Friday, 19 December 2014

Twas The Day Before Break

Well everyone, we made it! It is the last day before a much deserved and welcomed break. Not being in the classroom this year has made the approach to the holiday much different than in years past. Even though I taught High School kids, the excitement and anticipation of the break was no less than with Elementary students. While our office is decorated and we are all sharing in Christmas cheer, it is very different than having students excited for their break. 

I want to take this final blog post to say thank you. Taking a new job is stressful. Moving away from family and friends to a new city is doubly stressful. However, you have made the transition very easy. You are welcoming and open and I appreciate working with you. I am looking forward to the New Year and all the possibilities it will bring. 

But, I couldn't not post about something that I saw the other day that I think is really amazing.

The Google Story Challenge

The link below will take you to a YouTube video about a National Story Challenge using Google Docs. It is a US challenge but holds a lot of value and interest for us here. Many school districts around Alberta, Canada, and North America are using Google Drive. I think it would be a very interesting activity to connect with these other schools to tell collaborative stories. In order to do so, we would need to partner with another district (or districts). If this is something that intrigues you, please let me know. We can begin working on the process in the New Year.

Google Story Challenge:

Friday, 12 December 2014

Using GAFE in Division I and II

Many times over the past few months, as I present around the district, I am asked how to use the tools in Google Apps for Education with students in upper and lower elementary grades. As such, I thought I would put together some thoughts about how you could use the tools to promote student engagement, collaboration and improve student outcomes.

Google Docs

Obviously, the level at which you use the tools within Google Docs is going to vary quite a bit depending on the knowledge and skill level of the students you are working with. One idea that came to me via a colleague in Pembina Hills School Division is to use Google Docs to write pen pal letters. Teachers could create Google Docs for each one of the students and share them. The students could then do a number of things. They could draw, insert pictures, or type information about themselves to be shared with other students. The Google Doc could then be shared with other students in our district or with students in another district in the province. This would be a very straightforward task as teachers could share the entire folder of Google Docs with another teacher. That teacher would then have their students respond on the Google Docs. This could go back and forth as long as the teachers wish. There is no reason this activity could not be expanded to include a variety of items. You could conduct science experiments and share your findings with other classes. You could include math problems and find out how many different ways students could represent the problem. 

Google Slides

The concept of sharing information is not just limited to Google Docs. There are a number of applications of this in Google Slides. Students from one class or school could find create a pictorial story board in Google Slides. They could then share the slides with other students who could write the text for the story and include more pictures. Again, this activity can go back and forth between students for quite some time. 

Google Forms

I really like the possibilities that Google Forms has for students in all grades. You can create very simple, straightforward surveys that can be easily shared throughout our district, the province and around the world. Last week I shared the example from a colleague in Illinois. The student created a two question survey about favourite foods. This concept could be developed so students were using Google Forms to give constructive feedback to each other about stories they wrote or presentations they completed. The beauty is, the feedback can be designed to be very straightforward so early elementary students could use the forms. 

Google Sites

Many times we have students create posters to represent their understanding of topics we cover in class. Using Google Sites with students provides a digital alternative to the poster. They can created media rich websites with links, images, videos and texts to help them represent their understanding of topics you cover in all subject areas. This is also a very straightforward way for them to begin the process of blogging and reflecting upon their learning, while you control who is able to view the sites.

Evolution Not Revolution

In all the presentations I give around the district, I really try to emphasize that technology is not going to revolutionize education. It will help it to evolve and it definitely has the capacity to redefine what we do in the classroom. However, in order for it to have any kind of positive impact and engage students in a meaningful way, we need to first focus on the learning outcomes. 

As always, if you want to book time with me so I can help you or your students, please send me an email or use the booking form on the Contact Me page.

Thanks for reading,