Tag Archives: Google Docs

Google Docs, Student Writing & Feedback

Our Education Edition of Google Apps allows access to the suite of apps not only for the staff at school but also the students. All students in my class have their own account allowing them to use Gmail, Chat, Docs, Video, Sites and Calendar within our domain.

Students exclusively use Docs for their formal written language. While the initial planning or brainstorming phase may or may not be completed digitally, the complete draft-share-feedback-improve-publish-share process is completed within the Google Apps environment.

We have a school-wide approach to giving feedback on written work, where highlighters are used to indicate where or how a student has met the success criteria (gold) or areas that can be improved (pink). We use the phrases Gold for Goal and Pink for Think to reinforce this process.

Due to the process being completed digitally and the availability of colours in the Docs highlighting palette, I have extended upon the use of gold and pink highlights to include blue and red for the students to use in their self-assessment reflection cycle. These are shown below in the image I generated for use as a poster around the classroom.

highlighter

The whole process is made manageable and possible by the sharing function built in to Docs. The simplified process looks like this with examples below:

  1. Student writes 1st draft of writing and checks independently against the success criteria. Improvements made.
  2. Student shares writing with teacher (or another student).
  3. Teacher/student highlights text as required in pink or gold and provides additional written prompts to improve writing.
  4. Posted to eportfolio.
  5. Student improves writing as per teacher/student feedback.
  6. Student completes own assessment with blue and red highlights.
  7. Posted to eportfolio.

Writing with teacher highlights:

Writing with student highlights:

The process works extremely well in terms of a reflective learning cycle. I will stress however that this process does not replace face to face feedback and conferencing. It is perhaps best viewed as a checkpoint in the learning to formalise some of the ongoing learning conversations. The process also clearly indicates how a student responds to feedback and guidance on how to improve their learning.

I think this is a really good example of how Web 2.0 tools, when grounded in sound pedagogy, really do help facilitate improved learning. I would recommend you give it a go even if you only trial it with a small group of children!

Google Video for Education

Since switching over our domain to Google Apps Education Edition in March of this year, the transition has been very smooth. Gmail and Chat provide seamless day to day communication and while the only PD has focused on Gmail, Docs is taking off on its own accord as staff see the benefits and ease at which they can share documents for a more collaborative approach to school admin and planning. For example, the notion of one staff member being solely in charge of the duty roster is gone as the ownership of this is shared and staff can edit and negotiate independently. Can’t wait to see how the next step of rolling out school wide use of Calendars is received.

However another bonus of the App package is having our very own Google Video site. At this stage the Education Edition allows for us to have 10GB of storage for videos. While that does not sound like heaps, the average size of our students’ podcasts or short movies is between 2-3MB once exported, so that’s about 3300 videos we can store, for free. Not only free, but in a completely secure, safe and add free environment.

For our portfolios we have been using Teacher Tube to host and store our video content which has been proving reasonably successful. I have blogged about this before here. But TeacherTube has just completely revamped their site and now includes storage for photos, audio and documents. While this is a good improvement, the site revamp changed all the embed codes for the video content in my students’ portfolios. Grrrrrrrr. Should I just accept this as the changing nature of Web 2.0 environments? Grrrrrr. Regardless, after this happened, TeacherTube ceased to be my preferred option. The good news is that Google rolled out their Video hosting service to their Apps Education Edition.

So what are the other features, pretty much the usual video storage stuff…

  • You can upload all native Apple video formats such as .mov and .m4v
  • You can embed into your blog or wiki
  • You can restrict which users within your domain can upload video content. Google specify that it should only be staff
  • Your domain admins can edit/delete any uploaded video
  • Videos can be shared with individuals, with groups, anyone within or out of your domain with just viewing rights or collaborative privileges, just like a Google doc.

So does it work well? Sure does. Here’s an example thanks to my new entrant students from 9 years ago!

ePortfolios: Term 1

With the first term of teaching all wrapped up it is time to reflect on how the eportfolios have performed to date. After making the decision to move from our self-hosted install of WordPress MU to Edublogs, the technical side of the move has been reasonably seamless. There has been some new learning for both the students and teachers but these will become more automated and natural the more the actions are performed. Some how to tutorial links are provided below as well.

Flickr has been extensively used to host any images that are embedded in the eportfolios. The great thing about this is that you can embed images that you have set as viewable only by you in Flickr. This allows you to keep images private if necessary. Uploading to Flickr is incredibly easy especially if you have iLife ’09 which comes complete with iPhoto Flickr integration where you can upload and set permissions all with the click of the mouse. Also we can bulk upload scanned artwork, draft learning, planning etc. direct from our photocopier to Flickr making it easy to get learning online.

If you are interested a worksheet/tutorial is here for you to see the process.

We have used TeacherTube for a couple of years now to embed video content into our school blog and now we are using it for eportfolios as well. This is generally going well but is not the best solution to use. Firstly, making videos private in TeacherTube makes them unable to be embedded so video content is public. Any video not suitable for public viewing is naturally not shared in this way. TeacherTube has so far proven to be safe with no undesireable content seen, unlike YouTube which has caused us a few problems in the past. TeacherTube is also a bit if a pain for a Mac user as most of the video content produced and shared through iLife is either in a .m4v or .m4a format which is not accepted. This can create an extra step in getting content online by having to convert it to a .mov, .mp4, .avi etc. There are other sites out there that will accpet the default Mac formats but these may compromise the relative safety of the TeacherTube environment. Hopefully the soon to be released new revamped TeacherTube site will change this…

Worksheet/tutorial is here.

SlideShare is proving to be easy for the students to use to get their iWork Keynotes online. While we could produce these using Google Docs or SlideRocket and embed them, Keynote is such a great program that the students are so familiar with that it just makes sense to maintain using it. Sure you loose any fancy animations when uploading to SlideShare but as I keep asking my students, do whizzing words and spinning pictures actually add to your learning and sharing of information? Apart from the same privacy issues as mentioned above for TeacherTube, SlideShare is working perfectly for embedding content.

Worksheet/tutorial is here.

Finally, students have also been sharing their draft and reworked versions of their writing through their eportfolios by pasting in their Google Docs documents. While pasting in their writing in this way is not perfect, it is working well enough and there were just not enough hours in the day to take the students through the process of cross posting their docs to their blog. Maybe next term.

So that is the technical side of the progress to date. The next post will discuss parent engagement in the commenting/feedback/feedforward process.

Why Google Apps?

So the question posed has been why? Why did we need to change our system over to Google? This goes well beyond email (Gmail), which is the only App we have currently implemented across the school, and I would like to think the move sets us up to participate more collaboratively and more effectively together.

I guess the big picture view for me is of the changing nature of knowledge. Traditionally we often held on tightly to any knowledge we had, keeping it to ourselves and maybe sharing it with others on occasion. When we did share, others filed the photocopy away, or watched the movie but gave no feedback.

The notion that knowledge belongs to someone is all a bit bizarre really and thankfully evidence and trends show that knowledge assumes a greater force when it is shared, discussed and built on. Wikipedia of course is the classic modern example. I am certainly not alone in thinking this and perhaps the best known explanation I know of can be found in this clip by Charles Leadbetter.

Other background thinking and recognition of other trends comes in the way of the Horizon Reports, released each year in a variety of formats. The reports are:

an ongoing research project that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within education around the globe. practical models as well as access to more detailed information.

The recently released 2009 Horizon Report K-12 describes Collaborative Environments:

Collaborative environments are virtual workplaces where students and teachers can communicate, share information, and work together. A growing emphasis on collaboration in education — and an increasing recognition that collaboration is the norm in many modern workplaces — has led more teachers to seek tools to facilitate group interaction and teamwork in their classes. Online spaces designed to support groups of students working together take many forms…

The report suggests collaborative environments have a time-to-adoption horizon of one year or less. If we also look at the 2008 and 2009 Horizon Reports including the 2008 Australia and NZ Edition Horizons Report, they also describe cloud computing, collaboration webs, collective intelligence which all describes the ability to create, share and collaborate online.

So really the answers as to why we have changed is really me standing back and looking at the big picture of what not only the school administrative systems might look like in the next couple of years, but more importantly one of the ways the students will be actively learning.

While I can see quite clearly how this will look and develop, I have the advantage of having used this environment for the past few years, Gmail since its conception in 2004. I must always keep this in the back of my mind when planning and strategically implementing the Apps with the staff. Already staff are seeing the potential benefits and I can’t wait for the momentum to keep building.

GMailed

The past couple of weeks has brought about some major changes to way we are administering our email and calendering systems within our school. We have taken the step to switch our email over from being administered on our own server to the convenience and power of the mighty Google.

The switch happened seamlessly, only requiring a phone call to Inspire to change our MX records to point to Google not to our school’s server. Everything else was completed online, and once Inspire flicked the switch over our Gmail was up and running within a couple of hours once the domain name change had propagated around the globe. After Google had authenticated us as an educational institute, which took about 10 days, we were upgraded to the Education Edition and now have add free services, more comprehensive admin features and the ability to create and manage 100’s of users, all for zero cost. It is very easy to administer the services and like any Google product, there are discussion forums on any conceivable problem you may encounter.

The change has meant some new learning for staff as they have shifted from using Apple’s Mail, to the web based Gmail. Email addresses have remained the same. Those already using Gmail welcomed the transition but others, as with anything new, questioned the need to do it. Managing this change is always the key to making it work.

So why did we change? Here are some of the key reasons.

  • Google apps becomes a one stop shop for school admin. Our existing set-up was a mish mash of systems that meant going to a variety of places to view calendars, check email, shared contacts, chat, video conference, book facilities etc. Google apps gives us that under one log in.
  • Anytime anywhere access. While previously available, the ease of the new system makes the old method seem very clunky.
  • Collaboration! Collaboration! Collaboration! The Google Apps package is built around the notion of sharing, participation and working together.

The one disappointment I have with the Google Apps package is that Google Reader is not part of the service. To access this, you needs to have a separate Google account. Having Reader as part of this service would really make it the hub for all your professional learning network needs. I would also love to see Google’s Custom Search function put in the package.

The biggest challenge I can see is the dependence of staff on using Word or Pages to create documents and then emailing them as attachments to the recipients. While there will always be a need to do this, a huge amount of this documentation can more simple be shared with users. This is a huge change in thinking and approaching how information is shared and worked on among multiple users. Something to keep modeling throughout the school.

ULearn08 Workshop Data

In my ULearn08 workshop, Assessment for Learning and ePortfolios, I had the attendees complete a couple of questionnaires to get a better picture of where they were at with their eportfolio development. Made in Google Docs, these forms are super easy to make and share.

Interesting as a snapshot or cross-section of the conference goers.

And in answer to the question: What is the one thing that you would like to know of take away from this workshop? here is a sample of the ideas and questions posted.

  • To be able to implement e-portfolios within my school
  • Ideas for the setting up of eportfolios
  • Practical examples for implementing, management strategies, PD requirements
  • Software available to create e-portfolios.
  • Examples of e-portfolios.
  • Interactivity from school to home. Ability for students to be able to access and edit work from home in a safe and secure way.
  • Examples of others eportfolios
  • Some ideas for starting along the eportfolio track
  • The most appropriate software to support e-portfolios,
  • The possibility and options for ePortfolio for our school, or even just pioneering in my class.
  • How eportfolios are managed and shared with parents & whanau
  • How to manage ePortfolios with Junior 0 – 2 students so that they are authentic, student-centered, but manageable for teachers
  • How to keep the portfolios as an assessment tool eg feed forward comments etc, use of rubrics for work
  • Successful stories of using them
  • Mistakes you have made that we by knowing about will not make
  • What are e-portfolios and how/why should our school implement them?
  • The value of e portfolios as a tool for assessment and improving outcomes
  • Ideas of how you have set these up (what is included) and how you have allowed access to staff, student and parent access

It is really interesting to see so many of the questions that our school had also asked as we began our initial exploration into ePortfolios. Unfortunately, there is no one solution fits all.

I really enjoyed the workshop and a big thank you goes to those that attended for your participation in these questionnaires.