Archive for the ‘Google Apps’ tag
Last year, I had my year 13 class create a revision wiki in the run up to their exams. It worked quite well, but it needed a bit of pump priming with some ICT room time that I just don’t have this year, and I wasn’t completely convinced that my current yr 13s would take to it in quite the same way.
So when, on Monday, we were talking through some options for revision sessions for them, I raised the idea of an evening online revision session. I was initially thinking some kind of revision version of a twitter chat, but it quickly became clear that wouldn’t work. So, after chewing a few ideas around with them, we settled on the ideas of using Google Docs. We’re a Google Apps school, so everyone has access, it’s a tool they’re all used to using now, and it has the advantage of the chat as well as the main document.
So, on Monday at 8pm I copied and pasted the first section of the syllabus into a Google Doc and sat back as 7 of my class started adding their notes and ideas, along with occasional argument in the chat. I joined in adding content for the first few minutes, when it became clear that my time would be better spent adding the links and tidying up behind the rush of content that was being added. After an hour we had most of the first three topics added. They went off to watch Game of Thrones or Broadchurch and I spend another half an hour or so finishing off the tidying up.
On Wednesday lunchtime we met to talk through the sections they had highlighted as areas they wanted to review or didn’t understand and after school I printed out two copies of our now 13 page long revision notes, and we used them to plan responses to some possible essay questions.
All in all, I’ve been really impressed. The real-time nature gives the activity more drive than had been the case last year, and it allowed me to quickly spot a couple of areas that I needed to go back and clarify with the rest of the class. The quality of the final resource, along with the fact that it’s been mostly authored by them means that the investment of my time is more than repaid Even those students who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) join in have access to the revision document that’s been created.
The only downside has been a couple of students whose computers / browsers just haven’t coped with several people editing the document at the same time, but I can’t think of a better tool for the job right now, so we’re going to stick with it for another week and see if a chance of browser (in one case) and borrowing another laptop from a family member (in another) might help that.
Last month Olchfa was visited by Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education in the Welsh Government, as part of a visit to Swansea to see how technology is being used in teaching and learning. As part of that visit, he dropped in to my room for a few minutes to see the kind of things we’ve been doing with technology in History.
The lesson he saw was inspired by the work of Sugata Mitre and the experiments he’s done bringing his experience of putting computers into walls in New Delhi slums, into classrooms in the UK. (TED talk / Keynote from UK Partners in Learning)
Each group of 4 students get one netbook. One student logs into the Portal and accesses a shared Google Presentation which has been set up waiting. Each group has one slide on the presentation, which is also being projected onto the whiteboard.
Following a quick check for understanding and ground rules, I start putting questions onto the first slide and the students go off and try and find an answer. These are added to their side (in their own words) along with a link to the website(s) they used to find the answer. These get regularly reviewed as the lesson goes on, and are used as a platform to talk about research strategies, reliability of websites, techniques for summarising etc etc. The key point is that these ideas arise naturally out of their work rather than being artificially introduced. Feedback from all pupils I’ve done this lesson with is than an overwhelming majority feel they were better equipped to use the internet outside of school as a research tool than they were before.
I repeated the lesson the following week for my Head of Department observation. To be fair it didn’t go as well on this occasion (isn’t that always the way?), so at the end I asked the students for some suggestions as to how it could be improved. To their credit they nailed most of the problems. They suggested that the groups needed to be changed (and to be fair this is an issue that Prof. Mitre addresses, I just didn’t follow his advice), and that the addition of offline resources (eg textbooks) would encourage everyone in the group to join in (I’m less convinced about this second one if I get the groups right)
To that, I would add that I need to go for less questions, but greater depth. An extra suggestion that came from Emma was that giving the questions out in advance would perhaps reduce the sense of rush and frustration that some of the students were showing.
Feel free to borrow and adapt the lesson, and remember to ask your students how to make the lessons better (Credit to Andrew Field for the idea) – they’ll probably come up with better ideas that you would on your own!
The following are a couple of tricks I’ve discovered in managing our Google Apps account. I’m blogging them here partly so I know I can find them next time I need them, and partly in case anyone else finds them useful.
1. Get a full userlist
From: JLee posting at http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Google+Apps/thread?tid=5a8c21e76144b065&hl=en
It looks like, for whatever reason, the .CSV link disappears when you create more than 30 users in your domain. However, you should still be able to download the file by logging into the Control Panel and then manually entering the URL:
https://www.google.com/a/cpanel/yourdomain.com/DownloadUserData/UserData-yourdomain.com-20090527.csv (replace both yourdomain.com entries with your actual domain name and replace 20090527 with today’s actual date).
2. Doing more complex tasks
Download and install the fantastic Goggle Apps Manager – http://code.google.com/p/google-apps-manager/
Nb – I discovered this while trying to work out a way to delete a large number of users. There are instructions here on how to do this with GAM, but I couldn’t get the python version to work and my knowledge of python is non existent, so I just waded in and did it by hand. If you’ve got a PC (or just if you can get it to work), then it might be worth trying this out.
I’ve had an email this morning from a school considering using Google Apps for Education in their school, and asking for some feedback on our experience. Having written the email, I thought it might be useful to share here…
We went for Google Apps for similar reasons, we didn’t even have a working email system for staff, let alone pupils!
The system was very easy to set up, we had confirmation in a few days (the system for approving schools outside the UK is manual rather than automatic) and we got 2000 accounts, which we upped in September to 3000 to handle our cross-over from yr 11 to sixth form, and give former students time to back up their accounts before we deleted them.
You will need control of a domain name that the accounts will link to. In our case that was fine as we own and operate our website outside county control. I don’t know how easy it would be to use your school address, you’d need to talk to someone at county for that. As an alternative though you could easily purchase a domain name and a basic hosting package (we use a company called CS New Media (csnewmedia.co.uk) and put the file that google needs there.
Since we’ve had it, it’s been a huge sucess. Staff have gone from complaining about having to check emails to wondering aloud how we ever survived without it. It was mandated at the start that staff check their emails at least twice a day, and we showed staff how to set their browser up to open multiple tabs when they opened it, so they would have SIMS, their email and the school homepage open by default. Most staff just leave their email tab open all day now.
Some staff have started accepting work by email and many are encouraging students to contact them by email if they have any problems with work (particularly useful with the sixth form) and some are doing so.
Because of the package we also have Google Calendar, on which we have an internal events calendar shared with staff and an external events calendar viewable online.
We also have Google docs which some departments are starting to use to collaberate of schemes of work, and many students who don’t have Office at home are using for writing to avoid the issue of opening MSworks files in school. We are also using a shared spreadsheet to organise cover, so staff can check online if they are doing a cover lesson on any particular day.
We’ve started experimenting with Google Sites in one year 7 class as a place for them to store their work, and with a couple of the school clubs who wanted some online space.
We did switch off Google Talk at the request of the ICT dept, and we’re also not using the start page as some of the addable content was not suitable for schools (although I believe that issue may now have been fixed)
We have the privacy issue raised twice in the 18 months since we switched on, but in both cases people were happy that we were not storing anything particularly confidential online (grades etc go straight into SIMS). Most people seem to be either oblivious to the privacy issues, or happy that the benefits outweigh the issues.That has certainly been our experience. Up time has been excellent – we’ve lost email twice in the last 18 months, once for a couple of hours and once for about an hour.
Hope this is of some help. If you don’t mind I might stick it online for other schools to have a look at as well!
Please get back to me if you’ve got any more questions.
All the best,
Part of my job within the school is to coordinate the schools provision for More Able and Talented pupils. As a start to the process of moving us towards a new policy and hopefully some more effective practice, I decided I wanted to see what was already out there and what the views of our teaching and non-teaching staff were on this.
In days of old I would have knocked up a paper based questionnare, run it through the photocopier and left them in pigeon holes. A few would have been returned, leaving me to process this information (inculding typing) while the rest ended up in recycling, often once found at the bottom of a pile of ‘stuff’ some months down the line.
But these are not the days of old my friends. Oh no, instead I put my questions into a Google Form, emailed the link around to the staff and sat back and waited. 14 hours after sending the email I already have 34 replies and a few thoughts strike me already.
1. This is a much higher response than I would have expected with a paper based one. Even if you ignore the cost, environmental and time benefits this is clearly still a positive move
2. People have been submitting information this evening. If the form were paper based it would be left on somebodies desk. By moving online and into the ‘nearly now’ it becomes easier for people to complete it
3. Of the 32 who indicated what type of job they do within the school (Teacher / TA / Pastoral Team / Other) all but one are teachers. This suggests issues around access to, and familairity with ICT and perhaps also a feeling of inclusion felt by our non-teaching staff. To address this I’m going to offer paper copies to our TAs
I’m not going into details here, suffice to say if you have a Google account you have access to Google Docs, which allows you to set up a form which you can post online or email to people. The information people submit through this form is added to a spreadsheet which updates in real-time. There are alternatives, such as survey monkey, but I’ve been really please so far with what I’ve seen, and I’m pondering making a survey a regular feature on our school website in future.
These are the questions that I’ve asked. I’ll blog again about the responses at some point in the future
- Are you… (A teacher / TA / Pastoral Staff / Other)
- Roughly what percentage of pupils in a given class or year group would YOU define as ‘More Able and Talented’ ?
- What criteria did you use to come to that figure?
- If you are a teacher, to what exent do you think your department meets the needs of pupils who are More Able and Talented in your subject?
- If you are not a teacher, to what extent do you think academic departments generally meet the needs of More Able and Talented pupils?
- Please outline any of the strategies or tactics you use in your teaching or see in classrooms to help meet the needs to MAT pupils in your classes?
- To what extent to you think the school as a whole meets the needs of pupils who are More Able and Talented?
- Do you have any suggestions for ways in which whole school provision for More Able and Talented students can be improved?
- Would you be interested in becoming more involved in the development of a strategy for More Able and Talented students at Olchfa?
- Please use this space to add any other comments you would like to make