At my school, we are 1:1 Chromebooks 4-6th grade. We also have access to the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) suite. This gives my students and me access to many different apps that can be used in and out of school depending on internet access. Because my school already has these tools in place, I wanted to find out how they could help my students develop 21st Century Thinking Skills (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication). I wanted to know if these tools that my students are provided with would help them become deeper thinkers, or if these tools were just that, tools. So I set out on a mission, following the GAFE hashtag on Twitter, looking up scholarly articles, and taking the level 1 Google Educator Training. I was looking for specific information on how the different apps help my students develop their 21st Century Thinking Skills, and how I, as a teacher, need to be using and modeling these apps to help students with this process. I also needed to know how to integrate these apps into my teaching; to not just use them because they were there, but in a purposeful manner. For my notes and hours spent on this project, you can go to my Time Sheet.
Note: My favorite resources are linked in purple.
One of the goals that I am working on as an educator this year is to make sure that I have cohesive units. This means that I am engaging students at the beginning of a unit with a hook or by activating background knowledge, and that all the activities I do in the middle keeps my final goal and learning target in mind. Investigating GAFE has helped me with my goal. By knowing what each tool does, and which skill it promotes, I can incorporate them in my units purposefully. I can have students think critically about a video by inserting it into forms and having the students answer different types of questions related around it.
Another tool that I may want to insert into a unit, keeping my goal in mind, is having students work on a Google Doc or a Google Slide together. By using these two options when students are working on group projects, it allows the students to interact collaboratively by adding comments and helping each other, even if one student may not be in the same room at the time. Students can also keep each other honest with the amount of work they are doing. Both apps have a revision history page that the teacher or students can go to and see who has contributed what to a project and what goals may need to be communicated based off of that.
During my research, I found two handy blogs that discussed giving feedback to students using Google Docs. One of the blogs is Control Alt Achieve. The other blog is called EdTech Teacher. Both of these blogs gave great feedback tools to help students think more critically about their writing and to bridge communication barriers. One tool that I learned about I am actually going to be using this week with my persuasive writing unit to help flip my classroom. I am going to have students write a simple persuasive piece on Google Docs, share it with me, and then I am going to use Screencastify to give them video comments where I am not going to be in class.
Connecting to my Learning
How can educators advocate and use technology to enhance real world, collaborative, learner centered environments? This a question that I am faced with in the course that I am taking this year. I feel like Google Apps is a very strong platform in which we can do this. Google Classroom allows for teachers to post assignments and announcements where students can easily access them. This allows for students to step outside of the classroom walls and work on materials in an environment that is conducive for them. Other apps that help to bust down the classroom walls are Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, and Google Docs. With Google Calendars, students can set up meeting times with their teachers to get small group or 1:1 learning. Google Hangouts allows for students to ask their peers questions through IMing, or video chatting in a student or teacher who is in another area. Finally, Google Docs allows for students to work collaboratively on their documents and still maintain ownership. Students can share their documents with teachers and student mentors to add feedback to their documents. Feedback can be added in many different ways from color coding grammar mistakes, to adding in links to further research.
To help educators become well versed in GAFE so that they feel comfortable using it in their own classroom, their are a few options. As someone who is more versed in using the GAFE apps, I need to be an advocate in getting these options out to help other teachers.
3. Google Educator Certification: Google provides free education for teachers surrounding the GAFE suite. Teachers walk through different units that teach them how to use the various apps. At the end of each lesson there is a check up, as well as a review at the end of each unit. When you finish all the units, you can pay $10 to take a test to become Google Educator Level 1 Certified. You can then go through more in depth units and take another test to become Google Educator Level 2 Certified. As part of this project, I have become level 1 certified.
At the end of every Twitter Chat, they ask what our #nextsteps are. Twitter is a big part of my professional development and played a role in my learning for this research project, so I thought I would share my #nextsteps in honer of where my research has taken me.
My name is Jessica Meservey and I am a 6th grade teacher. There is no level that I would rather be teaching and learning with. I currently teach in rural Maine. I love to integrate technology into my classroom as we are 1:1. Find me on Twitter at @MsMeservey.