This year our school signed up to the Google Apps for Education (GAfE) suite of resources, which have now begun to filter their way through into classroom use. Teachers across the school are finding their feet, and discovering the best ways in which they can adapt what is on offer to their subjects.
The two of us are among those, but we thought it would be useful to outline some of the ways in which we have started to use GAfE within the Maths Department, and hopefully provide some guidance for those who are also starting out – as well as provide an opportunity for you guys to tell us how you’re already up and running with GAfE, and provide us with some extra inspiration!
I am not fully fledged in Google, but in preparation for a new academic year I have trialled what Google has to offer with two classes, one of whom I am taking through from Year 10 to Year 11. I have started to explore what Google has to offer, and although I do not think it is utter perfection (even now I am typing on a Mac and not a Chromebook), I believe it does have a lot of good features and I hope that with the Google megaminds behind it, this should increase.
Want to access schemes of works, mark books and resources at home? Forget your USB stick with all of your lessons on? Have used up all of your iCloud or Dropbox storage?
Google Drive is you new best friend.
Google drive is a online file storage system, using the mysterious cloud, which allows users to store, share and edit (using Google Docs). With GAfE individuals can utilise unlimited storage which can be very beneficial for overcrowded staff drives and could hopefully free up the school computers a little more.
As a department we are currently uploading our schemes of work, resources and lessons on to Google Drive allowing us to always have access to resources and allow editing from at home as well as at school. It has been quite a smooth transition and seems quite intuitive but we are still duplicating our documents by saving them on the school system as well, in the fear that the internet may break. Google Drive seems a great idea and definitely worth an explore!
If I am honest, they feel like a trial version, with limited capabilities in comparison to Microsoft Office. Most notably, as a maths teacher, is the lack of being able to insert and edit equations easily, however I have been informed that this is planned for the future. Another annoying habit of Google Docs, is it’s ability to change the colours and formatting of documents created in Office, this can be quite apparent whilst converting between Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides.
However, although I have started with the negatives, there is a major advantage of using Google Docs, and as a teacher I have found it most beneficial with Google Sheets (Google’s version of Microsoft Excel). Google Sheets can be updated and edited by multiple people at the same time, making it very useful when it comes to mark books and data entry deadlines.
Overall, it definitely has it benefits, and if you are used to using a Chromebook or don’t want to pay for Microsoft Office I would recommend using it. I feel as I don’t have the necessity for it I have not been able to fully appreciate it, but will try more so in the future, especially as they add more and more features.
Google classroom is the first major feature I am getting used to within GAfE. It allows you to create a virtual classroom for each of your classes in order to facilitate discussions, provide resources, set and receive homework to name but a few.
Once set up as a Google School, it is fairly simple to create a classroom and requires students to log in and enter a unique code or for the teacher to add each individual student for that class. With a fairly illogical order (due to students email addresses) and a very large school, the first method is definitely preferable.
Once the class has been set up creating homework is very and takes the form of an ‘Assignment’. The task is then emailed to students and also added to their calendar, so there are no excuses! Unless you set up a quiz or use one of the many apps, you may still have to mark the work the old fashioned way, but can provide feedback to students in the form of a comment or a numerical mark. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it is not possible to give a lettered grade, but it seems this may be available in the future.
Generally, Google Classroom seems a great alternative for other VLEs which are out there, and as GAfE is currently free, it could be a money saver. As multiple teachers can be added to one class it is very useful for split classes as both teachers are aware of the homework and activities which have been set and can maintain that unified front.
EDpuzzle was introduced to me by a colleague with one promise ‘you can tell if they watched it to the end!’ I am interested in using Flipped Learning within the classroom so EDpuzzle interested me and I was pleasant surprised by the amount of features the website offered, as well as it having its own equation editor.
EDpuzzle hosts lots of videos from a variety of sources and they can vary in quality, but there seems to be enough choice on most topics I have looked at. Most videos do tend to be American, but EDpuzzle does have an option of dubbing the video so your students can hear your voice, but this can be quite time consuming and has to be done in one go. An alternative is to just provide comments at key points, for example mentioning ‘parenthesis’ is just another word for ‘brackets’. A great feature of EDpuzzle is that you can add quiz questions, either long or multiple choice, for students to answer at any point of the video, to assess understanding these can be automatically marked to help you reduce time. My favourite feature of EDpuzzle is very simple, you can restrict skipping, and it then breaks down which parts of the video were re-watched.
As a teacher you get quite a nice break down of the homework and how students have performed on the various areas. It colour codes students achievement to help you see how students have done and also gives you a brief summary of gradings.
By clicking on the student there is a break down on the students individual progress, detailing how much of the video they watched, if they repeated any sections and how they did with the set questions.
I have found EDpuzzle very useful in implementing flipped learning in my classroom so far and, as it is shiny and new, the students seem to enjoy having a slightly different style of homework. They are very pleased of being ask to watch a video for homework, even if it is one on composite functions!
We are definitely still learning and probably only scratching the surface, but it seems like we may be on to a winner. Google Apps for Education has an awful lot to offer and it seems to be growing quite rapidly. I would encourage you to take a look for yourself and see if you can find anything there which may make your work life easier.
Any comments are most welcome.