Asking the Essential Questions – Using Chromebooks to help students begin to identify usable answers?

As educators, we focus on engaging students from grades 2 to grades 12 and beyond in asking essential questions about content and topics as a way to open doors for student in depth real life understanding.

Such questions are open-ended ones without a single correct answer.  Their goal as in real life issues is to immerse students in thinking about multiple interventions or solutions or interventions to deal with generally ongoing concerns.

For example, in English Language Arts-

  1. In what ways do the pictures in a book such as Ada Twist Scientist by Ann Beaty help tell or support the print story?
  2. In what ways, does Ransom Rigg’s view of children transcending time to survive because of their differences parallel with that of other writers who write about “different” or “peculiar” children?

For example, in Mathematics:

  1. How does a consumer of any age determine whether it is more cost effective to buy an item that is on sale or to use a store discount coupon?
  2. What steps can you take to solve a word problem when you get stuck finding the answer?

For example, in Science:

  1.     How can a building that was built over fifty years ago (as were many schools and apartment buildings in urban locations) deal with mold and asbestos?
  2.     How can children who are asthmatic be supported in dealing with their breathing concerns so they can participate in physical education, excursion and school wide celebrations outside of their classrooms?

For example, in Social Issues:

  1.     How can students recognize when comments made by them or by others are a form of bullying and not just okay statements to make?
  2.     In what ways, might students help other students who are being bullied when school authorities or parents or adults do not witness that bullying?

These questions are captivating ones that set students off on inquiry – “research” that can indeed impact positively on reading, writing, content mastery, test short and extended response questions scores.

But how to gather resources that will maximize student on task time and identification of usable student materials?

Chrome book Complements make this a “can do it and cool” collegial challenge.

Have Chromebooks available and be assured that students can immediately charge up their connected to Google resources answer devices.

How can this happen and within the academic calendar reasonable frame of say a five or six period class time with student independent research time as well?

State up front, explicitly loud and clear that you expect as many different re4sponse to the identical essential questions as there are students on the teams and that indeed in real life adults tackling some of these questions including you the teacher, come up with multiple solutions which may address a single situation at a given time period and then need to be changed.

First, divide students into teams of two to three students tackling the same assigned essential question or one of a pool of essential questions directly related to the content grade and curricular map.  If possible or desired, make certain that the essential question used is in a similar format to extended Reponses on standardized exams or specialized middle school or high school tests.

Next, direct your team to checking out the available Google Chromebook features and deciding together as a team which ones will be most helpful to explore potential solutions or responses for the essential questions. As a first step [ have them list in an ongoing team doc which of the Google features they will use for fact/information gathering and why.  Next ask them to think ahead but assure them them they need not be tied to that initial thinking about which Google features they can use to produce or share their “solution” or “intervention” for the essential question they have tackled.  Again ask that they explain or share in Google docs why they will use a particular Google feature to share their “solution>” Of course allow them to fully tap creative Google voice or photos or maps or other features into their ongoing docs.

Third, have the teams at the outset share among your Chromebook selected community which can include the class as well as colleagues, other content experts on the topic and parents, their initial resource selections and plans for final product.

Make certain the class Chromebook community comments on peer plans and of course as the coach at the Chromebook management center you can privately mentor each team and monitor for every team member to be contributing.

Once these initial Google docs on Essential Questions Questing process are in place period one or two, and you the teacher are actively and privately monitoring them in place, allow the students two to three periods to fully tap their Google resources and develop their presentation of Essential Questions potential responses, solutions or answers.  Then spend a period or two have them share in class and online with your selected peer and expert adult audiences their responses.  Have one or a team of students compile and edit their combined Essential Questions project in progress docs into a class explorers online journal or book.  Use the photos feature to include actual photos or videos of their works and journal as they researched these questions.  Of course, their voices narrating their work will authenticate their ownership of their solutions and bring smiles to their faces.

But wait this all sounds great, but show me in real student say grades 4-6 what one team response to an essential question in science might “play out” in terms of an online Chromebook mediated digital product for me, my students, supervisors and public to “experience” at the end of this Essential Questions.

Here for example:  The question about how an asthmatic student can fully participate in ongoing student’s physical education, excursions and schoolwide experiences question, a very real and present one for so many students would play out as follows:

1.     Detailed research using Chrome about the actual health and scientific consequence of asthma for students in terms of prevention, ongoing treatment and necessary accommodations/precautions for physical exercise, exertion, and environments that can be dangerous or detrimental to the condition.

2.     Actual You Tube videos use and analysis by students focusing on student asthmatics sufferers including those using adolescents and those with doctors detailing the conditions.

3.     Taped audio discussions with school physical education, nurse and district health specialists about how accommodations are made on excursions which include hikes, walking tours and other climates for asthmatic sufferers.

4.     Photos or videos with students who suffer with asthma detailing medications, necessary pens and other devises they carry and how these must be accessed if an emergency arises which prevents the asthma sufferer from using the necessary device or grabbing the inhaler independently/

5.     A video or podcast or PBA on the ways in which asthmatic students can and must be supported to fully tap all aspects of their adolescent school experiences.

Often as teachers and students tackle these real life compelling and concrete essential questions, they are faced with the challenges of time constraints, curating of resources for each student team and providing students with electronic devices so they all have equal class time and independent time to pull together an in depth real solution that genuinely demonstrates meaningful research and usable product results.  Given inequity of school technology funding and print text resources, this often cannot happen within a time effective period in a given school course.

Chromebook use as the connecting, collecting, collegian, curatorial and communication resource makes student investigation of the infinite Essential Question potential solutions, possible, preferred and positively student owned product rich!!

Take a Chromebook and let your students go Essential Question research creative.

It may well be their initial findings can lay the groundwork for current and future proactive community solutions!!

McTighe. Jay and Grant Wiggens, (2013).   Essential Questions- Opening Doors to Student Understanding.  Alexandria, Va: Ascd.

About Sector 5,

Sector 5, Inc. (OTCQB: SFIV), is a Proud American Corporation, that sells, manufactures and develops new innovative consumer electronics under Sector 5 and other brands. The Company markets its partnership with Google approved Chromebooks to educational organizations, other B2B and B2C sales channels, with retail sales on Amazon. It is in development of several new products to serve the educational, business and retail markets. Follow the company on  and and find further information at For Sector 5’s Forward Looking Statements, click here.


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