Souders second graders walking on clouds
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
During Monday evening’s Big Walnut Locals School District Board of Education meeting, Hylen Souders Elementary School second grade teacher Mandy Bailey and Souders Tech Tutor Milea Serap gave a presentation of not only what they’re doing in Bailey’s classroom but also what might be the future of elementary school education as we move deeper into the digital age.
Partnering with district Director of Technology Wayne Thompson and Big Walnut High School teacher Ed Kitchen, who also does tech work for the district, Bailey has her students in a cloud — literally.
Kitchen and Thompson have both been working to make Big Walnut a Google Cloud school district, and Bailey saw applications for her second grade classroom. With the assistance of Thompson and Kitchen, each student in Bailey’s classroom can now log on to the Big Walnut virtual server in the sky and access his or her own Google school account; and they can log on at school, at home, and from anywhere they have Internet access.
Best of all, Bailey explained, as the students advance through intermediate school, middle school, and high school their personal Google accounts stay with them. Students writing stories as class projects in Bailey’s class today will be able to access and revisit that work even when they reach adulthood – a virtual scrapbook that will not yellow and grow brittle with age.
Bailey said the secure accounts are on a virtual Big Walnut Google server, teachers can login into student’s accounts to make notes, correct spelling, and even chat with students. There will be teacher’s accounts where they can share folders with students and share folders with other teachers; and parents will be able to log into the students accounts any time they want to track how their children are doing by using the student’s passwords.
Serap said students will also be able to collaborate with each other and do peer editing, and everything on the cloud is always up to date and in real time.
“Students can use PC or Mac, and its not just word processing,” Bailey said. “They can upload current documents, there’s drawing programs and spreadsheets. This takes away the flash drive that teachers are always worrying that students would lose.”
Kitchen said he didn’t quite believe second graders were ready for this level of technology when Bailey first mentioned that she wanted her students to have Google Cloud accounts, but when he saw students with the technology in their hands he became a believer.
Thompson said one of the positive things about being a Google school is there is absolutely no cost to the school district.
“And there’s a whole learning collaborative out there,” Thompson said. “Word processing, drawing programs, spreadsheets — and the nice thing is, we’re all contained in our own cloud. It’s safe, it’s secure.”
Thompson said by January all grade one through grade four students in the district could have secure Big Walnut dedicated Google accounts that they keep until they graduate and beyond, and have access to those accounts anytime and anywhere they have Internet capability.
“I hope in the coming years more grades will jump on this,” Bailey added. “Students at this age are becoming more tech savvy than most adults.”
District superintendent Steve Mazzi said becoming a Google School, using the cloud in the classroom, and placing technology in student’s hands is just another step forward as the state moves to online testing.
“This isn’t something we just want to frivolously do,” added board president Pam Lillie. “We’re being required by the state to integrate more technology into the classroom.”