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Contributors: Cindy Hughes, Kellie Grant, Rachel James, Jennifer Duarte


Current, Connected and Captivating: Using Chrome Books to Teach Science and Social Studies


Being able to access the internet using the Chrome books has made the world of difference to how I deliver my Social Studies and Science curriculums.   The Chrome books, purchased with the monies from our Teaching Learning Leadership Program grant, allow my students to access information that is up to date, connected to the curriculum and interesting.


All of us remember going to the text book provided for us in grade school and thinking, “How on earth does this apply to me?  These people look like they are from another place and another time.”    All of a sudden, “that” kid starts messing around and the class goes off the rails and little learning took place.  Is it any wonder that when mom and dad asked at dinner that night what happened to you that day, you replied with a well-thought out, “Nothing?”


The opportunities we have using the Chrome books and the Desire 2 Learn Blended Learning Platform have improved the overall experience for students who are more technologically capable and not very engaged in learning. In the grade six unit, Understanding Earth and Space Systems, we have watched Chris Hadfield cut his fingernails in space, discussed applicable space related Ted talks, used interactive Ontario Education Resource Bank learning objects dealing with a variety of topics including the phases of the moon, finding and accessing the amazing website: Scale of the Universe 2.  That was all within one week, during a time of day that usually would be hard to earn and keep their attention.  Add in some direct teaching and a healthy amount of playing with flour to simulate meteor crashes and we have a whole crew of students excited about space exploration.


Information that is curriculum connected has been something I have personally struggled with over the time that I have taught.  A beginning teacher error that I had fallen into concerned the mathematics text book.  Following it exactly for the entire first term, I was horrified to realize the chapter dedicated to geometry didn’t cover A SINGLE expectation of that grade level. Thirteen years have passed since then; I have always operated right from the curriculum since, and have found that sometimes finding content to deliver the right expectation was difficult.

Take the following grade six Social Studies expectation from the newly revised document:


A2 Inquiry: The Perspectives of Diverse Communities


FOCUS ON: Perspective


By the end of Grade 6, students will:



formulate questions to guide investigations into different perspectives on the historical and/or contemporary experience of two or more distinct communities in Canada (e.g., the development of the reserve system from the perspective of First Nations, European settlers, and the federal government; the forced relocation of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War from the perspective of Japanese Canadians, the government at the time, and the government that issued an apology to Japanese Canadians; the formation of ethnic neighbourhoods from the perspective of the newcomers, their children, the people already in the neighbourhood, the local school, and/or the agencies and governments that provide services to the neighbourhood)


Sample questions: “Why was the Chinese head tax created? What was the thinking of the government that imposed it? How did the policy affect Chinese immigrants to Canada and their families in China?” “Why did some people think Louis Riel was a hero while others thought he was a traitor?” “Why do newcomers to Canada tend to settle in neighbourhoods with people from the same country/region?”


Had this expectation landed at my door in the years before we had an interactive Bright Links projector connected to the Internet, let alone access to time with Chrome books, I would have lost my mind.  Social studies are not my strength.  I can talk to students about science for weeks without having to check information or find new facts; social studies expectations are where I find everything to be a chore.


In taking apart the expectation I see that I need information about the following:


  • historical communities - I have resources that I can use from the old curriculum – aboriginal, European explorers and settlers – but I will most likely investigate where I can find student friendly information about these communities on the internet so the students can act more autonomously
  • contemporary communities - I need to look up the statistics of the immigrant population of the community I teach in and find information about what happens to newly landed immigrants upon arrival, I might find an online expert who can speak to their experience trying to assimilate to life in Canada
  • distinct - make sure that the students understand exactly what this word means – hand held dictionary or again, www.dictionary.com is very useful
  • perspective - give the lesson about perspective to students that involves them looking at the room from the floor, their desk and on top of their desks and seeing how things that are essentially the same look different from many angles


Of the four distinct parts of this one expectation, only one can be readily accessed in the classroom with no additional information – the perspective activity, the next can be found in a dictionary – the word distinct – but my students would more likely use the Internet to search the meaning, and the final two parts of the expectation? - Definitely needs Internet research time, both my students and myself.  


            Another key part to this expectation needs to be pointed out:  had this come before access to so much information the work I expected from my students would be at a lower calibre.  When you have students who can access information from somewhere other than the school library you can expect more research to occur and the level of research to be higher.  A school library, because of time constraints, budget and sheer volume of books required cannot keep up to the valuable content found on the Internet.  


            Having readily available access to the Chrome books every day and therefore the Internet, has made my anxiety during planning Social Studies almost disappear.  I still need to put in the time to make sure I have covered the right information but at least I have the tools required to deliver what is needed.


The last and most important part of how these tools have changed my teaching would definitely be how interesting I can make the content that I can deliver.  Teaching Space in grade six can be difficult – we can’t all go for a joyride around the moon – but what I can do is show them some people who have.    I. love teaching with the world of information at my fingertips.


Some of our favourite sites that we have enjoyed either together as a class or partnered on a Chrome book are:




Relative sizes of the planets in relation to positioning of the moon


Ted Ed: How many universes are there?


Traveling inside a black hole


Lego man in space


Natures Best Camouflaged Insects


Social Studies:


Google World Wonders Project


First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada


Our Canadian Girl


Natural Resources Canada – The Atlas of Canada


CIA World Fact book

Free the Children – We Stand Together


& Math (just because I love it too):


Interactive math manipulatives


Place value rap


Volume demonstration

            In conclusion, I don’t think I could ever go back to teaching without access to Chrome books.  Being able to access the internet and other perks of the machine (such as access to Google docs) has changed how I plan, what I plan and the level of expectations I give to my students.   The time made available by this project has allowed my students to access information that is up to date, connected to the curriculum and interesting.  

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