Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why Google?

This year we have moved our students and teachers over to Google as a platform for student work. The alacrity with which the students and teachers have embraced this transition has been breathtaking. I thought it would be time well spent outlining how we are using the new Google platform, present a few anecdotes from the classroom, and orient us towards how this could be used in the future.

One note is that we are hardly the first school to be using Google in the classroom or as a base platform for student work. Google offers a school-specific platform for student-to-student, teacher-to-student, and teacher-to-teacher collaboration that is free. What follows are the different ways in which we are using Google with our students.

What We Are Using

  • Google Drive: We are using the Google Drive App as our new server. All student (and teacher) work is saved to their Google Drive account. Google Drive (and all the Google Apps) are cloud based, which means the content and material can be accessed from anywhere the student can get access to a computer (or tablet or smartphone) and WiFi (or 3G or 4G data plans). 
  • Google Docs: Docs is Google's version of the Microsoft suite of software. A Doc is essentially Word, Presentation is PowerPoint, and Spreadsheet is Excel. Additionally, there is a Form and Drawing app within Google Docs. The best part, almost any file or document can be uploaded and converted to a Google Doc and then shared with collaborators.
  • Google Sites: Sites is the website template that Google offers. Students and teachers can use this App to create websites that can act as static websites or collaborative wikis. We are using Sites most prominently in the 8th grade Portfolio program
  • Google Blogger: Blogger is the blogging App. Teachers and students can use this to develop blogs on subjects or projects. We are using Blogger to manage our production of Honk, as well as for our Science classes

Some Examples

  1. 8th Graders are sharing their introductions to the Portfolio products and mentors and Mr. Skeen are offering feedback and revision directly to the students in almost real time. 
  2. Mr. Schoultz is sharing worksheets with children for homework. They need only sign into Google and go to their Drive and their homework is ready for them to complete. When it comes time to "hand in" the homework, they need only press Share. 
  3. Mr. Vogel is using the research tool on Google Docs to leverage the power of the Google search engine to find scholarly articles on a research paper topic and provide proper citation in 0.000098 seconds. 
  4. Mr. Carrick is sharing a selection from The Outsiders to his class, showing the document on the screen and students, when called upon are highlighting and discussing the different examples of imagery. 
  5. Mrs. Niegelsky is sharing notes from class directly with a student who was sick, so they can use them complete the homework. 
  6. We have sent out multiple surveys that have been created with Forms. Parent/Teacher conference sign up is done through a Spreadsheet. 
  7. Mr. Skeen is taking video of his students first attempt at a dramatic speech, sharing it via a private YouTube link, and providing feedback and pointers directly through a Google Doc that is linked to the video. 

How You Can Learn More

John Schoultz, our Middle School Technology Coordinator, has offered multiple workshops for parents on how we are using Google in the middle school. If you are interested in learning more please contact him at

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