There is an explosion of school districts in Alberta, including my own district, Northern Gateway Public Schools, who are using the Google Apps for Education suite of tools. With these tools comes a login for the Google Chrome browser. The Google Chrome browser has a multitude of apps and extensions that can be installed to make the internet a more accessible and productive space. Chrome Toolbox is a site profiling Chrome apps and extensions to support learning needs of students. The Chrome browser, with an individual gmail or Google apps login, can be highly personalized and customized. This allows students and teachers to choose the tools they need to support their learning. Users can install tools that read or translate text, remove ads or distracting graphics, link to other services, or even mark up and save notes or highlighting. Users can also create a home page of apps, similar to a tablet, to choose to launch tools or sites, customized to individual preferences.
This resource appeals to me because it empowers the individual. Students and teachers can make their own choices and try out supportive apps and extensions as they need to, or as they are recommended to them. They don’t need to wait for permission or assistance to install anything, they can just do it as they see fit. Because the tools are tied to a Google login, once they are installed they are added to a profile, not an individual piece of technology. No matter the computer, the tool is always there when a user opens and logs into the Chrome browser. This is powerful and easy. Having a place, like the Chrome Toolbox to find tools by the task a learner is trying to accomplish or by a specific personal need, targets support without having to search and find in the larger Chrome web store.
It is organized in several ways. The task section organizes tools for specific tasks a student might be trying to support, such as mathematics, reading, or organization. The profile section is more specific to a specific learner profile such as a student who is hard of hearing or an English language learner. The keyword section lists words and how often they are used on the site. It shows the use and number of tools for a specific topic. The forum section links to a Google+ community where tools are discussed and shared. Tools can be found across multiple categories.
Each tool is given an editor’s rating which assesses the functionality and ease of use. the tools are linked to the Chrome web store for instant installation. On a particular tool’s page there are tasks the tool assists with listed, related keywords, and a powerful section called the Featured Recipe. The Featured Recipe shows connections that bring tools and strategies together to support student needs. It links back to these complementary tools.
The site was developed by John Calvert and Mark Surabian as part of a PHD program at Pace University. A technology learning facilitator and assistive technology practitioner respectively. This combination really shows how technology can support the learning needs of students.
Chrome Toolbox is a great review of tools to support learners, but the reviews are by two individuals. The ratings are not crowd sourced, or submitted by a larger audience. The Featured Recipe section accepts suggestions from the larger education community, which is powerful as it brings in the expertise and experiences of a wider range of individuals. You can leave your own ratings and comments, and even submit your own favourite apps and extensions for consideration. Currently there are not very many user comments or ratings, but as more people use the site, this will grow. The website does not required a login or sign up so any user, teacher or student can browse and find tools that may be supportive of their learning. Having student ratings and feedback of the tools would be very powerful to assess their effectiveness as learning supports. Chrome Toolbox is a fantastic, reviewed list of supports for learning, but needs more teacher and student participation to increase authenticity, diversity, and quantity of the Featured Recipes, reviews, and comments.
The Chrome Toolbox is very supportive resource for school districts who have Google Apps for Education accounts and the Chrome web browser installed, as the tools require this support at a district level.
Calvert, J. & Surabian, M. (n.d.). Chrome toolbox. Retrieved from http://www.Chrometoolbox.com