When Allyson Yates gets ready to do her homework, she doesnâ€™t worry if she has a worksheet with her, or even if she has a pencil. All she needs is a device with access to the internet.
The Foster Middle School eighth-grader is using Google Classroom in more of her classes, enabling her to do assignments and catch up on work online.
Google Classroom allows teachers to set up a group students and parents can join with a code. Teachers post assignments, documents, announcements and other materials in the forum.
â€œI have a Google Classroom in each of my core classes,â€ Allyson said. â€œItâ€™s been really useful for assignments, especially if weâ€™re absent for one day. My teachers will post what we did, so if I was sick it really helps me get caught up.â€
School districts across the area are integrating such technology into classrooms. It can simplify making individualized assignments, increase parent engagement, and allow more flexibility for students and parents.
At Foster, Alisa Stoxstell teaches a Google Applications class.
â€œItâ€™s like an online Microsoft Office,â€ she said. â€œAlso, you can share and add collaborators.â€
That means students working on a group project no longer have to try to combine their work into one document, Stoxstell said. Multiple people can work in one document at the same time.
LaShundra Rodgers, a science teacher at Foster, said she uses Google Classroom when she can. It is especially useful with students who need individual modifications on their assignments.
â€œI can take the same assignment title name and post it in Google Classroom, but give students different versions,â€ she said.
Rodgers said she sees the benefits of the system, and applications such as Google Docs and Slides. She would use the programs more, she said, but there isnâ€™t enough technology to go around.
â€œThe way our technology is set up, we have to request a cart (of computers),â€ she said. â€œWe only have three carts, and we have at least 20 teachers per grade level. We have about 60 staff and three carts.â€
Rodgers said the teachers work together so students are still using technology as much as possible, but it may not be available in every class.
Parent engagement usually increases when the apps are used, Rodgers said. Her students may not take home a paper with a good grade to show their parents, but they can show them a slide show or movie made in class.
Stoxstell said parents with internet access enjoy seeing what their child is doing in class.
â€œI can put any assignment in Google Docs, and if they lose it they can print it,â€ she said. â€œI also put a course syllabus, so parents always have the chance to find it, and also provide handouts to students who do not have internet access at home.â€
Other school districts in the area are using similar tools to help parents keep track of student work.
White Oak ISD is actively using Google programs as well. Superintendent Mike Gilbert said in an email grades 6-12 have a 1-to-1 student to Chromebook laptop ratio.
The district still prioritizes safety online. He said White Oak is a certified Common Sense Media Digital Safety district. It provides internet safety curriculum to students at every grade level.
â€œAs a district, we have made a large commitment to providing or students with an educational experience that is relevant to the world they live in every day,â€ Gilbert said. â€œAlong with that, we are committed to ensuring their safety while providing that experience.â€
Pine Tree ISD spokeswoman Mary Whitton said multiple tools are used for parent communication.
â€œIn our elementary grades, Seesaw is used for communication with parents along with social media. At the secondary level, Remind is the app used for communications with parents,â€ she said. â€œOur district system of Skyward is the program used for parents to keep track of schoolwork, grades and absences. School Messenger is the district communication tool for emergency procedures, bad weather and closing procedures.â€
Hallsville ISD also uses the Skyward system, Superintendent Jeff Collum said in an email.
At Foster, Allyson said using the Google Applications have even improved her grades.
â€œWhenever weâ€™re doing essays and stuff, I donâ€™t have to have my sloppy handwriting on the paper, and then our teacher canâ€™t read it, and I get points off,â€ she said. â€œHaving Google Classroom really makes that easier. I can actually show what Iâ€™m thinking without my messy handwriting messing it up.â€
Using more technology in her classroom adapts to her generation, she said.
â€œItâ€™s really proven useful. Itâ€™s also preparing us for the future, because in the future thereâ€™s going to be more diverse technology,â€ Allyson said. â€œItâ€™s going to get more advanced and I think using Google Classroom and Google Suites is really going to help prepare us for that, because whenever weâ€™re older weâ€™re going to use that in our jobs.â€