Leveraging Technology in a PLTW Classroom

Ross Hartley is a PLTW Gateway teacher for grades 7 and 8 at Pickerington Ridgeview STEM Junior High School in Pickerington, Ohio. 

My school district recently went 1:1, meaning each student receives their own district-issued Chromebook for use throughout the school year. As a PLTW Gateway Automation and Robotics teacher, I was curious to see how this change would affect my classroom and students.

Previously, technology had already been a big part of my curriculum, which included teaching students computer programming with several different programs – most notably RobotC and LEGO Mindstorms NXT/EDR. Unfortunately, these programs are not compatible with Chromebooks and, because of this, I had to find different ways to incorporate this tool into my classroom and instruction.

After two years of being in a 1:1 school district, I have incorporated four different strategies to leverage the power of the Chromebook to benefit student learning.

Flipping the Classroom with Blended Learning

Students access different digital resources, including videos or interactive games, before they come into class. These resources introduce them to the next topic we will cover in class. Students also create tips-and-tricks-focused resources for future students in the class. These resources include videos and slideshows. Students access these resources on our class Google Classroom.

Personalizing Learning by Allowing Students to Work at Their Own Speed

Utilizing Google Classroom, I post all the class challenges in order of completion. Students access these and then work at their own speed to complete the challenges. After demonstrating their knowledge, I direct them to read about the next real-life challenge on Google Classroom. I check in with them after about five minutes to answer any questions and provide support where needed. A hidden benefit of this is that I rarely print out or make class copies of the assignments – students can access everything digitally via Google Classroom. 

Reflecting on Their Learning via Digital Reflections and Check-ins 

Using the Google Education Suite products, especially Google Forms, I can consistently have students reflect on their learning. Students complete three different check-ins/reflections during the course of a class assignment (class assignments generally take one week to complete) – once on the first day of the challenge, once in the middle, and then again when completed. These reflections are not all the same but aim to have students reflect on their learning along with assessing the group work dynamics of the assignment. Not only does this information help them as students but it also helps me better tailor my instruction and support to each individual student, the groups within a class, and the class as a whole. 

Creating Digital Products of Student Learning 

After each challenge, I have students create a video with their Chromebooks of their finished physical product. In the video, students explain what the challenge was, showcase their creation, and explain why they made it the way that they did. At the end of the semester, students create a slideshow combining these different videos together. This student-produced creation not only allows students to relive their learning over the course of the semester but also allows them to show this slideshow to various community stakeholders, including principals, parents, family members, classmates, and neighbors. This has been a great way to showcase the awesome things students are doing. This technology has become a great tool to help students’ learning, help me be a better teacher, and to showcase student learning to community stakeholders.

PLTW’s blog intends to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.