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Technology to improve our children's writing skills

In my children's school, the authorities decided to incorporate collaborative technology to facilitate the work of the students and the interaction with the parents. That's why they started using Gmail to send announcements and report cards to parents, and Google Drive to distribute study materials among students. But there's a lot more they could do with the G Suite for Education tools, only no one told them what can be done or how to do it.

For parents and schoolteachers.

(clic aquí para leer la versión en español)

G Suite for Education
In my personal opinion, Google should do a more thorough job of "evangelization" to publicize the potential of its G Suite tools among educational institutions. Just as the Google Maps van travels through the most remote streets of the planet, in the same way an army of "evangelizers" should go school by school to explain what can be done with this technology, which is available to everyone and is very easy to use.

To add my humble effort to this task, I decided to investigate a little. So I came across an interesting success story: a school that improved notably the grades of its elementary students in writing tests, thanks to the adoption of Chromebook computers and G Suite for Education apps.

The success story speaks of a school institution in California, but the same would apply to any school in the world. Below you can read a summary of the case.

Del Mar Union School District
This educational institution managed to double the number of students reaching the top ‘highly proficient’ accreditation in the State writing tests. Fourth grade teacher Stephanie Sullins, who works at Del Mar schools, says that what enabled the children to achieve such a high level was the use of Chromebook computers equipped with Google's G Suite software.

Del Mar Union School District
Del Mar Union School District is comprised of eight schools in San Diego, California, attended by a total of 4,400 students. Del Mar's constant commitment is to enable students to excel in strict curricular requirements and prepare them for the modern working world. For this, the educational emphasis is on improving the writing, presentation and collaborative learning skills of the students.

Improvements in writing
Authorities and teachers at Del Mar say that the quality and quantity of student writing work has dramatically improved since they decided to use Chromebook machines. "Students now work faster and more independently in a Google Doc, without checking everything with the teacher," they say. "As teachers have access to all their students’ Docs, they can provide feedback on assignments in real-time, with comments and suggestions. This allows students to progress faster without a delay in waiting for feedback."

The use of Chromebooks and Google applications was vital to achieve State writing standards. Each student has their own Google Site, where they blog about the novel they are reading, and thus learning to criticize and analyze the literary material. Sullins highlights the fact that "the vocabulary of the students has increased, and now they are using what we call 'million dollar words' instead of 'five dollar words'. They’re not afraid to have a go on the Chromebook as making a mistake doesn’t involve crossing things out if they get it wrong the first time".

They also observe a greater participation of parents. "We made sure that we explained our technology integration strategy when introducing Chromebooks to parents," says Mike Casey, director of technology at Del Mar. "We are now able to showcase a portfolio of their student’s work on Google Sites at parent evenings. Parents feel more involved in their children’s education and have really gotten behind the project."

My opinion
What I liked about this success story is that the adoption of modern technology was not done with the intention of showing the technological progress of the institution, but instead it was done with the only goal of improving the academic level of the students, specifically through an improvement in writing skills.

And the most interesting thing about this is that it was done with very low cost technology (Chromebooks) or plainly free (G Suite apps). That's why I think that we just need Google to explain to the schools authorities everything that can be done with their tools, and how these actions can lead to an overall better academic level.

Click here to read the complete history of the Del Mar schools.

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