Language learners use Chromebooks to write, speak, hear themselves and others

Spanish teacher Hannah Busching (middle) and students use the Chromebooks daily. (Courtesy photo)

The use of Chromebooks at RTHS increases computer access which is proven to develop higher order analytical skills in reading, writing, and communicating. That is the foundation of the school’s Foreign Language and English Language Learning advanced courses. 

What is a Chromebook? It’s a laptop configured with the Chrome operating system (Chrome OS). The only software application Chrome OS can run locally is the Google Chrome browser, so a Chromebook is often described as a browser-in-a-box.

Chromebooks are also called “cloudbooks” because the owners’ applications, videos, image files and documents are stored remotely on Google virtual servers. Files and software associated with the user’s Google account are accessed through a Chrome browser on any computing device anywhere. If a Chromebook is lost or destroyed,  the user’s data remains secure. A Chromebook is available in two models. Both models are 3G or Wi-Fi-compatible.

RTHS Foreign Language and English Language Learner teachers are well-trained in Chromebook use and asked the RTHS Education Foundation to expand the number of Chromebooks available to ensure that students have ample undisrupted practice and the best chance of learning to write formal essays and presentations.

The language learning programs address the full spectrum of learning from beginning (little or no knowledge of a language) through advanced language arts skills (reading literature and information, writing essays, etc.).

“By nature, our programs cover a multi-year curriculum, ranging from level 1 through 4 or 5, which in the case of the Spanish program, currently offers an AP level and a dual credit Spanish 4/Spanish 201,” Spanish teacher Hannah Busching said.

In 2015, the Foreign Language and ELL department received an RTHSEF grant to outfit the department with a set of chromebooks.

“These Chromebooks have been used daily by everyone in the department. We needed to replace five to keep our current set updated and in good-working condition,” Busching said, adding the department has 25 Chromebooks. The largest class size is 28. 

Last year the RTHSEF awarded a $1,200 grant which 400 students reap the benefit on the five new Chromebooks purchased.

“Current trends in all language arts education push towards higher order thinking skills; a greater ability to glean and synthesize information from various sources, as well as to compare, contrast, critique, and evaluate those sources,” Busching explained. “These trends have been felt in our programs through the push for Common Core standards to the AP Spanish test and its recommended curriculum, to recommendations from the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). These changes have translated into a greater emphasis on original thematic units, and on finding and reading (or watching or listening to) authentic sources on a range of topics via the internet, as well as a greater emphasis on formal writing and the writing process. This translates into an expanded reliance on computers in class.

“Chromebooks allow us to include authentic reading sources, writing projects, media sources, current news and videos, and collaborative writing and presentations in classes,” she said.

Here are just a few of the ways students are learning on Chromebooks:

Google Classroom — an exciting and easy to use platform. Teachers assign and collect assignments: writing assignments, slide presentations, auto-graded activities that provide immediate feedback, assignments with links to other web activities, or other media files. While these assignments can significantly increase interactivity and feedback, by definition, they require more student computers and internet access. 

TextHelp — can to play a student’s writing back as synthesized speech in English, Spanish, French, or other European languages.

“This can be immensely helpful to a student who may speak fluently, but is not accustomed to editing and revising, or who may have trouble catching wording, punctuation, or grammatical errors while reading,” Busching said.

She said this is the case especially in advanced ELL classes, Spanish for Native Speakers, and AP Spanish. 

“This would be much more difficult to manage on a set of personal computers.”

Twisted Wave —  Another great new tool allows the user to import an audio file from their Google Drive (e.g., if the teacher has shared a specific MP3 audio track), and manipulate the listening experience with a whole new level of precision. Twisted Wave shows the audio track as a wave form, so that students can more easily zero in on individual words or phrases, rather than just trying to blindly find a specific area of a recording by using a slider bar. 

“Because students can select specific sections, they can repeat play of just the portion in question,” she said. “Students can actually slow down specific spots in the recording which they find difficult. They can also make their own recording using the built-in microphone on a Chromebook, save it to their Google Drive, and submit that recording back to the teacher via Google classroom or other Google platform tools. This enhances audio learning at all levels of language development.”

Supporting 

RTHSEF

You can support the RTHS Education Foundation’s work to enhance student classroom experiences through a donation http://bit.ly/ISupportRTHSEF or by attending Saturday’s fundraising event called One More Night, a Retro Prom on Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Bearrows Sale Barn on 10786 E. Fowler Rd., Rochelle. This over-21 event will feature a DJ, karaoke, a raffle, and Hicks BBQ.  

Tickets are available at Holcomb Bank, Salinas Chiropractic, The Rack or by calling 815-561-5594.


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