Our fifth grade students and one fourth grade class volunteered to be a test group for our school using Google Apps for Education, a free, closed environment for our students to use some of the many web tools. Students have access to email, documents, presentations (like PowerPoint or HyperStudio), forms, sites (webpages), and calendar. We are not using chat at this time. Students have access from school and home. Teachers can send one email to the whole class with an assignment or announcement and students can use the tools (above) and save and share with the teacher. The teacher opens the documents and can grade and reply to the student--no paper!
Students can work on projects in groups. If the teacher begins a group project using presentations, she can name the project (the assignment) and in the subtitle area, list the students who will be working on the project together. Then the teacher shares the project with these students. The teacher can see who make which changes, if some students aren’t working, etc. When the projects are completed, the students can share in class, or by sharing in email with comments on the “sites” page.
In our county we are fortunate to have Winston-Net, which has computers in recreation centers around the county, plus the county public libraries. There are many opportunities for students to have access besides at school.
The entire staff has one day a month scheduled for staff development during planning times to work on google apps. The success is encouraging to teachers. I will update with links to lesson plans and ideas we have tried.