Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Googlevated: My District Expands Collaboration with Google Apps for Education

Over the past year, I piloted Google Apps for Education with my school district.  While I worked with students to collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, I constantly wondered how great it would be if more of my colleagues were on board.  This week, I worked with the technology department (Elizabeth Bagish and Lori Princiotto) and Lisa Thumann as lead learners to help teachers from a variety of grade levels and subject areas use Google Apps to promote teaching and learning.  I learned a lot over the past two days and I am inspired by my colleagues’ ideas and interest in collaborating. 

Yesterday, I used this presentation to lead a session on Google Documents, Presentations and File Management.  I never used the new version of Google documents with students, so there were a couple of items that teachers helped me discover.  For example, I was unfamiliar with the new format of the revision history.  Teachers in my session showed me how to access time stamps of individual changes to the document:

During my sessions, I shared some of my experiences using Jing to give feedback on student writing.  With the easy download of jing in the right corner of my desktop, I think that it’s the perfect application to use with Google documents because the screencasts can be shared with students or colleagues by copying and pasting a single link (I used SMART Recorder in the past, but I found that the files were so large that they were difficult to share with people). 
Today, there was more time for project planning and it was great to see how people’s lessons were evolving.  I was excited because I was able to work with Langauge Arts teachers from the Middle School.  They are going to get all sixth and seventh grade students on Google Apps accounts.  I shared my first collaborative writing assignment with students and offered suggestions for a text to text collaborative writing assignment they plan to use to launch Google Apps. 

On the high school level, a history teacher approached me about working collaboratively on a unit with his American history students and my American literature students.  Unlike many middle school settings, the high school does not afford teachers to work in grade level teams and there are more limited opportunities for cross-curricular projects because we will often have different groups of students and different planning times.  We were both excited when we decided to work together on a unit on The Crucible and the Salem Witch Trials.  Even if we do not have common planning time, Google Apps affords us the ability to share resources easily.  Over the summer, as we amass resources for teaching these units, we’ll add links and documents to a shared folder.  I'm glad that working together will help me learn about the resources students encounter in their history classes and it will motivate me to add more research to this unit.  

My work throughout the year convinced me that Google Applications provide collaborative tools that open so many opportunities for teaching and learning with my students.  Working with my colleagues on Google Apps was an amazing experience (I'm Googlevated!).  Their ideas helped me refine and plan new approaches to my lessons and assessments and I’m looking forward to see how our work will impact collaboration in the school community.