The adoption of Google Apps in Education is a grassroots movement, spreading quickly in Canadian classrooms as teachers everywhere are beginning to recognize the benefits of the FREE suite of tools available through Google. More and more, Google Apps are being adopted by teachers as a collaborative, cloud based tool that students may use to create and share content with teachers, peers, and possibly even online communities.
Google Apps for Education Bootcamp
Earlier this summer, I attended LearnStyle’s Google Apps for Education Bootcamp, where I was able to experience the collaborative nature of Google Apps. The Google Apps for Education Bootcamp, delivered with enthusiasm by DJ Cunningham, CEO of LearnStyle, is an excellent way for teachers in the GTA to learn the how to use various aspects of Google Apps. I attended the Bootcamp with several colleagues, including the Vice Principals of our school. This was an excellent professional development opportunity, and a highly important experience for all of us, as we were able to learn together, and along the way, conceptualize the ways in which we could use Google Apps in the context of our school. Each of us operated as a piece of a puzzle, and in conversation, we could see the potential to fit those pieces together, be it through the development of an IT committee, or in planning to share our learning with other staff members in the form of presentations or PD. With our leaders taking a personal interest in cultivating their skills in educational technology, we enter the new school year feeling excited and connected.
Many of us had some prior experience with Google Docs, Calendars, and Presentations, but by attending the Bootcamp, we learned that our use of Google Apps was quite superficial. At the Bootcamp, DJ walked us through features of Google Apps that more experienced and trained users would be familiar with.
While Google Apps appear easy to use and there is a lot of information available online regarding their use in the classroom, it is best to get hands on experience through professional development.
Here is what LearnStyle covered in the 2 day workshop:
- Google Drive: We learned how to effectively and efficiently organize our work by creating folders for a variety of purposes which could be shared with other teachers and students. Creating folders for different subjects so students can both pick up and share docs or presentations works to promote collaboration and organization among students.
- Google Groups: Collaboration among groups of students is even further simplified by creating groups with unique id’s.
- Google Calendars : Use Google Calendar to keep yourself organized, share events with other Google Plus users, and create invitations. This is a great tool to include on a classroom site so that students can see upcoming events and deadlines. This is equally beneficial for administrators, who can use Google Calendars with staff. DJ guided us through the process creating calendars, events, and appointment slots, and taught us how to share permission with others rather than making our calendar public for everyone, a very useful feature of Google Apps.
- Google Docs: We learned how to use Docs collaboratively, use the research and citation tools, change fonts, and how to find extensions like Text Help and Ginger from the Chrome store to use with the Docs in order to support the needs of students with learning disabilities. What I was most excited to learn about is how teachers can use Google Docs revision history for assessment purposes. Teachers are able to view the development of the document creation step by step, and insert comments in the margins for immediate feedback.
- Gmail: We had fun learning how to create Gmail groups, contact lists, and categories, using emojis (pictures to reflect your mood) to enhance the email. DJ also walked us through applying stars and labels to important communication. We also practised moving and archiving mail.
- Forms: We learned how to easily create surveys and tests, great for use with students to gather information (ie pre-assessment), or to collect information from parents.
- Sites: We spent a significant amount of time learning how to create a web site. We worked on sites that we could use now as we enter a new school year. By the end of the Bootcamp we could add links, videos and pictures to the pages we created on our site. We also learned how to link RSS feeds from external and internal sources and to incorporate Google Calendar for parents and students to get information about events and deadlines in the classroom. There was no need for any of us to have experience building a website before, and no need to understand coding or HTML.
The Bootcamp opened our eyes to the benefits of Google in meeting the needs of the students we serve. Where once technology and software in education were used to address the needs of Special Education students, now all students can access software that will give them greater educational experiences. What was originally essential for some is now recognized as beneficial for all.
In an earlier article, I mentioned Universal Design for Learning, which in the document “Learning For All” is described as “the notion that assistance targeted at a specific group can help everyone. Educators began to realize that teaching strategies and pedagogical materials and tools that respond to the special needs of a specific student or group of students can also be useful for all students. For example, various types of assistive technology, such as speech-to-text software, organizational software, and interactive whiteboards, enable students who have special education needs to access the curriculum. When these technologies became more widely available, teachers discovered that they could enhance learning for all students in the classroom. The discovery has transformed the way in which such technologies are being used in the classroom today.”
Google’s Suite of Apps addresses the needs of students of varying skills and abilities, providing tools that work to deliver a universal design. Through Google, there are a number of Apps and Extensions that can be used with Google Docs and Presentations that support the needs of all students, such as text to speech, speech to text, and spell check extensions.
Benefits of Google Apps:
– Cloud-based; accessible from anywhere
– Single password log-in
– 30 GB of storage for teachers and students
– Calendars can be customized for your school
– Easily create and share videos
– Sites can be created by teachers for students’ use, as well as parent communication
– Sites can be created by students, connecting them to others online (Participatory Culture)
– Sites are simple to create as there is no need to learn code or HTML
– Allows for the collaboration with others online on documents, presentations, and spreadsheets
– Teachers are able to view students’ progress, contributions, and the development of their ideas
– Surveys are easily created and delivered, allowing users access to assessment and feedback
To learn more about Google Apps for Education, go to:
Check out the following infographic to see how using Google Apps for Education helped several states in the US to save money.
Top 10 Google Apps Scripts for Education: Visit this blog to check out some of the Scripts available for use with Google Apps. Many of them were created by teachers for teachers in order to increase your productivity when using Google Apps.
“Free Technology for Teachers”: Visit this site to view a variety of videos and tutorials that will assist you in using Google Docs in the classroom. There are a variety of “How to” tutorials. All tutorials created by the writer of this blog, Richard Bryne, are free to use. Those created by others…ask for permission before using on your blog or for professional development.
“Free to Use, Share, or Modify” With Google Apps: Here you will find another great resource where you will learn how to use the “Research Tool” in Google Docs to insert reference citations, footnotes, and quotations with the integration of Google Scholar.
To receive Professional Development on Google Apps for Education for you or your school in Ontario, please visit the LearnStyle website and register! Begin your journey toward becoming a Google school with the help of LearnStyle’s bootcamp. Although the summer sessions are finished, LearnStyle can come to you! Simply contact them, and arrange to have Professional Development for your School or School Board!
To learn more about LearnStyle and other services they offer, read my previous article, What is your LearnStyle?