OLTD 509 – Blog Post Week #1
I must confess that I get a sinking feeling in my stomach whenever I get a writing prompt like this, because my limited time as a teacher does not leave me with a lot of material to draw from. Add to that the fact that my 2.5 years of teaching thus far has been of the itinerant “substitute” variety, and I find myself really scratching my head when trying to come up with a satisfying response. Having said that, there are a number of schools that I am becoming a regular at these days, and I have opportunity to watch the development of one teacher’s use of Google apps in his classroom. While I was not directly involved, this is the closest I have come, and so will be commenting on what I saw in his classroom, and some of his reflections on his experiences.
The teacher I am writing about had a grade 5 class, and was a pretty computer savy person. I subbed for him quite a bit, and we would often chat about some of the projects that he was undertaking in his classroom. Something that he really wanted to try with his students was to find a way to allow his students to access their digital work from home. his initial idea was to set up dropbox accounts for each his students, who would then upload their word documents etc. as they worked on them. He had been using dropbox successfully for some time, and he had me set up an account to check it out. While it worked well for both of us, there was some concern that the interface and general “usability” of dropbox may not be the best fit for all of his students. This first experiment was abandoned, and he went on to idea #2: Gmail accounts.
Because of the whole patriot act server issue, the idea was to set up student gmail accounts using account names and passwords that students had (hopefully) already memorized for local access in the school computer labs. The idea was that students could email attachments of work to themselves to work at home, as well as adding a social component in the form of email. I think he actually tried this method for a few weeks with his students, and while working better than dropbox, still left something to be desired… Luckily he was one transition away from the program he was looking for: Google apps.
Students were already familiar with the Google layout at this point, so the transition to Google apps was not hard to make. The benefits of google apps (or drive) are pretty self evident to this cohort at this point. Before this program I never used Google drive, now I can’t imagine my life without it. Students now had the opportunity to access their documents at home or at school, collaborate with each other on documents, and share work with their teacher in real time. The teacher had everything set up so that he could track what students were working on and when, and could write comments and feedback on student’s work as they were composing it. This was a big hit for everyone in the classroom. I was able to sit in on a couple of classes once all the bugs were worked out, and it was great to see students working with this technology, and being somewhat fluent in how they navigated Google’s many apps.
It was important for me to see the different versions that were attempted before hitting on a successful fit for this teacher and his class. We have so many options when it comes to potential tech in our classrooms, and I think it is important as Avi has said, to have some sort of filter in place before one dives in. This teacher had a goal in mind, and eventually got there after some trial and error.
I believe that this teacher has been setting up accounts for the other grade 5 class, but have not heard how successfully that has gone. For this sort of initiative to succeed, you need to have someone who believes in the tech, and will be a strong advocate for it in the classroom. I’m not sure if the second grade 5 classroom had a teacher who was as passionate about this initiative, so I’m curious to see how it all played out in this second classroom. I would imagine that student success and engagement with this tech would go a long way to changing that teacher’s mind, and I think the success of any one initiative is to be seen in student’s reactions to it.