I have been facilitating “Introduction to Google Apps” workshops across the Walled Lake Consolidated School District in preparation for a full-scale implementation of Google Apps in the fall. I am finding that many teachers are anxious when they think about the changes that will occur next school year when students use cloud-based productivity applications (Google Apps for Education) instead of productivity software (MS Office) that they have been accustomed to using for a decade or so. Changes are never easy, so the teachers’ feelings are normal and expected.
I’ve found that the best way to help alleviate their concerns is to show them Google Apps for Education, help them use it, and recommend some file management strategies (see resources here). Once they log on and see how easy it is to create, edit, and share files, a little bit of their fears subside. When they explore the instructional benefits due to the collaborative features, they often begin to feel a bit excited.
Here is an example of a teacher who decided to not wait until next fall to begin using Google Apps with students; she dove right in now. Amy Kositzke, a 8th grade English teacher at Clifford Smart Middle School, wanted her students to develop a deeper understanding of literary characterization. She wanted her students to focus on a character of a book they had recently read using the three elements of physical appearance, actions/behavior/speech, and interactions with others. To do so, she found a template that was shared by another Google Apps-using teacher at docs.google.com/templates. The template was created with Google Presentation, and it looked like a Facebook page. Most of Amy’s students were familiar with Facebook, and embraced this assignment with enthusiasm. See screenshot of a student example of a Facebook profile page of a character from the popular novel The Hunger Games below. Other slides (not shown) include interests and photos.
I asked Amy if she needed to do much direct instruction to help her students use Google Docs for an assignment like this. She replied that she set up the framework, helped them log on, showed them how to save a copy of the file and let them go. The students were familiar with PowerPoint and found the editing features to be similar in Google Presentation. She plans to modify the lesson a bit for next year to include more differentiated learning. Amy discovered that she could import slides from other presentations, so she imported a slide that included the assignment rubric to make it easy for her to grade the student projects easily and without paper.
I’m confident that the teachers will enjoy using Google Apps for Education with their students next year, thanks to creative teachers like Amy, who blaze the trail. I look forward to sharing other examples here.