Sunday, 24 August 2014

Google Apps for Education starring Classroom

iPod 3rd Gen.
For the last 5 years or so I have been what most would call an "Apple Fan Boy". I've had the iPhone since the 3GS and now am rocking a fairly "retro" iPhone 5 (upgrade due next year! Grrr) Actually, my first Apple product would have been one of the earliest iPods - you know the one with the touch wheel with four glowing red buttons above it?

I loved that thing! It was released in 2003 so it's probably more like 11 years ago that I started my love affair with Apple. But back then I was still syncing my beautiful, slick 3rd Gen iPod up to a Windows PC. It did the job.

Fast forward to late 2011. I finally took the plunge (and saved enough money!) to purchase my first iMac. Shortly after that, in my role as ICT Coordinator within my school, I finally persuaded my Head Teacher to move the whole school over to Macs. I have barely touched a Window PC since.

Apple iMac
But now, in 2014, I think I'm finding myself drawn to another. Google have been incredibly impressive of late in the education world. With Google Apps for Education (GAfE), they have created something that I'm extremely excited about. Google Apps have been around for a good while now and I know I'm not jumping on GAfE early, by any means. But after recently introducing Google Classroom to the world, my excitement has been increased dramatically.

Using Google Apps in School
I first introduced Google Docs to my staff as a cool way for the children to collaborate together on a single document. I simply created a Google account for each year group so they could login and away they went. This was ground breaking for me. The children could write together on a single piece of work! Not taking it in turns, but complete collaboration for the first time on a word processor. Now Google have a complete suite of Apps including Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Hangouts and very recently Classroom. They have covered everything needed in a school (and business) environment - For teachers as well as pupils. Personally, I've always used Yahoo for my email, Dropbox for cloud storage and Apple Calendar for my... erm... calendar! Yet now I am definitely moving towards Google's suite of Apps, especially Drive.

Google Classroom
One of the reasons I've always loved Apple is that all their products work together seamlessly. The same is true for GAfE, but it's the introduction of Classroom that shows this off perfectly. Now, as Classroom is only a matter of weeks old, I haven't used it with children yet. However, I have tested it fairly well with a 'test pupil' account and it has me seriously excited to roll this out in my school! The home screen of your Classroom is incredibly simple.
My Google Classroom
Click the + next to your email address to create a class. Give it a name and it will appear on your home screen - told you it was simple! As you can see, I have two Classrooms - one for my class next year, and one for staff. Each class has a unique code for you to give to whoever you wish to join your Classroom. Once you have 'students' in your classroom, you are ready to go!

As well as being able to communicate much more efficiently with the class via announcements, the teacher can set assignments. This is where the suite of Docs, Slides and Sheets, used through Drive come in.
As you can see I have set an assignment for my Year 2 class to write a brief recount of their summer holiday. The children will see this in their list of assignments and be given the option to create a new document using Docs, or they can upload a Word document from their computer. Once they have completed the task, they submit their work which then appears as 'done' on my screen. Here is the best bit... Feedback! As the teacher I can now comment on the work done and, if needed, send it back to the child for improvement. They would then resubmit it through Classroom once finished.

Staff CPD
After playing around with Classroom for a few days, I realised that not only can it be used with the children in schools, but also for staff professional development. So I created my 'Staff' classroom!
Do you ever find yourself wanting staff to complete something for you and never get it back? They are incredibly busy people after all and paper is very easy to put down and never find again! As an example, I have added a computing audit for my staff to complete in order to find out what their knowledge and experience is of computing. A copy of the document will magic itself into their free 30GB Drive storage, they would complete it and then submit it back to me through the classroom. Various other tasks and announcements could be created all in one place.

So, there you have it. Google are fighting for my love... and winning! Pull your socks up Apple... :)

Mr B

Questions to you:
I'd love to know what your experiences are in using GAfE. How are you using it? What age group are you using it with? Your success stories?

Friday, 22 August 2014

First Post

Hey! How are you doing? It's really nice to meet you...

This is kind of a test post to be honest. But I'm glad you found my little corner of the internet! Pull up a chair... Would you like a drink?

Here, I'll be posting various interesting (to me, and hopefully to you too) things from the wonderful world of computing, from the perspective of a primary school teacher with no computing qualifications at all...

The fact is, I love computers and technology. It absolutely excites me! Sometimes (often) I spend far too long on Twitter, trying to find out the next new thing. I love using technology to a) make me more efficient in my life/work, and b) to make my life/work more interesting!

So, of course, I'm incredibly biased in using technology in schools. It's not the only way to deliver inspiring content to our pupils. But used correctly it can blow their little minds :)

I completely understand that there are a lot of teachers out there that don't use the latest and best technologies available to them in their schools for a variety of reasons. But there is one reason I can't understand... Not giving it a chance. I have learnt everything I know about technology and computers by "playing around" with it. Something new arrives, I tinker with it. I don't have to master it, but I'll play around till I can see the benefits it may bring to my classroom.

As educators we have an obligation to keep up-to-date with current pedagogy. Technology is everywhere and it isn't going to go away anytime soon. The longer we leave it to catch up, the harder it'll become to be a teacher in this modern world.

Well, That's much more than I expected to write in this first blog! I hope to post more about specific aspects of the new curriculum and on various technologies as the year progresses.

Thanks for reading,
Mr B