Last month I was lucky enough to attend the Google Teacher Academy in London. It really was one of the best experiences I’ve had in 20 years of teaching. I should have been pinching myself to remind me where I was but I hardly had chance. The pace of the day was frenetic. We started at 8.00 and finished at 6.30 and there wasn’t one minute of wasted time in the whole day. Every session was full of ideas to take away and start using. The unstructured times such as lunch were vital for talking over what we’d covered with the other teachers and lead learners.
The Google way of working was amazing. Everyone gets 20% of their time to work on projects of their own choosing. This has led to a number of new features and apps being developed. It makes you think if there would ever be a way we could get this into schools. You must be motivated so much more when you literally have ownership of what you are doing.
We had presentations of the different features of Google apps through the day. They were on Search (of course), Google apps for education, specifically Calendar, Docs and Sites. We looked at spreadsheets and gadgets, Google maps, research tools, Google Earth, Google mobile and we also had inspiring ideas sections from a number of the GTA teachers.
What I had never really seen before was how well all these features fit together in Google apps for education and how this can be used in a school to deliver a dynamic, collaborative and free way of learning.
Kern Kelly, a lead learner had spoken of how Google Apps for education had a ‘low floor, high ceiling.’ Schools can start simply and build up a sophisticated and powerful online way of working to complement existing tools. It can be as simple as pupils having an online word processor that saves their work automatically. But then again we learnt how
- pupils can sign on once to access all of the features below.
- teachers can turn off any feature at any time.
- pupils can access all their work on any internet enabled machine without the need for any software. At school or home.
- work can be done on the same document by different pupils on different machines at the same time.
- teachers can highlight or comment on pupils work as they write.
- pupils can create presentations, documents, drawings and spreadsheets
- they can also create web sites in which they can embed all of the above.
- pupils can have their own calendar and share a class/ school or group calendar too
- schools can send free text messages to pupils through calendar settings.
- each pupil has their own email address (which has a number of e safety features staff can control)
- pupils can create forms for others to answer questions, they see immediate feedback in the form of a spreadsheet.
- teachers can create customized search pages that only search web sites of their choice.
- pupils can create their own music, podcasts and images which are automatically saved in to their Google Docs folder.
- there are other features such as images search, Squared search, Wonder wheel, Google Earth and Google Maps which can also be linked in.
There are more features than this but I’m sure you get the idea. This is a very, very powerful tool and it’s free.
I am in a great position to use these skills in schools. As a seconded teacher I am looking forward to working alongside schools to use some of these features at the chalkface. As part of the Google Certfied Teacher process we have to produce an action plan that shows how we are going to take what we have learned and share it with teachers and pupils. My plan is to work with a school to introduce some of the features of Google apps for education into existing plans. I have a school identified in my mind but if you are reading this and you are working at a school in the Bradford LEA and want to be involved please get in touch.
This is how I see it working.
1. Meet with the Headteacher of a school and teachers who would be involved in order to outline how Google apps can be used in the school. Work with the teachers to see how Google Docs can be used to support existing Literacy plans. Set up accounts for all key stage two pupils.
2. Run a number of lessons in classes working alongside the class teachers. Initially we would deal with logging on and e safety. We would start with simple use of Docs as a word processor but then progress to using the ability to share and collaborate. I’d also hope to extend this by introducing Gmail and Forms (fitting in to existing medium term plans). I’d hope to set some work after I had gone that could be done in class time but I could mark online without being there.
3. Meet with the staff where the teachers and I can share what we have done. We can introduce some of these features to the rest of the staff so they could have time to experiment in the meeting and maybe try some of the features for themselves. (I also want to run some sessions for teachers at the CLC- more to follow)
4. I’d like to feed back my experiences at a Teachmeet. We have a Literacy based Teach meet in Bradford on the 25th of November (More to follow). This could be the chance to share this with the wider teaching community.
Anyway, that’s my plan. Please get in touch if you want to be involved too.
Here are some links to people’s blogs about our day at the Google Teacher Academy. All the people I met were inspirational, highly skilled and great company. Here are just a few.