper and Hyper studio technology on school PCs. However, she did have an opportunity to experiment with the Chromebooks and gain and understanding of how to incorporate them in the future. Much of the teacher learning that took place was a result of trial and error with the software and learning how different software will or will not work together on the school’s network. Students are using their Google Docs accounts for not only this project, but also reading homework and in class writing exercises. Many of the classroom lessons have been altered to include Google Docs such as math presentations, discovery quests, and narrative, expository, and persuasive writing experiences. We have gained a new understanding of other aspects of interfacing with this collaborative unit. Students were very engaged in this project. Because they were emotionally invested in the work, academic performance improved. The writing the students composed was the strongest pieces we have seen. The students even commented that they were impressed with the six stories created. We firmly believe the collaborative writing opportunity enhanced student writing, improved all students, skills, and challenged them to think about what others were saying with how to make a story better. We discuss at the beginning of the unit that this is their projects and they will help the teachers gain knowledge as it is a complete collaboration among all. The final products that the students created (writing, musical compositions, artwork) all served to demonstrate that their learning crossed disciplines. Students used the Chromebooks to complete much of the project. We completed the project a week earlier than expected. Our only obstacle was finding an application to use for music editing. We had planned on using Audacity and learned it is not compatible with Chromebooks. Therefore we had to seek alternate applications to use. We sought out advice, but ran out of time to experiment with the application and had to come up with another method for getting the audio from the instruments into Itunes and then to Hyperstudio. Students will present the project to other students and educators at Jordan Jackson during the school day and to families at an evening presentation. We hope to present this project at the MassCUE Fall conference. The other 5th grade classrooms worked on a similar version of this unit. Their focus was on selected music interpretation and Norman Rockwell. We will continue to investigate software that is compatible with the Chromebooks and incorporate that software into our teaching and learning strategies. The Chromebooks will be used in the regular education classroom setting as long as the wireless shall last. The Chromebooks will not only be used by students in the classroom setting but also become a tool for us to explore more integration of software art and writing.
About the Authors: Rayna Freedman (classroom teacher/ITS), Kim Holster (music), and Mary Shea (art) have been collaborating on an integrative project for 12 years. It is their vision to bring STEAM into the classroom by integrating art,music, technology, writing, and literacy.