Sometimes division is tough to wrap your mind around. And fossil layers? Forget about it.

But that’s not stopping a group of fourth graders at Blessed Savior North from learning, and having fun in the process.

Each day, the 16 students in Jessica Borkowski’s classroom have access to 30 Chromebooks. Students use apps like Zearn Math and StoryWorks to complete assignments, engage with lessons and, if you ask them, have the most fun they’ve ever had at school.

“It’s really fun (using the apps) because it helps me with spelling and grammar and I can use my imagination, too,” said Jaida Vance, a student who honestly had a tough time picking which app is her favorite learning tool.

Among those at the top were Tower of Power and Xtramath, which aids with multiplication, subtraction and division.

“My favorite thing about using my Chromebook is using Zearn because my favorite subject in school is math,” chimed in Vance’s classmate, D’Asia Owens. “It is cool and interesting for children, too.”

Hearing her students talk about using their Chromebooks brought a smile to Borkowski’s face.

“When we’re looking at technology, I think it’s important for our kids to have access and use it in different ways multiple times a day,” she said. That’s why she makes it a goal to integrate the use of Chromebooks into as much of her regular coursework as is feasible.
How that works depends on the topic at hand.

“When we use Zearn, half of the class is doing math with me and the other half is on the Chromebook doing the same thing, and then they switch,” Borkowski explained. “I may not be the one they’re clicking with that day, but that’s OK because they can still get the information.”

All of the apps the students use are free, and many are offered through the Smithsonian.

Zearn Math, for example, seeks to support differentiation and engagement for all students through its K-5 curriculum. According to the Zearn website, the program is “designed so that each day, students work through engaging digital content at their own pace and learn targeted lessons with their teachers and peers.”

The concept of using technology in the classroom is appealing to Borkowski for many reasons, not the least of which include computer literacy without adding costs to the budget.

“We have access to so much more information online than we could ever have in textbooks, but perhaps more importantly, the students are so much more engaged,” Borkowski said.

And all of it is done with safety in mind.

“Everything I do is with my own fourth-grader in mind,” said Borkowski, who has a 14-year-old and a 10-year-old. “The biggest thing is, how do we navigate the Internet safely as fourth-graders?”

Each student goes through a Chromebook training and is required to sign a technology agreement, in addition to there being safety nets and blocks on websites through the school’s servers.

Borkowski also uses a flexible seating arrangement, where students may be sitting on a yoga ball, carpet square or beach chair at any given point in the day.

“What that means for me is that I’m constantly on the move to monitor the activity,” she said. “But to be honest, we’ve never really had a problem because they respect and view it as a privilege.”