Friday, October 21, 2016

Casting the Learning

Meagan Kelly
Math and AVID Teacher
Team Technology Leader
Hesperia, CA
Twitter: @meagan_e_kelly

Why Google Cast?
During the previous school year, our district offered all teachers the opportunity to apply for a $1,000 “imagination” grant. The grant would be awarded to teachers who wanted to purchase supplies that would promote 21st century skills and the 4 C’s (creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking) within their classroom.  The premise of the grant was very open and, after some discussion with my administrator and other teachers, I decided to write my grant towards purchasing two flat screen TV’s and two Chromecasts. Without a doubt, this purchase has had a great impact upon my students and our ability to demonstrate 21st century skills and the 4 C’s within our classroom.
As the TV’s were installed in our classroom, I reminded myself that the TV’s were not for myself, but for the students.  I started brainstorming ways in which my students could use the TV’s to promote these 21st century skills. The last thing that I wanted these TV’s to become was an extension of my projector.  After all, if I simply used the TV’s as an extension of the projector, it would only be a “teacher” driven device and not  “student” driven device. Through this thought process, I found that there were several ways that I could use the TV’s and Chromecasts in our classroom to engage students and increase collaboration and communication.

Easily & Quickly Share Information
On a very simple level, Google Cast has allowed my students to easily share information with their group while they are working on various activities.  Within our classroom, the students regularly participate in group work or inquiry-based tutorials.  When they are participating in these groups, the students will often cast the assignment to the TV to show the students the problem or activity in which they are working.  The students no longer need to huddle around one Chromebook to see the problem or navigate to the same assignment or webpage.  Instead, the student can share the information by casting it to the screen for all students to view.

Ability to Restructure the Classroom Set Up
When looking at pictures of our classroom, you can tell that the classroom doesn’t really have a “front” or “back” of the classroom.  I designed our classroom in a way that promotes blended learning, student-led discussions and inquiry, and a teacher facilitated environment.  To start, our classroom our walls are filled with whiteboards so students can work on assignments and tutorials, as well as brainstorm and organize projects.  Students love to use the whiteboards!  Even though it is a bit “old school”, the use of the whiteboards greatly supports inquiry, collaboration, and communication within our classroom.

Initially, the only downside of this setup was that three of the table groups would have to move their chairs anytime that I wanted to display information to the class from the projector.  Although this was a minor inconvenience, the constant shuffle of the classroom limited my ability to quickly share information with students.  Once the TV’s were installed, I suddenly had three ways to share information: the projector and two TV’s.  I could share the same information across all three TV’s, or I could use the projector and the Chromecast to display different information across all three platforms.  The students no longer needed to move their chairs or tables to have access to the information being projected, but they could see it from any point within the classroom.

Increase Collaboration during PBL
Throughout the last year, my students have completed a variety of project-based learning lessons.  Some of the projects include creating a statistical research survey, creating financial plans, building cities from geometric shapes, and investing virtual money within the stock market.  While working on these projects, the students will regularly use the TV’s to collaborate on the product that they are creating.
As an example, when the students were building their cities from geometric shapes, they often struggled to understand some of the vocabulary, such as a “dodecagon”.  The students would search the word on Google and cast the shape onto the TV to share with their group. In addition to this, the students were also able to search for projects that had been completed by students across the country.  The students would cast the examples to the TV, which inspired them when building their cities.
Most recently, the students were tasked with creating a video to introduce their stock market project and the companies in which they had invested.  Since we do not have the paid version of the software, the students were unable to share their video and work on it simultaneously.  By using the TV’s and Chromecasts, a couple of the groups were able to cast their video on the TV’s and easily work on the video as a group.

The Results - It’s Great!
The students LOVE using the TV’s and Chromecasts.  It has greatly increased collaboration and communication within our classroom, but it has also increased student engagement which, ultimately, increases student achievement.  I’ve been able to restructure our classroom into a more “student-centered” environment, rather than “teacher-centered”.  Although it is a simple tool, Google Cast can be used in ways that engage students in their content classes, while promoting the 21st century skills that they will need to be successful in the future.

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