An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).
Group work and independent study can now be greatly enhanced by technology. Google Suite has really opened up this space by pioneering the development of real-time collaboration via ICT. This week I’d like to share some tips on how to use Google’s super-cool tools in the classroom.
The Google Suite of services involves a number of apps that students can use for group work, online learning and data processing. The most useful apps that I use in my daily teaching are:
- Google Classroom: This is a place where the teacher can post assignments, upload resources (including links to websites, YouTube videos, PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, etc.) and post questions that the students can comment on. It has a very nice, user-friendly interface and is an absolute blessing when a teacher is absent from school – cover work can be uploaded with ease, and all students will have quick access to that work (and will even receive an e-mail notification every time something new is added to their Google Classroom by the teacher!). It’s a form of Virtual Learning Environment/VLE.
- Google Meets: This is a truly amazing video conferencing platform that’s so easy to use. Basically, you go to https://meet.google.com/_meet and type in a nickname for your meeting. Click ‘join meeting’ and you’ll get a link. Share the link with your students (e.g. through Google Classroom) and, hey presto, you’ll hear some ‘ping’ sounds and students will join your meeting. Cool features include captions (as you and your students talk, you’ll see auto-generated subtitles on-screen) and screen-share (allowing you to share a window with your students – great for explanations). I’ve also beta-tested Google Meets with my iPad Pro and this is where it gets really exciting – you can share your sketch pad and draw things for for every student to see, in real-time! Just brilliant! Check it out!
- Google Slides: Imagine you’re in a group of 5 people, each working on the same slide presentation simultaneously on 5 different computers. You’re all editing the presentation in real time – that’s what Google Slides is, basically. It’s really powerful, and I’ve found that students never grow tired of working in groups to create beautiful presentations. Get your students to present the slides to the class when the project is done and you’ve ticked so many boxes – collaboration, using ICT to enhance learning, leadership skills, courage, and on and on we could go. Just make sure you’re walking around the classroom to check on the students as they are doing the work, and ask the group leader to ‘share’ the work with you (this involves clicking a button, and selecting the teacher’s school Gmail address to share it to).
- Google Docs: This is similar to Google Slides, albeit with a slight difference: the students collaborate on a word-processed document in real time, rather than a slides presentation. It’s great for producing leaflets, infographics, reports, booklets, summaries and traditional ‘assignments’.
- Google Sheets: As the name suggests, this is a spreadsheet application that the students can collaborate on in real-time, in groups. As a science teacher I find that this is perfect for data collection and processing as it can be used to generate graphs and charts. It’s also good for keeping lists (e.g. lists of revision websites).
- Google Forms: Great for surveys and peer-assessment tasks. Students can create forms for other students to fill in, share these forms with their peers, receive responses and the software will even generate pie charts of the responses for quick analysis. It’s a fun way to use ICT to enhance learning, and a quick way to gather interesting data.
- New Google Sites: This is Google’s amazing website creation software. In a matter of a few clicks, students can create their own websites that are securely linked to the school’s G Suite server. I’ve just recently used Google Sites with my Year 7 students to create ePortfolios. These ePortfolios act as online records/journals where the students can record their reflections on their work, school achievements, extra-curricular activities and photographs of schoolwork they are really proud of. At my school, we plan to use these ePortfolios as an ‘entire’ record, with students adding work to them throughout their time at school. It’s something meaningful that the students can take pride in, and spend significant time developing.
Things to be aware of
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with Google Suite, however, and there a few things to watch out for:
- When used extensively in a school, the whole suite involves frequent electronic communication between the teachers and students. This can be a little time-consuming, and one has to be careful that students (and you) are using the school’s official e-mail addresses (and, of course, Gmail works best). It’s very easy to inadvertently log in to your personal Gmail, and comment on a student’s Google Slides with it. You also must ensure that students have not created any Google Suite projects using their personal Gmail addresses, otherwise you could inadvertently send an e-mail or message from your school e-mail address to a student’s personal e-mail address.
- When everyone in the school (students, teachers and admin) are using Gmail, it can be easy to e-mail the wrong person by mistake, especially when you’re in a rush. If you a have a student named Peter, and a colleague named Peter, for example, then if you’re not careful you could end up e-mailing a ‘teacher to teacher’ e-mail to a student. This requires vigilance and although educational technology seems to be gaining pace and speeding up, teachers really do need to slow down when using it to avoid making some silly mistakes.
- Google Suite is easy to use, but it can be a bit daunting at first. Google does offer online training for teachers at a really low price, and if you pass the course you become a ‘Google Certified Educator’ (now that sounds cool!). Check out teachercenter.withgoogle.com for more information.
Accompanying videos (Highly recommended if you want to improve your online teaching skills):