Going Google at my school: Year 1 Review

Since choosing the leave behind any Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and facilitate learning via Google Apps for Education I have been writing about some of the challenges and initiatives to embed technology in the learning of our students.

Here are the posts

Going Google at my school posts September 2013 – July 2014

Successes:

  • Student digital leaders are very motivated
  • Technical team have got behind the Google Apps for Education and supported change to Gmail for students
  • Usage statistics are consistent at around 60-70% of users every week.
  • Google Documents overtook Uploads to Google Drive by February

Areas for improvement:

  • 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

Next year:

  • Building capacity for staff to support me with
    • Digital Leaders
    • Learning Portfolios
    • Administration
    • Training
  • Schedule of Training with badges to earn from each session
  • Focus on
    • Learning Portfolios for Year 7
    • Classroom/Google Drive pedagogy
  • Embedding technology for learning throughout learning and teaching strategy

The other challenge will be to secure investment in infrastructure and look at potential models for introducing devices to support learning. This ultimately needs to be accompanied by a review of how we teach and how we want to develop our students. In relation to this have a read of this post about technology and learning.

There are a lot of “top tips” posts and posters knocking about. Kasey Bell produces the best ones and here is one for anyone nurturing teachers to the power of technology in learning.

Thanks to Kasey Bell for creating and sharing this great poster.

Enjoy

Ben Rouse

 

 

Going Google at my school: Part 1- Promotion

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

Google Teacher Academy 2012

Google have offered another chance for educators to become a Google certified teacher. The application involves creating a one minute video on one of two themes provided by Google. The themes are “Classroom Innovation” and “Motivation”. I chose to focus on the former and created a video looking at the new innovation spreading through education, the flipped classroom.

Having offered my classroom for the Flipped Classroom open house on 30 January 2012 it seemed sensible to focus on this innovation. Since my last post regarding the flipped classroom a couple of my classes have become fairly familiar with the concept and show no shock, concern or trepidation when they are set homework which requires them to research/prepare for topics via videos I have created in order to focus on higher order skills in the following lesson. My lesson evaluation Google form has been essential for responding to the student’s needs and reflecting on how the flipped classroom can work best for my classes.

I almost didn’t submit my effort as I made the mistake of looking at the competition… wow! Some people’s application videos are technical masterpieces other have a large contribution from their students and colleagues. But after my colleague (@talktofile) had a word with me I made a last minute drive to submit something that made a attempt to showcase my efforts in the flipped classroom.

Why do I want to be Google certified?

I use Google documents constantly for myself, for faculty and with students for collaboration so a chance to work more closely with Google on education may develop my use of the products I already value.

I want my school to go Google so email, resource sharing, blogging and many other services can come under one login. Also if the students could have access to Google documents without me asking them all to create accounts it would make the collaboration in class much more successful.

#ukedchat takes place through twitter every Thursday from 8pm until 9pm and allows educators to subit their experience and views on a chosen topic. On Thursday 16 February the topic was “technology on a shoestring” and the conversation was very thought provoking and something I hope leaders of #edtech in schools pay attention to. Google Docs came out as a favourable free alternative to help schools have effective edtech that represents value for money, or value for learning…

@peterweal: @MrG_ICT agree VLEs surplus to goggle docs and blogs. No brainer. #ukedchat

@MrG_ICT: Agree Google docs is amazing collaborative tool. and free. Many primaries spending thousands on VLEs and not using #ukedchat

@GeorgeEBlack: #ukedchat one thing I do know, a well administered set of free blogs does the job of a VLE any day.

@mattbritland: #ukedchat The use of google docs or other cloud applications stops the need to constantly updating office software.

My Google based vision

I’d like to aim for:

  • A set of chromebooks which students can use their school based Google account to login to. The login process on a chromebook take seconds.
  • A class blog page which students contribute to on a rotating timetable each lesson, sharing the task/topic/progress and any pictures or videos as necessary. This would provide a log of all our lessons and would solve any problems for students that have any time out of class for support or illness.
  • A faculty Google site where staff can share ideas and resources with each other. It also contains links to all our shared Google documents. This would include schemes of work, assessment tasks, project tasks etc. The site can also have a varity of Google forms embedded which allow teachers to log positives and concerns for students, and many other proceedural issues that can be managed more easily in this way.
  • Students can use their Google Calender to enter exam dates, deadlines and would be very effectvie for organising group collaboration outside of the classroom by scheduling time to be online to work on a Google document together, inviting participants.

Hardware and software made specifically for education offers no value for money. Having a developer of the size of Google involved in education can keep schools closer to technology that represents developments in the real world rather than relying on a few innovative teachers to provide ad hoc opportunities which involve excessive time to prepare in order to avoid any technical or appropriate use of technology issues.

I have not yet found an effective way of using Google+ in education.

Back to the flipped classroom

The flipped classroom would be more effective if it could be integrated in such a way that schemes of work are available to students and parents as well as teachers. Cloud based storage allows documents to be updated regularly but avoid everyone having out-of-date copies littering their hardrives. Feedback and communication can be improved by allowing parents access to markbooks, something a colleague of mine has achieved by transferring his markbooks to Google Docs.

Am I being paid by Google

No, even though this blog post may be a little bias towards using one companies versions of things that can be achieved in a number of ways. I am a great fan of Wikispaces (I have created many) and blog via WordPress so I do not promote using one supplier but in the classroom setting where I have been asking my students to create logins for a variety of tasks I think they would value a coordinated structure to the variety of technology that can be used to enhance their education.

If any other provider wishes to show me how I can integrate this vision in another way… I am all ears.