What are effective ways of implementing Google Apps for Education?

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This coming school year my district will be implementing Google Apps for Education. I will be a part of the team that will lead this implementation. In the coming months we will be trained in Google Apps, but I’m concerned that the focus will be on the products themselves rather than how to effectively teach students how to effectively use them in their schoolwork.

In the past when I’ve introduced a new technology (Schoology as an example) I’ve done little assignments using that technology to build on the skills needed to use it. Because I like using videos, I’ve done video assignments where students needed to accomplish a task (i.e.creating a profile or posting to a message board) on their own time and I made a video tutorial that would guide them if they needed help. That worked fairly well because it was only 110 students and they were all in my class. Google Apps will be introduced district wide (about 1300 students with 600 in my building) so I’d love to hear any ideas or suggestions on how to begin to reach this many students effectively.

For those that have been a part of implementing a technology tool on a large scale, what suggestions do you have or successful/not so successful stories that could help me this school year? For those that haven’t (like me) do you have any ideas/suggestions that you think would work well?

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How long does it take to watch a flipped lesson?

Periodically throughout the year I will poll my students on how long it takes them to watch one of my flipped videos and do the activity that goes with it. Usually I try and use a guided notes or journaling approach, but occasionally I’ll do something different. If I get consistent answers that it takes over 20 minutes then I know I need to either make the video shorter or find a different way of assessing if the video has been watched.

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

Ken Robinson, an international leader in education, compares the education system in the United States to Death Valley. In his comparison, he points out three principles in which human life flourishes: humans are different, humans are curious, and humans are creative. As he points out the flaws of our education system, he also offers solutions and gives examples of how to make it better.

Google Tricks: How to be a better searcher

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Most of us use Google regularly, and it’s fair to say, most of our students do to. My district is moving to Google Apps for Education which means my students may begin to use Google even more than they used to! What I’ve found in my own use of Google or other search engines is that I don’t always get the results I’m looking for. The infographic posted above gives a number of different ways of making Google searches more effective. The range of skills taught goes from searching inside specific sites to searching for exact phrases. I plan on teaching my students how to better use Google so they can save themselves time and get better content. The more exact the search, the fewer the results. However, you do have to be careful of how exact you try and search. For example, if you were to type in the search parameters as it is written in the infographic, it would come back with 0 results.

Is this a strategy you would find beneficial in your own research? Are there better strategies that you use to wade through the millions of results that comes with most searches?

Image from: www.wirefresh.com

Generational Differences

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“My students need technology to learn.” “If I didn’t have laptops in my classroom my students wouldn’t learn as well.” These statements reflect a growing idea in education that students of the 21st century should be taught differently than students from previous decades. Specifically, that due to the influx of technology use in everyday life, the way students learn has changed. Unfortunately for those with this belief, there isn’t any research to support these claims. What does that mean for technology in the classroom? Should I relinquish the use of computers and devices with students? Do I need to rethink my teaching philosophy and my decision to pursue a Master’s degree in Educational Technology?

Perhaps I need to pull back on the reins a little bit. First of all, I am still very satisfied with my decision to get my Master’s degree in a technology related field. Secondly, use of technology in education isn’t wrong. It needs to be seen as another tool and teaching strategy an educator can use in the classroom. Any extreme in education can lead to disengaged and unsuccessful students. 30 straight days of lecture might not be the best teaching practice. 30 days of watching “flipped” videos might not be the best teaching practice either. I would argue that both of those models are not good teaching practices. Finding a balance that works for you and your students is what’s important.

Have students changed due to the amount of technology they use in their daily lives? As a classroom teacher I can honestly say I have no idea. I’ve only been teaching for four years so my experience in the classroom is with students who have had this technology in their lives. For a teacher of 25 years, 30 years, or 40 years, I’m sure they see a change in how students act in their classrooms.  They would probably say that students learn differently, too. My dad, a high school teacher of 25 years, says, “I’m not sure students learning has change because of technology, but they sure do have shorter attention spans. I almost have to perform a show to keep their attention.” Is he right? Is he romanticizing the past with his statement about shorter attention spans? Maybe nothing has changed and he just thinks it has. He doesn’t have any research to back him up. He simply has years and years of experience and a strong feeling about what he sees in his students. His experience doesn’t qualify as research, but that doesn’t mean his experience doesn’t count for something.

According to studies, the learner in the classroom has not changed as a result of technology. However, it is still my job as an educator to engage my students the best I can. Do I have to use technology to engage my students? Do I use technology in every lesson of every unit? No I don’t. I choose to use technology, when appropriate, to engage my students because I believe they will be more successful in my class and their lives in the real world as a result. The way students learn might not have changed, but the world they are living in certainly has. Technology can be (and should be) used to prepare them for that world.

Guest Post: Gadgets and Gizmos Aplenty

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Post by: Kim Penrod

Gadget Day.  It can be quite chaotic or it can go smoothly.

Our middle school opened up a public wireless network and allowed BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) this past spring.  The students were thrilled, the staff had mixed opinions…mostly positive.  With not enough desktop or laptop computers available for all of the classrooms, I was one of the happy ones.

Having resources available “on demand” is a great thing.   Students could (and did) look up answers to things that I couldn’t provide them with.  We were able to look at bios of people important to the time periods we were studying.  Accessing the class and other webpages during class for additional content was a real plus.  Collaboration and communication increased.

It was a work in progress for the district as they looked at usage and bandwidth needs in each of the buildings.

Some things I learned with my 7th grade students in this process…

  1. While kids are pretty tech savvy, there is still a lot to be learned in the area of Netiquette.    (I like cheese is not an appropriate response to someone’s post)
  2. Surfing is not searching.  (But I still can’t convince some 12-year-olds of that)
  3. Youtube clips are still blocked, even if the videos are embedded in another site.
  4. Not all gadgets are appropriate for online tests/worksheets.  (Screen size really does matter in this case)
  5. Never underestimate the importance of earbuds.
  6. The school user name and password should be the same for web 2.0 apps used for/at school. (Or keep a list for your students)
  7. Long-term projects (2+ days) need daily objectives.

Things are moving forward.

I know more gadgets will be finding their way into my classroom next year.  I have come into possession of a Kindle Fire and possibly some Nooks as well.

The middle school is organizing lessons for the first week of the year so all kids hear the same message in the same way.

We are moving into Google Apps.  Students will now be able to access their docs from home or school.

It can only get better!

Kim Penrod is a social studies teacher and gadget guru.