Blair opens Chrome accounts for all students and staff
Montgomery Blair's media center created Chromebook accounts at the start of the school year for the school's staff and students. The accounts function as online workspaces for teachers and students through novel file sharing capabilities.
Blair's Chromebook accounts form a closed and secure cloud-based platform for classroom use. Media center specialist Andrea Lamphier was the liaison through which Montgomery Public Schools distributed the Chrome accounts to Blair. "Montgomery County Public Schools' (MCPS) central officers started importing student and staff records. I certainly knew by July 11 and already access them by that moment," she said. The accounts provide an alternative to traditional file-sharing methods. "It will definitely help resolve file sharing. Students making presentations won't have to log off and won't have to email or [use] flash-drives," Lamphier said.
While other online storage systems such as Google Drive and Dropbox work effectively as well, Lamphier argued that the Chrome accounts offer more unity to the educational experience. "It will open up avenues for students to collaborate from different locations within an MCPS entity," she said. "In many ways it levels the playing field for students, because they won't have to deal with software independently." French teacher Lucie Austin was one of Blair's first teachers to utilize these accounts for her classes. According to Austin, the Chrome platform is more user-friendly and cost-effective for teachers. "Dropbox was a problem because some teachers didn't want to pay," she said. Furthermore, students can have an account exclusively for schoolwork. "With students, they ask, 'why would I want another Gmail?' But I think it's good for them to have a professional email."
Chrome accounts have offered Austin an array of learning tools. The accounts' extensions add better usability to shared documents. "When they get that document on their Google Drives, they can get extensions that help them with learning. The dictionary, for example, will highlight a word and tell them what it is," she said. Along with reading, Google's input tools serve typing needs in the foreign language classroom. "When I'm in Google docs, I have a keyboard so I can type with my accents," Austin said. Besides language tools, Chrome accounts offer more collaborative assessment opportunities outside of the classroom. Through form templates used for multiple choice assessments, the accounts can centralize results and send them directly to Austin or any teacher as soon as they're available. Furthermore, they can send back feedback through the system. When sharing documents, they can share blank copies of assignments to groups for collaborative activities.
The assembly of teachers and students within the same learning platform is the primary goal of the new Chrome accounts. As Austin concluded, "Essentially you're all in the same domain. You're doing it within MCPS. Beforehand, the kids would've done it independently."
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