Saturday, December 19, 2009

Google Apps for Education

We are beginning a new adventure in technology for our students when we return to school in January. Our students in fifth grade are our "test" students in using Google apps.  They will be given a login to gmail and can access docs, calendars, and pages to produce and share their work in a closed environment.  Our goal is to allow use of web 2.0 tools for student work at school and home, and keep it safe.  We will be a totally closed environment.  Only fifth grade students and their teachers, principal ,assistant-principal, curriculum coordinator, and instructional technologist will have access.  Students can use email, docs (document, presentation, spreadsheet, and form) to complete their work and share it on their own webpage.  All content will only be seen by other students and staff.  Of course we hope to learn a lot with these students in our "test" and hope to expand these logins to more students/grade levels next year. Students can use docs to complete homework and save to share with teachers at school, or use the share feature and email the work to the teacher.  With many families having internet connections, public libraries, and the Winston-Net program (puts computers in recreation and other community centers through-out the county), accessibility is possible for students.

I have to say, it took only a week (with just a couple of days) to set-up all the apps in Google for education The other days were waiting for the new web domain to get through the web (TTL) and send and receive emails.  The help screens are excellent and the guide for set-up is very easy to follow.  Just some quiet time to go through the set-up is all you need.  We did purchase a domain so our students have a shortened email address, but that was the ONLY expense.  We immediately applied to be upgraded to Google for education, which is free, and that gives us more logins than the 50 in the orginal set-up.

My experience so far is incredible - easy - offering more opportunities to students - and so exciting.  Student excitement about using new tools brings/increases enthusiasm to projects and school work.

Our thoughts in the test group - fifth graders are only 5 1/2 short months from completing elementary school and moving to middle school.  These apps will allow them to enhance or learn new skills while developing self-confidence in their abilities.  These students are capable and ready to take another step in learning and technology.  They will question, have problems, and solve problems, and give us experience in using these tools with students.  Step one is complete - now it's time to implement - on to step 2.

Periodically I'll post more information on how our test group of students are doing and the successes and obstacles we find.

 I did spend 2 days in Washington, D.C. with 1 1/2 of those days at the Google office there - it was an amazing experience - even though I had bronchitis and coughed a lot!  The people from Google and the groups of teachers attending were helpful, thoughtful, and enthusiastic about helping students learn to manage  web tools and learning. Google Teacher Academy is highly recommended - an experience unlike any other. Never once heard the words 21st century learning - as our local tech people say, we ARE IN the 21st century, we must step up and use the tools and offer our students the experiences they need to be successful and adjust to the fast-paced world of learning and sharing. We aren't "going there" we are here!

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