Leading on Technology for Learning

I am leading my school’s transition to using Google Apps for Education (GAfE).  This series of blog posts is intended to share my school’s journey so other institutions can learn from us if you are considering leading change in the way you develop technology for learning.

My Background

I spent the last three years as Head of Mathematics but as you will see from my previous posts on this blog my heart lies in developing the use of appropriate technology for the benefit of learning. Creating a professional twitter account @mr_brouse was the catalyst for developing technology for learning and it has culminated in being given the backing to take the school away from a traditional Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and towards GAfE. I do not have any technical ability with computing… this has not been an issue so far.

Which platform to use?

Frog, RMUnify, Office 365 and Google were the main considerations in order to achieve these goals:

  1. Single Sign on
  2. Collaboration
  3. Access learning anywhere anytime
  4. Engage learners
  5. Use current and relevant technology

My own preference has been towards global providers with the status to ensure their platform is current and updated regularly. My experience has been that products specifically designed for education lag behind current technology. Frog appears to be an exception to this as they focus more on being a “glue” for other applications such as Google Drive.

RMUnify made waves at BETT2013 but on closer inspection it has not yet integrated SIMs and Google such that they could provide the single sign on it appeared to promise.

I spent time in conversation with Microsoft and was able to look at Office365 and how it can be utilised in schools. In many ways it appeared like a viable option up until I tried to create a site in sharepoint, which made my blood boil and come to the realisation I would need to request that the school employ a team of developers. Onenote is brilliant and a great tool to use if your school has Office3665 and windows devices. If you are interested in using Office 365 have a look at Charlotte Beckhurst’s blog or see how some students are taking the lead as the offperts (office 365 experts)

Going Google

Rather than simply taking the free GAfE account attached to the school domain we have utilised Realsmartcloud to link a GAfE to SIMs (System which contains our class data) so teachers can share with their classes just using the class code. It also ensures that if students change classes we do not have to manually align the students in GAfE and SIMs.

Launching any technology to a staff body with a full range of technical ability is a challenge. Explaining “the cloud” is not a simple process, in fact I found it more useful to reference large buildings containing servers. To help with the launch I create a technology for learning blog containing posts with instructional videos on creating sites and sharing in Google Drive.

Tips:

Start simple and focus on one task for staff to complete. For GAfE start with “My Drive” and sharing with students

While sites are easy to create and can be used to give the students access to a number of resources the sharing capabilities of Google Drive can have a greater impact on learning. Advise staff not to just upload everything they have to Google Drive, but to carefully set up shared folders that can give students access to resources and the ability to submit work.

Get everyone on a computer and logged in as soon as possible

Some staff were very keen to get started but have been restricted by students not having logged in. Year 7 and 8 received their logins in their computing lessons but as the subject is optional for years 9 to 13 it proved more difficult to get logins to students such that they could login immediately. I am now hurriedly putting together a schedule to get each form into a computer room during form time to increase the percentage of students that have logged in.

Show the simple and most impressive bits to everyone

In the case of GAfE I like to showcase a shared folder and documents in Google Drive by getting someone to create a document, share it with you and then you start writing on it so it appears on their screen. Google Forms are also a simple way of getting people’s attention of for feedback they are invaluable.

Make people need to login

The most effective way of doing this was to have the ICT room booking form placed on our splash site. Thanks to our deputy head for this master-stroke!

Does it address our goals?

  1. Single Sign on – no. We have set up the accounts to have the same username as the staff and students have for the school network. The passwords are different…
  2. Collaboration – The potential for this with GAfE is in no doubt but getting staff and students to embrace this will take time.
  3. Access learning anywhere anytime – Initially there were some logon problems with new staff and new students which RealSmart worked hard with us to resolve. All on track now.
  4. Engage learners – Some enthusiastic students are very keen to be involved and their leadership will be vital to spread the engagement in GAfE
  5. Use current and relevant technology – Our previous VLE suffered from being perceived as “clunky” as it did not have the development backing it up that the students are becoming increasingly used to. They recognise Google as being current however it is apparent that students do not have the technical knowledge a number of adults give them credit for.

Once the students have all been through a computer room I hope to spend time developing student digital leaders who can manage staff and student training. Look out for my next posts on integrating Google Apps for Education in a secondary school.

Ben Rouse

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Going Google at my school: Part 1- Promotion

  1. Hi Ben,

    Great post and good sharing of your experience. One point I wanted to pick up on was the RM Unify element and Office 365 part.

    I lead a team that is currently bringing RM Unify and Office 365 (and a smattering of Google Apps) to over 170 schools, It’s a massive project and challanging at the same time as you support schools understanding the purpose of what the technology can bring them. Some of them already know that, but others still require some hand holding.

    In terms of RM Unify and SIMS – firstly, RM Unify is about true SSO integration with Cloud based services. SIMS as you probably know is not yet Cloud based, it’s legacy based. Therefore, any type of cloud based integration is going to be difficult. Take for example, a teacher at home logging in to RM Unify on his/hers iPad and clicking a SIMS tab, how would it know where to find the SIMS database and log in to it when it’s based on a server in schools and doesn’t have any type of outside or cloud based access. Hopefully SIMS will become cloud based soon, but I suppose if it aint broke, don’t fix it comes to mind 🙂

    Secondly, you talk about trying to create sites and manipulate Office 365. 90% of our 170 schools were already using a Sharepoint 2007 based platform and had the headaches that you talk about trying to actually use it as an educational tool. Primarily, a lot of this was around the clunkyness and clumsiness of SharePoint.

    I feel that Office 365 is different, it uses a lot of the general Office tools that teachers/students are all use too. When creating anything in SP2013, everything is contextual and intuative. Very much more intuative than it was in SP2007! But the real point you may have missed here, is RM’s Site Creator for Office 365. This is an App you can purchase to be included in RM Unify. Site Creator essentially is a very simple (and I mean VERY simple) tool that integrates into SharePoint 2013. Basically it takes you through a very simple wizard that builds all your sites and spaces in SP2013. Allowing you as you go through the process to customise each and every part of the sites you create. Give it 20 mins or so and it’s all done. All you have to do as a school is add the content. Site Creator hasn’t finished there though, it can then be used to add further content afterwards and to adjust permissions. Worth checking out all the info here: https://rmunify.blogs.rm.com/RM-Unify-Blog/rm-site-creator-helps-your-school-get-the-most-out-of-microsoft-office-365/

    I recently showed off this tool to a SharePoint designed company, who essentially go in to schools and businesses who design SharePoint for you. They were blown away – saying “this could put us out of some work!”

    RM Unify also has SSO access to Google Apps as well and more information is detailed in the blog here: https://rmunify.blogs.rm.com/rm-unify-blog/

    Any how, I will follow with interest in how you get on with Google Apps we have a few schools taking this route as well so it’s great to share experiences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s