This school year our staff has been tinkering with Google Apps for Education and in many cases the effects have been transformational. Accessibility, ease of workflow, differentiation of instruction, personalization of tasks, and manners by which we assess are just a few of the ways in which staff have seen meaningful shifts in our day to day practice. It has been an inspiring school year to say the least.
What is truly neat about the changes I have witnessed at our school is that we have very few GAFE Ninjas on staff, those people who are super skilled with all things GAFE and make it all look easy and fluid. Many of the teachers that I work with were new adopters of the devices (we have a good number of portable Chromebook carts in the school) and of the tools (the GAFE platform). With a little bit of collaborative playtime, some 1-on-1 support (if needed), and some curiosity, our staff have done some amazing things. I asked three awesome colleagues to share a bit about how GAFE has impacted their classrooms. Have a read and please, do not hesitate to contact these teachers directly. They are open to sharing and passionate about how technology impacts learning.
Kate Baker. Humanities and PE teacher.
“Oh Chromebooks. How do I love thee. Let me count the ways…
When asked to share my experience with GAFE, I was torn with where to narorow my focus. GAFE has changed my teaching practice in so many ways and it isn’t just one extension or application that did it. I could talk for hours on how Google Docs and Google Forms have made my life so much easier in regards to sharing documents, instructions, or compiling data. However, I thought I would focus on how the Chromebook has streamlined my entire practice.
I am so fortunate to work at a newly constructed school with access to new technology, a revived and energetic staff, and the support to incorporate new techniques in my teaching. One major addition t our school is our affectionately named COWS (computers on wheels). These are portable trollys housing 15 Chromebooks in each. We have six altogether giving us a total access to 90 computers that can be wheeled to any classroom in the school. These COWS are what have helped me streamline my teaching practice. With only 56 minute teaching blocks, every instructional minute is crucial. The transition time from the classroom to the computer lab can often eat up much valuable class time. Whereas having the Chromebooks right in my classroom keeps the students in one place and provides a more free flowing learning environment as they can move in to groups or find a quiet space to do individual work.
When the students have the Chromebooks in class, they have access to all the world’s knowledge right at their fingertips. This eliminates using their cellphones which, we all know, some have trouble focusing on the task when their smartphone is in their hand. The log-on process on the Chromebooks is so fast and all applications run so quickly. There are no other programs to slow the work down.
Due to this ease of accessibility, it is so much easier for students to conduct group work in class when not tied to a desktop computer in the lab. The chromebooks are small, light and fast. Students can move around so easily and it alleviates so much headache when the chromebook only uses google apps so all the student’s work is saved automatically.”
Scott Alexander. Humanities teacher.
“When I incorporate tech into my lessons, I try to use two criteria to see if tech will improve the learning experience: will it increase student engagement with learning materials and will it increase collaboration? Using Google Classroom has been a fantastic tool that I have started using this year. The management ability for student assignments is exceptional and has drastically deceased the time I spent on assignment management. Kids can do their work on their own anywhere they have wifi, and that, for some, means the bus ride home. I’m receiving work that is much more clear, edited, and enriched with media (pictures, links to video, voice) that has added a greater depth to learning. Lastly, the ability to collaborate is really amazing, whether it is showing group editing write-ups, using Maps to study WW2 as a group of 30, or sharing study material in a real time format. The learning curve was not as steep as I expected and the benefits have been continually rolling in.”
Tim Spray. Math teacher.
“I am having more fun this year as a result of GAFE integration than any other in my career. In particular, the use of of Google Slides, Google Sheets and Flubaroo have allowed me to create rigorous and engaging activities that enable differentiated learning more easily than ever before. As an example I can take the once “dreaded Word Problems” unit [from our math curriculum], and create a beautiful slide show that I can share with them on their phone using the Remind App. Once they have this file on their phone, they proceed through the problems at their own pace. After each question they are prompted to click a link that leads to a Google Form where they submit their answer. Their answer comes to me in the form of a Google Sheet. The beauty is that the Google Sheet add-on Flubaroo marks their response for me and emails them their result. Once they receive the feedback, they either try again or move forward.
I have coached a tech newbie member on staff how to use Google Slides to function as a website. After a 20 minute tutorial, this colleague now has a fully functional website which he updates regularly. The success this person experienced with their website has opened them up to the Remind App, the tech package in their room, as well as looking at expanding the ways in which they engage their students.
Google slides has revolutionized how I organize and find the information that I use in my proessional life. I have created a Google Slides website (for my eyes only) that I have bookmarked on Chrome so that lessons, activities, videos, content, etc is never more than 4 clicks away.”
I found the Google Summit we hosted in Victoria to be extremely helpful in deepening my understanding of how GAFE can impact my practice. See my reflections on the event here and have a look at the upcoming Vancouver GAFE Summit on April 23-24 hosted by Mulgrave School. It is certain to be an inspiring event.