Do you Google?

Bringing Google Apps for Education to schools is one thing but making it work depends on commitment from staff, good training and support and a willingness to try something new……

So I was surprised to hear a good friend and former colleague from another school say that he didn’t trust Google. Google was filtered. Searching on Google was banned. What on earth!

I tried to explain the direct links between using Google Apps for Education and improving his results in English and Maths; greater collaboration, maximum productivity and opportunities to become producers rather than consumers. He seemed interested in Google Classroom – the place to link teachers, assignments and learning (for free).

It was a battle to open the door and I was certain that I was going to keep it at least ajar. Google Docs would allow departments to share resources with a click. Collaboration on schemes of work and lesson plans would be a piece of cake. Sharing them with Faculty Heads for commenting and feedback – easy. Students sharing work with each other and teachers would allow powerful peer critique. It opens doors. Concerns over coursework? Over generous feedback? Just tailor the share settings or create the environment where that doesn’t happen. Let’s face it if students have a ‘cheat’ mindset, they will find a way. Google Apps create the environment. It’s our job as educators to teach young people how to make the most of it. Haven’t we all been watching something or mid-conversation and the urge to ‘Google it’ wells up in our finger tips? Use the research facility in a document and cite your work with one click.

Google Chrome is a web browser providing all sorts of extensions and apps to make the classroom interactive, intuitive and engaging. Pixelate, animate, calculate and integrate as you like it. The Webstore brings you apps like Evernote Clearly – strips blogs and webpages down to the basic text and images. Great if you are a page jumper and you need to focus. Improving literacy

Google Sites takes the learning onto the world stage. As soon as students know that someone other than their teacher is going to scrutinise and criticise every inch, they up their game. Publish student work to the class, the school or the parents and the whole world. A game changer. Use it as a place for students to upload their work. Easy to click through their webpages, based on a template, to see their efforts.

Google Drive brings all this together. Upload files and folders. If you don’t convert them to Google Docs then you can add terabytes of the stuff. The power comes in the collaboration, the ease of sharing and the security of knowing that you can search and retrieve previous versions with just a couple of clicks.

So, we are planning to meet and discuss training for some key staff – champions if you like. A short presentation to the Head and her team and a chance to look at simple integration into the classroom. My next mission is another school, a little further afield, where the Curriculum Deputy is keen to see staff working together and sharing precious time more productively. An open mind is all I need.

Google Apps for Education is a suite of tools to improve collaboration, creativity and productivity. Patrons report feeling happier and more willing to share resources and chocolate. They talk to each other. Achievement and progress follow. There’s a link for techs and people that need to know how here: .

I also explain to people that I don’t work for Google. I am not sponsored by Google. I just help people become more digitally productive.

Animations for teachers

Having watched a number of animations over the years that have been of the ‘doodle while I talk’ style, I thought I would share some of the good ones I have seen and the types of site that might help you make your own. My favourites tend to come form the RSA animate series where über eloquence is blended into fast hand drawing on a whiteboard. It’s incredibly engaging and quite mesmerising and you find yourself watching bits again because you were concentrating on the drawing instead of the listening. The first one is Dan Pink – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us There is much insight into this well thumbed/clicked talk given by Dan Pink. The animation highlights key aspects and pulls it all together nicely. The second one is Sir Ken (Robinson) – brackets because everyone’s heard of Sir Ken haven’t they. He packed out the BETT 2015 Arena in January this year. Standing room only. His talk about Shifting Paradigms is a succinct look at how our current system is fundamentally flawed, needless and economically unsound. The animation is here. The most recent one to cross my twitter feed (@ICanTeach_Uk) was David Marquet (@ldavidmarquet) with a ‘promoted’ look at leadership. His feed showed an animation (again) to accompany an excerpt from a book called Turn the ship around about life on a submarine. It suggested that in highly effective organisations, there are leaders at every level. Worth a look.

So, in response to my own increased and sustained levels of engagement, I thought I would have a crack. First attempt was a look at how Causeway School in Eastbourne could involve all stakeholders in a process of digitalisation – taking the big steps into the 21st Century of digital learning and embedding technology fully into a forward thinking school. Here is the link: The idea of involving students in their creation opens all sorts of possibilities – short snippets of eloquence joined together and animated. Suddenly revision got interesting. Learning times tables gets easier because the visual stimulation multiplies any impact the ears might provide by ten times. Learning pronunciation in Spanish, French or Mandarin switches from monotone to full technicolour. Telling the story of the rise of Hitler or the fall of the Roman Empire can be created, nurtured and retold in a hundred different ways depending on the storyteller and the animator. My favourite site for doing this was VideoScribe There is a basic package and a pretty reasonable subscription pricing scheme for teachers and class groups. There others available but I tried to set them up and the time taken to ‘have a play’ and come up with something half decent was beyond viable certainly in terms of sanity. So try it. You can record a voice of your own or take some else’s using and keeping the audio. You can use songs, speeches, stories and much more. Then animate for your life.

Why TED?

Just a great source of information, thinking skills and life hacks. Everyone should have a little TED in their lives each week. Often uplifting, frequently thought-provoking and seldom boring, most people can find something on TED. One of my favourites recently is Rita Pierson, who sadly died last June after a long battle against illness. She provides a great insight into why people work with youngsters. Go searching for some of the others we like such as Brain Magic and Creativity…..

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is the solution to so many classroom issues. Easy to set up and constantly in a beta mode so that everyone can add to its development. The key part is the means by which classes can be allocated either assignments (homework) or posts for information and announcements. It is easy to set a particular task to smaller groups of students and to provide separate copies of tasks to each student. Now, the best bit. They submit their work back to you ( turn it in) and then you can comment on it and allocate a grade. It uses the technology of Google Docs, sheets, slides etc, so you can find yourself commenting on or grading a piece of work in real time. So, the opportunities for quick, useful and meaningful feedback are obvious. The students can improve their work based on your critique and the essence of multiple drafting and redrafting is available. This leads to higher quality work by miles.

So, once the assignments have been set to a particular time and date, you can check progress along the way, offer significant and important feedback and critique and then give a final grade based on a rubric that you have already provided in an easily accessible location within the ‘classroom’. It is also easy to tell who has submitted their work or not. If they are late, I mark them down by 10 points: a grade. Once all the grades are entered, I can download a useful parents evening tool in the form of a spreadsheet, that gives all the grades for all the assignments since the beginning of time. Well, since the beginning of term. Its as powerful as having their books in front of them, as you can pull up evidence of submissions, feedback offered and improvements made. It’s a real time saver and with limited set up it rivals expensive options or iPad apps that need a great deal of time invested in them. The key part for me is the motivation for the learner. They can engage with it from any device at any time from wherever they like. They get feedback quickly and are then able to see specifically what they need to do to improve. From a teacher’s point of view, it’s an extra tool. It’s a good use of time and drastically reduces that time taken looking through books. In my view – well worth a look!

Games in learning

A look at how Kahoot might help you engage your students.

I have spent most of my years teaching trying to engage students. Some tactics have been more successful than others. The element of surprise has always been lurking and is often a winner, particularly as a science teacher. Expect the unexpected! So, best to be prepared then. Crafting a lesson plan is one thing but introducing the flexibility to divert and go with the flow is a tough ask and demands a little more resilience and adaptability. A significant part of my planning would be on assessing progress and demonstrating skills or knowledge that they didn’t have when they came in that day.

Using Kahoot , the game-based classroom response system, which allows students to engage on a completely different level has changed the way I view assessment for learning. On a simple level, it’s a quiz. Everybody loves a quiz. Especially when you know the answers. The questions go up on the board and the students answer. Easy. What makes Kahoot so good is the technology. It’s nothing revolutionary but it makes the application of ‘checking progress’ look like child’s play. You need WiFi and you need a reasonable number of devices, preferably but not essentially handheld. You need to display the option choices. The key part of the game is that students can make their choices without putting their hand up or without shouting out. It’s ok to make a mistake. In fact, they will declare it quite vehemently under the guise of ‘pressing the wrong button….’. The risk of public humiliation is dramatically reduced. That is until the scores are revealed. The quicker the correct response, the more points awarded. The top five scores are displayed but every player knows their position and they know how far behind the next player they are. The teacher can control the pace of the questions, both in setting a time limit for response and manually between questions. This can create a furious-paced five or ten minute plenary or a slightly slower examination of right and wrong answers.

You can easily introduce literacy and numeracy. A key requirement is that students read the question. It’s easy to make the answers phonetically similar or group words of similar spellings. You can also involve students in creating the quizzes. They become researcher, collator, writer and developer in one part of the lesson and quiz master in the next. The metacognition involved in this process and the access to higher order thinking skills is tangible. Kahoot is as versatile as you would want it to be. You can add video clips and images to stimulate responses at the beginning of the quiz or in each question. You can also draw on other users’ quizzes. You might be able to copy and adapt these but also share yours with others either in your school or more widely. Have a look for quizzes on ‘Frozen’ or Logos or chemical symbols. What is undeniable is the sustained interest that is generated in the students. The elements of competition, pace and challenge combine to make this a real winner.

Some top tips for using Kahoot:

  • Keep it relatively short – 20 questions maximum and 10-15 minutes
  • Stick to real names on set up – it avoids subtle name calling
  • Involve students in setting their own quizzes
  • Take some time to add images or a video at the start
  • Make yours public and add some good tags
  • Use a flipped model of learning – set a video to watch first
  • Try with staff – it will transform briefing sessions
  • Use it across all subjects
  • Have fun with it