Washington Middle School Fifth-Graders Use Paperless Classroom To Learn

Washington Middle School fifth grader, Adam Kubera, reads about the government shutdown on his iPad through www.newsela.com in Deb Rein’s class.

Washington Middle School fifth-graders in Deb Rein’s class use Google Classroom and www.newsela.com daily to read articles on their iPads about current events, or a subject they are studying in class. The articles, which are at student’s individual reading levels, give additional information that they may not have learned, for example, more in-depth facts about mammals for science, articles on plants and animals of the Rainforest, or an article on canopy researchers extends the English Language Arts (ELA) focus. Mrs. Rein creates the writing prompts for the articles to reinforce the ELA targets into other subject areas. These are saved into Google Classroom, so that she can analyze whether or not students understanding what they are reading. The news articles are a way to further engage students in the core curriculum and help infuse more ELA into all subject areas, including science, math and social studies.

“I feel like using technology like an iPad and the different websites and apps just gives me a better explanation about something that I am learning in class. It helps me become more interested in the subject,” said Washington fifth grader Jolee Schultz. “I love using Google Docs on my iPad because my teacher can put all sorts of different tasks in one place and I can have easy access to just press a button to get to an article that relates to what I’m doing, or take a quiz or submit my homework. It’s so much easier than having a bunch of paper I have to keep track of. It’s also important because once I’m an adult I will need to know how to use technology for my job and life.”

Mrs. Rein’s students are part of the one-to-one iPad program in the district where all fifth-graders receive an iPad that they carry throughout the day and will follow each student through high school giving everyone equal access to technology. Students have access to Google Classroom, a learning management system for schools that aims to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments, along with many other educational and organizational tools and apps. Google Docs allows teachers and students to digitally share and collaborate on documents in real time. The web-based app is accessible anytime, during the school day or at home.

“I think blending technology with face-to-face teaching time generally produces better outcomes than face-to-face learning alone,” said Mrs. Rein. “Technology use allows many more students to be actively thinking about information, making choices, and executing skills and helps us differentiate instruction based on individual student’s needs. We are able to play the role of facilitator, setting project goals and providing guidelines and resources, moving from student to student or group to group, providing suggestions and support for student activity.”