In my review of our first year I identified the following areas for development:
- Focus on Google Drive and collaboration more exclusively
- Discourage staff from starting with Google Sites
- Demand more time to train staff and publish a schedule
- Create a core team of staff to support me and the digital leaders
- Move perception away from technology being separate to pedagogy
We are a massive three days into the year so ideal time to see if I actually remembered to incorporate any of this into what we are doing at school now…
Combining the first and third point, I launched a new training schedule to staff on the first day, which has been well received so far. I have been particularly pleased as a number of support staff have approached me about attending. I have found that the support staff can be your trojan horse in embedding the use of Google Apps for Education (GAfE). One of the best examples of this is that the PA to our head is moving meeting minutes to Google docs. By exposing the leadership team and governors to its merits you have fewer barriers to leading the change across the school.
The training schedule references our teaching and learning themes for the year to try to embed technology within learning rather than being perceived as something separate.
While preparing for the first day of school in front of the entire staff I received some great advice from one of our assistant headteachers. She suggested that I only demonstrate simple tools as anything too ‘flashy’ would only suggest to some people that they have already missed the technology for learning boat. So I stuck to these…
- Timer – typing “set timer to 2 minutes” into the omnibox in chrome.
- Search tools – selecting the reading level of the results of a search
This had the right effect, a number of reluctant staff are ready to try a bit more technology out in their classes and are interested in attedning the training.
During the last academic year I became aware that a number of staff had begun to create sites but had not completed them or used them for learning. Sites proved to be a time-consuming distraction for teachers and the successful sites were the ones created by our student digital leaders. We are however using sites for the new year 7 student’s learning portfolio where they will display their project work from each subject. The reduced focus on sites has proved to be for the best as we now have Google Classroom, which provides a way for teachers to share resources and deadlines with their class, including a discussion forum too.
The model that seems to be developing is that the students can utilise sites to collate their work, teachers use Classroom to distribute work and manage assignment workflow, with Google Drive providing the basis for collaboration.
Change is the only constant
If you are embarking on a similar journey be prepared for regular changes to the tools. There is a new Google Drive interface which you can choose to use at the moment, and it will be pushed to everyone soon enough. Google forms have new customisable themes and the sharing interface in docs changed today.
Some staff approach technology with algorithms: Click here then there and that comes up. By adopting Google you are challenging your staff to be more adaptable. Not a bad thing, but remember to be patient and calm!
Gmail versus Outlook
We have used outlook at our school for years (as most have) and we are moving closer to a strategy for incorporating Gmail. I look forward to sharing our solution as this seems to be a familiar battleground for schools adopting GAfE.