I have been working on a few posters for my school and some other schools that are “Going Google” in order to support learning with technology. I have added them to my How to page on this blog and would really appreciate feedback on them.
Would you put this on your classroom or office wall?
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.
Like all good events, had I completed a self assessment survey before and after the Google Teacher Academy (GTAUK13) I attended in December 2013 I would have given myself a 8/10 on the way in and 3/10 on the way out such was the astonishing creative use of technology to enhance learning amongst my cohort.
Stephanie Ladbroke was a team leader at the GTAUK13 having been a Google Certified Teacher (GCT) for a few years. Stephanie lead a session where she shared the technology her class had used for projects. The particular project that has stuck with me is a rainforest project her primary class carried out. The project culminated with a local company changing the packaging they used. The technology used is a footnote as all it did was enable exceptional learning. This is what the role of technology in education should be.
I mention this because it is the moment I realised that at secondary school, we had to do more to make sure that if we inherit students from classes like Stephanie’s we built on the amazing work they have done in primary school. I am implementing e-portfolios for next year to try and make sure we do this.
What is an e-portfolio
An online electronic collection of evidence of achievement and learning
The portfolio of work for our students will be maintained via a Google Site owned by each student and viewable to teachers. I chose to use Google sites as it is within our suite of tools as part of our Google Apps for Education (GAfE) account. Work created in Google Drive can be easily inserted into a page, hence leading more teaching staff to choose for their students to utilise the Google tools available and enhance collaboration.
Learning portfolios are not a new concept, but with the availability of devices, internet access and the ease with which sites can be created and maintained by people with no coding ability, collecting evidence of learning electronically seems a sensible choice, could save a lot of paper too! For a state secondary school in the UK the portfolio is meant to be student-led and we want it to be something they are proud of that can be used throughout their time at secondary school and even beyond for employment.
For the students to be motivated I feel we need teaching staff to refer to it regularly and plan their curriculum and schemes of work with the portfolios in mind. To this end I was able to meet with the heads of faculty to discuss the portfolio and ask for them to feedback to me on what they wanted the students to use it for in their subject. With the vast array of pressures on middle leaders I was pleasantly surprised with the level of support and interest though I wish I could have started the conversation earlier to allow them more time to digest and think of how it could work for them. It will be important to open regular dialogue with staff as the first year of portfolios goes on.
The portfolios are being rolled out with our new students in year 7 (11-12 year olds) and each subject has been asked to allocate at least one project in the year which the students will be expected to add to their portfolio and hence the teaching staff will need to focus on the students using Google tools to complete the project.
Rather than have the students create a site from scratch the feedback from faculties allowed me to create a template on which the students can build.
Advice to schools beginning this process:
Engage with staff and students as early as possible and create a group who can ensure the portfolio is supported by the leadership of the school and that it has a clear purpose for your school that is relevant to learning and the vision of the school. Try to get a range of staff to support the initiative, ideally ones with skills sets different to your own.
For every different context a different set up could work. As a secondary school the consensus was for the subjects along the top. Other options that were discussed were to have main headings that related to achievements, leadership and life/employability skills. Below is the final template layout. The wider skills that we as teachers aim to develop but don’t get measured on are in the centre.
In discussion with the faculties some requested that their pages be pre-populated with project information ready for the students. Others saw a opportunity to collect some useful information from the students, such as our Languages faculty who had a Google form in their page to find out the language skills of the students joining us in September. We were able to do this by introducing the students to their sites on induction day.
Advice to schools beginning this process:
I did all the editing myself, in hindsight I should have used our digital leaders and other staff by adding them as collaborators on the Google Site I used for the template. If you are able to get one member of staff from each faculty to edit their page of the learning portfolio or even one student per page that would save time and make it a more collaborative effort as possibly increase the buy in from a wider section of the school population.
Creating the sites
Once the template is complete, each student needs a copy to call their own. My initial plan was to get them to create a site from the template, which is not too complicated but would need some clear instructions in the session. Luckily I know Oli Trussel, a UK maths teacher who is great at using Google scripts. He created a couple of scripts for me that allowed me to create and share the sites with the students via a Google Sheets. This meant that the students had a site waiting for them. By using an add-on in the same Google sheet I was able to email the link to their site to each student allowing me to introduce them to their email as well as their site.
Once created the students could get to their site by going to Sites once logged in but I chose to use the add-on Yet Another Mail Merge which allows you to write a draft email in your Gmail referencing columns in a Google Sheet. This meant I could send an email to every student with their site address in. This was how they would get to their site, which introduced them to their email at the same time.
Advice to schools beginning this process:
Drop me a line if you would like a copy of the Google sheet Oli and I worked on to create the Google sites for the students. With more time I am sure something more elegant could be created but if you want to create a large number of sites in relatively little time this will do it.
In the UK it is traditional to have a day in the summer term towards the end of the academic year where the students joining the school in September attend for a day to meet their form class and get used to the school. In previous years we use the day for them to spend time with tutors and attend a few lessons in different subjects. I approached the assistant head who is responsibly for the transition of students from primary to secondary so we could introduce the students to their portfolios on induction day.
Induction day was yesterday! The students were issued with their logins and passwords on paper and were then scheduled for one hour in the computer room where they were lead through the process below:
Login to network (we operate a Microsoft network at our school)
Open an email (first school email for most of them, though a lot have a personal one…)
Go to Site and complete MfL survey
Add a page “My Primary Learning” and write about their best primary learning experiences
Share the site with form tutors and heads of house
I have colour coded our progress from the day. I was generally pleased as almost all students logged in (apart from a couple who got in to our school on appeal and their names weren’t in my list when I created the sites) , must follow those up! I personally ran two sessions and colleagues ran the other six. Informal feedback is positive but at this early stage I can draw no conclusions on the impact.
Measuring the Impact
There are a variety of ways in which I would like to monitor the impact of the learning portfolios, but I need to stay focussed on the purpose
Gather information about our new students that can better inform our teaching and development of the students.
Portfolio is valued by staff and students as a learning tool
Increases the use of the Google Apps tools amongst staff and students
The last one seems a little cynical but I strongly believe the tools can enhance pedagogy and learning if used consistently well across out school so I do not mind using the portfolios as a vehicle to help staff engage with the Google Apps tools.
The range of measures will be
Usage statistics for Google Apps and particularly the learning portfolio sites
Feedback from teachers, students and parents across the next academic year
Staff will be asked about usage, barriers, training needs and to share best practice
Students will be asked about usage and whether they value it via a number of Likert scale questions.
Parents will be asked if their child has shown it to them and to rate the quality of the work.
Evidence of teachers adjusting their teaching based on information in the learning portfolios
Report grades compared to previous cohorts (though only relevant if other measures are positive)
I would greatly value input from any education academics on the research aspect and measuring the impact. Indeed if anyone would like to add to the research related to learning portfolios I would be happy to work with them using our initiative as a case study.
Advice to schools beginning this process:
While research can inform decisions it also relies on you having a free year to get through the information and you may still be no further forward in your decision making. Case studies that match your circumstances would be a more efficient way to gather evidence for decision makers if you need to convince them of the worth of learning portfolios.
At the Google teacher academy I was fortunate to meet with a number of teachers who have e-portfolios working well in their schools.
Google launched Google Educator Groups (GEG), which are for educators in geographical areas to connect about using Google tools in and out of the classroom for learning.
If you are a Google using teacher in UK:
Join our community
Bring a colleague
Some groups are growing fast and some have hosted events already. In the UK we have around 150 members in a Google+ community and a twitter account @GEG_UK followed by fewer people.
Getting the group off the ground has lead me to think about a few things:
How many teachers have access to Google Apps for Education in the UK at this point in time?
Are they interested in connecting with other teaching using the tools?
Are schools considering Google Apps for Education as a VLE alternative?
Are there teachers using their own personal Google account for their classes failing to get interest from school leaders for Google Apps for Education?
How can we get every teacher using Google Apps for EDucation to connect to the GEG UK?
I have been involved in setting up the GEG UK and we have been discussing what the role of the group could be and how to grow it. So far much of the conversation has been via Google+ and we have broadcast several Hangouts on Air to discuss ideas about the group. Discussion seems to return to some key ideas about engaging the wider teaching community in the tools we find work well in our classrooms and across our schools.
How can we speak to school leaders about Google Apps for Education and do they want to hear it? Do they appreciate what GAfE could do for their organisation and do they see technology as part of effective teaching and learning? It would be facinating to hear from school leaders not currently using GAfE and hear their view on technology for education. This desire has lead us to look at being present at conferences school leaders attend. If you host school leaders and would like to facilitate this discussion please let us know.
Can we get every teacher in the UK at a Google Apps for Education School to join our community and attend at least one event.
Sharing Best Practice
I feel that above all the GEG’s can be a place to find and share quality learning and teaching with others utilising Google tools. This can help others see the pedagogical value of technology in education.
If you read this please bring a colleague to the Google+ GEG UK community and grow the network.