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Google recognizes technology education efforts at C2E

Students at charter school work with engineers to improve educational apps

PARKER – While Douglas County’s Challenge to Excellence Charter School (C2E) has a tremendous amount of technology, with 1:2 tablets in kindergarten and first-grade, 1:1 tablets in second-grade and 1:1 Chromebooks in grades three through eight, the school’s leaders say it is not the numbers that matter. It is what their students are doing with the technology and the increase in engagement they have seen that they are proud of and what captured the attention of Google For Education, who recently featured the school in a case study.

“Our students are using a Chromebook everyday to create, learn, and connect with each other,” explained C2E Director of Technology Beth Mossholder. “How we are leveraging those tools to impact learning, is what makes us unique and why they chose us for case study. They don’t often choose individual schools to do case studies normally.”

“We are excited and honored that Google would approach us, because this means that they feel that what we were doing was something that will inspire other schools. That, for me, is validation that we are on the right track,” Mossholder added.

READ MORE: Google Case Study: Challenge to Excellence Charter School students explore the world using Android tablets with Google Play for Education

Through Google Apps for Education learning has expanded, according to Mossholder. She says students are now better organized and empowered to collaborate, communicate and explore topics they are passionate about.

“I had my big ‘aha’ moment when I saw that teachers were no longer standing in front of the classroom with a line of students waiting to ask for help,” Mossholder says. “Students are empowered to find their own answers, which places them on a path to becoming leaders. They know that no matter how old they are or what grade they’re in, they’re all smart and capable.”

“They helped me learn by opening another world to technology,” says Laura, a fourth-grader who used tablets in the second and third grades. “I learned new and cool things by fun apps that were like games, but make your mind smarter too.”

“It is definitely not a toy,” said C2E Principal Linda Parker. “ [These devices] are essential for them.”

The technology has also opened the real world to C2E students. In the case study, Google for Education wrote about how Chromebooks allowed second-grade students to take a virtual field trip to India.

…When Aryaman, a second-grade student, told classmates he was going on a family trip to India, C2E Technology Integration Specialist Julie Stewart had an inspiration. “I decided that a tablet was going with him to India, so he could take pictures,” she says. “He started emailing us amazing photos, and I thought, ‘this is like a virtual field trip for the kids.’”

Back at school, students used their tablets and Google Earth to research where their classmate was traveling, including landmarks such as the Taj Mahal.

“When the student came back from his trip, his classmates showed him all the pictures and information they’d collected,” says Stewart. “You could feel their excitement—the project helped take my students outside the four walls of the classroom.”

The technology also provided them an opportunity to learn directly from a veteran.

“When a couple of second-grade kids became interested in World War II, we asked my friend’s father, a veteran, to talk to our students about his experiences as a soldier,” says Stewart. “The kids used their tablets to read a news article about the veteran and the war, then they collected their questions on a Google Sheet and talked to the veteran using a Google Hangout. It was wonderful to see a group of eight-year-olds interacting with a 95-year-old.”

When Principal Parker walks through the school, she sees students utilizing the Chromebooks and tablets in everything they do and are continually looking for new ways to use the technology in new ways.

“They figure out ways to use this technology that you and I would never think of. They are truly innovating and it is inspiring to see them work,” Parker said.

Over the past few years, Google for Education has even tapped C2E students, as they have worked to improve the company’s applications.

“Our second graders were able to speak to their engineers and provide feedback on how to change the app to make them more student-friendly,” Mossholder said. “That is really awesome. It helps them to understand they are empowered and they are valued and how they learn and what they are doing is important and someone other than us wants to pay attention to it.”

“It was pretty magical to sit in that room with them while they are on Google Chat talking face-to-face with the engineers that actually write the software,” Parker added. “There was some serious note taking going on at Google and it was inspiring to watch our kids tell them what works and what doesn’t work.”

The school’s focus on technology immersion began about four years ago at the prompting of the charter school’s governing board. The school hadn’t always been so technologically advanced. Parker approached the school's Parent Volunteer Association who worked tirelessly to raise the funds needed to "tech-up" the school.

When Mossholder joined C2E as a fourth-grade teacher in 2006, shortly after the school’s founding, she found very little technology to share with students. “There was no Wi-Fi, and I brought in my own laptop and router to create a hotspot,” recalled Mossholder.

Today, the schools robust information technology infrastructure, allows students to use technology to learn outside of the classroom and teachers to download apps that respond to specific class needs, including reading, writing and special education.

C2E is even participating in the U.S. Department of Education’s Future Ready initiative, which celebrates schools that set a vision for digital learning for students and personalized professional learning for teachers.

Additionally, the school has ties with other Douglas County schools, including Redstone Elementary, which has 1:1 iPads and was recently recognized as an Apple Distinguished School.

Parker says being part of Douglas County School District, encourages this type of innovation.

“I do not think we would be allowed to try the stuff that we try and ‘fail forward’ the way we do [in another district]. If something doesn’t work we try it a different way and keep trying a different way until it works,” Parker said. “It is the way that education needs to move, because we are preparing kids for a future that we cannot predict.”

Knowing that the Google Case Study will likely bring even more attention to their work, C2E is welcoming any and all schools interested in collaboration.

“We are happy to share and to open our doors to anyone who wants to come in,” Mossholder said.

READ MORE: Google for Education Case Study

September 4, 2015 | By rmbarber | Category: Charter Schools, Schools

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