Possible Uses for Chromecast in the Elementary Classroom

This is the $35 Chromecast. It's so simple and so small.

This is the $35 Chromecast. It’s so simple and so small.

I just bought a Google Chromecast, and I’m really excited about trying it in my classroom.

I had always wanted to bring my Apple TV to use in the classroom, but the only Apples in my classroom are my personal computer, iPad, and iPhone, so it would not have been very useful.  Now, with Chromecast, students can finally mirror their browser to share their learning seamlessly with the rest of the class.  Chromecast might be a game changer in my classroom, especially when students use the Chromebooks from our Chromebook cart.

Here are some ideas I have for using Chromecast in the classroom:

  • Sharing Presentations from Google Drive with classmates (no need for plugging in with a VGA cord or getting on the teacher computer)
  • Sharing Google Docs with the class in writing workshop (we can mirror the screen so everyone can see the work and read with the writer)
  • Sharing great resources for history, science, or math learning (cool videos, images, information, etc.)
  • Collaborating on a document and getting instant responses or feedback (could also be used to discuss helpful vs. unhelpful comments in Drive)
  • Showing classmates your status in a project and what you have accomplished (especially useful when trying #geniushour or #20time)
  • Searching for examples of media (artwork, advertisements, videos) to discuss persuasiveness
  • Researching our favorite authors and sharing information we learned
  • Modeling how to use different tech tools (the teacher or student can do this from any computer instead of teacher computer).

There are a couple of barriers that may interfere with my plans:

  • You need a HDMI input to use Chromecast.  My SMART Board does not have HDMI inputs, but I have bought an adapter to try to solve this problem (I hope it works!)
  • Chromecast is technically only supposed to work with Chromebook Pixel. We have Samsung Chromebooks.  I am going to cross my fingers that this works anyway (W. Ian O’Byrne posted about using it with a Samsung Chromebook and said it worked).
  • Chromecast may not play nice with our school district’s wifi network.  I hope that it does!

One of my favorite tech blogs, Tech Crunch, wrote about what distinguishes Google’s Chromecast from Apple TV:

“Pitted against the AppleTV — or, in a fairer comparison, against the AppleTV’s built-in AirPlay streaming feature — the Chromecast’s biggest strength is in its cross-platform compatibility. Whereas AirPlay is limited to iOS devices and Macs (with limited support for Windows through iTunes), Chromecast will play friendly with any iOS, Android, Mac, or Windows app that integrates Googles Cast SDK. “

I hope that my Chromecast arrives soon and plays nice with the tech in my school despite all the possible challenges I’ve mentioned.  I’m excited to see if it’s a tool that will enhance our class’ ability to learn, create, share, and grow together this year.

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Google Drive + Teacher Collaboration = Love

Our Idea Map for the TC Institutes

Our Idea Map for the TC Institutes

New technology, apps, and websites pop up daily, especially in the education space, but only a few of these innovations have transformed the way I teach.  The website that has had the greatest impact on my teaching and professional learning is Google Drive.  While many teachers might use this site in their personal lives, not enough have used it professionally, especially to collaborate with colleagues.  Google Drive has transformed the way I teach and the way students learn in my classroom.  This summer, I found a new reason to love Google Drive:  it dramatically enhanced my ability to collaborate with other teachers both near and far.

Planning Professional Development 

One way Google Drive has enhanced collaboration with my teaching colleagues is in enhancing our ability to plan professional development.  Earlier this summer, I worked with our district’s teacher leaders in literacy to plan a professional development day for our district around the common core standards. We brainstormed different content we needed to cover and activities we could do while one teacher took notes in Google Docs.  After we had agreed on all the parts of the agenda, we broke off into partnerships and each pair planned part of the day.  As they planned, they added their ideas to the Google Doc, and in one hour, we had the day planned!   Aside from helping us work more efficiently, it was helpful to see what others were adding to the plan in real-time, so each activity would fit well with other parts of the day.  Using Google Docs made it so easy to work collaboratively and modify our professional development day plan and share it with our administrators for feedback.

Collaborating on Unit and Lesson Plans

Google Drive has also been helpful in collaboratively planning units and lessons.  This past week, I helped to lead a group of teachers from another district as they engaged in unit and lesson design for reading and writing workshop.  As we started the process of backwards mapping our unit with standards and student outcomes, bends, and lesson ideas, we realized it would be more efficient if we used a shared unit plan in Google Drive and modified it together.  Teachers were able to take the basic outline for the unit and flesh it out with their grade level team, each teacher sharing the “pen,” revising the lesson’s teaching point simultaneously to get the word choice just right.  We also used Google Drive to collaboratively write mini lessons for that unit.  Instead of each teacher writing all the lessons independently, each partnership made a copy of a mini lesson template and wrote up different lesson.  Within an hour, we had most of the unit’s lessons drafted because we had collaborated.  The added bonus was that each teacher could continue to edit each other’s lessons and unit throughout the year and all the collaborators would have a copy of the changes without needing to open an email or download a file!

Pooling Our Resources Across the Country

Finally, Google Drive has enhanced my ability to collaborate with teachers from around the globe.  After returning from TCRWP’s Writing Institute in June, I wanted to find a way to share my notes with teachers who had attended and other teachers who were not able to go this year.  I struggled to find a way to do this until I came across an “idea board” from Nerd Camp 2013 on Twitter.  I shared the idea of creating an “idea map” for the Teacher’s College Institutes with Ryan Scala (@rscalateach) and Fran McVeigh (@franmcveigh) who had also attended the summer institutes.  Within 15 minutes we had some of our notes from several days  linked on a map that we had designed together.  Then we posted the link on Twitter and other TCRWP participants added their notes too.  One teacher, Stephanie Hardinger (@mshardinger), even created her own set of comprehensive notes organized by topic instead of time.  This collaboration was exhilarating. Ryan, Fran, Steph and I were all in different places–New York, Iowa, Minnesota, and California–yet we were all able to create a pretty cool collaborative product without meeting face-to-face and now we can easily share our idea map with others.   Here is a link to our idea map!

These are just a few ways that Google Drive has enhanced my professional collaboration with other teachers.  Do you love Google Drive too?  What are some of your favorite ways to collaborate using this awesome site?