Students in Matthew Agrati's history classes pulled up a news article online on Tuesday. They each read it and answered a question on it during the lesson. But they didn't answer with a pen and paper. They typed their answers into a Google document online.
Agrati, a social studies teacher at Wayne Hills High School, has integrated laptops, online learning, and shared electronic documents into his social studies classes. Students are required to have a Gmail e-mail account and receive and complete assignments electronically through Google Drive.
"It's been working out really really well," Agrati said. "Staying up to date and on the cutting edge is certainly a benefit to them."
Each student answered a question on the document after reading the article. Google Drive allow users to read documents in real time as answers are being imputed.
Agrati said that using the documents has allowed students to learn from each other as much as from the information being presented.
"I love it. I think it is easier to access everything as a group," said Jared Inglett. "Everyone has a different point of view and working this way allows us to collaborate together and helps us learn more."
Using the technology also allows for more use of multimedia in lessons, including slide shows and videos.
The students complete research and assignments online. At the beginning of the year, Agrati has the students use a lot of educational and government websites, such as The National Archives website, and incorporates other sites into the curriculum thoroughout the year.
Agrati teaches his students not only how to find the information but how to question its validity and truthfulness, and think critically about what they are reading.
"If my students can google the answer I'm asking the wrong question because it is not making them think outside the box," Agrati said. "There needs to be a balance between the 21st Century skills they're learning and having them property conduct the research."
Agrati has solicited feedback from his students regarding the laptops. The response has been mostly positive.
According to Agrati, 82 percent of students said they are "more engaged" with the electronic lessons or activity and 77 percent believe that the 21st Century skills they are learning are just as important as the content being presented. Nearly three-quarters of the students responded that using the laptops is improving their overall ability to learn.
"I'd rather use a laptop because it is much easier and quicker than using a book or a textbook," said Deana Abdou.