Last week, Promevo teamed up with Google and ASPIRA Inc., a Chicago charter school with almost a 1:1 student to Chromebook ratio, to host ExploreEDU, an event that introduced Google for Education to Chicago-land teachers, principals, and IT directors. While ASPIRA’s Business and Finance High School has hundreds of Chromebooks, it only has two IT managers. Last summer they made a three-student tech team, who does everything from updating and fixing computers to showing teachers how to use the newest devices. We were lucky enough to talk to David, Leslie, and Jesus about how they support the school, how teachers can best use laptops and Google Classroom, and why schools should invest in Chromebooks.
Promevo: Can you talk to me about what the tech team is?
Leslie: We’re basically the ones who are helping her [Carla Peralta, ASPIRA’s IT Director] manage everything technology wise. We have to do inventory, we need to enroll computers, we need to give some help to the teachers, and just be there to give support and support Carla.
Jesus: I feel like the tech team is another way to make the school flow a little bit better with technology.
David: We try the new technology that is coming in and actually this camera just came in! [Points to DSLR Camera]
Leslie: It’s like Christmas every day. The first time the ThinkPads came we were the first ones to try them and were figuring out how they work and trying to introduce that to our teachers.
Promevo: What does your average day look like with the tech team?
Leslie: Right after school [we] jump into inventory. There were like two whole weeks straight of inventory. We had a lot of cameras. How many cameras?
David:From this camera [points to his DSLR camera] it was around 12 cameras, and then we had COOLPIX cameras, the little ones, and that was roughly 160 cameras that we had to open and label.
Leslie: So we had to carefully open them and then label them, scan them-
Jesus: Without dropping them! [Everyone laughs]
Leslie: And not only that, but they [ASPIRA, Inc.] want to put in an audio class, so all the mics came in, and we have to go through all of that eventually. Before that, we used to help [Peralta] with enrollment with computers. We had to put them in testing mode and help [her]out.
Promevo: What’s the coolest example of using a Chromebook in class that you’ve seen?
Jesus: Well, the coolest example is when the teachers blocked everything. Because most of [the students] didn’t do work, they just went on Youtube and were watching videos, and then the next day the teacher blocked everything and only left Google Classroom open and they were like “What happened?” they were like “aww”. It was really funny.
Leslie: I feel like Google Classroom is better now because it shows you what assignments you have to do, when are they due, all of your classes. . . If you’re missing, you have your notes there. I’m going on vacation soon and I’m going to miss 2 weeks of school so I feel like that’s going to help me. [My teacher] said, “I’ll post everything to Google Classroom,” so I’m going to have my notes and I’m going to have my homework.
Promevo: Do you see anything different in your classes or the school now that you have
Jesus: I’ve noticed that in our grade people pay more attention than before because of Google Guardian, which is an app that blocks everything. I’ve noticed that everyone’s grades have been going up because someone might [previously have been able to say] say, “Oh, I lost my homework, I don’t have my paper,” but it’s on the cloud. You can’t lose it.
David: And then with Google Guardian, teachers can see what students are doing on the computer. So it’s a lot of benefit for [teachers] to have [students] more focused on class instead of being off task and doing whatever they want.
Promevo: Think of a teacher who doesn’t use the Chromebooks well. What would you want to tell them?
David: Just ask us. As the tech team, we’re in every classroom, we can help out. We don’t mind helping out. We know what we know, and then sooner or later we’re going to find out more.
Jesus: If you’re new to it, [keep] using it and eventually you’re going to learn. Don’t be a baby, just learn!
Promevo: What would you tell a school who’s thinking about getting Chromebooks, but isn’t 100% sure?
Jesus: I’ll say, get them. It’s efficient, you’ll get your students to work better because you’ll be managing what they’re doing, and it’s way easier.
Leslie: I know they still have to think about the money because it’s an investment, but I feel like it’s a good investment because you’re investing in something that’s actually going to help. We invested in [Chromebooks] and it helps us, the teachers AND the students.
David: It would benefit a lot to students, having their stuff ready and being more organized with their files and documents, and being ready to start class. There’s no excuse for them, like “I forgot my homework at home” and Google Classroom has everything. Teachers can provide their notes [and] assignments, it helps keep us on track knowing when [an assignment is] due when WAS it due, is it late? It gives us a whole list of what we’ve got to do during the days and throughout the semester. It is really helpful, so teachers and schools should buy the Chromebooks.