Education

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What’s in your classroom: Is Google Classroom ready to take over?

Google Classroom, Google’s tool for managing, sharing and collaboration in your classroom, has had an important update in the last month. A teacher can now assign a task to specific students, something we can all do ‘in real life’ but teachers who have found Google Classroom to be a time-saving effective tool for sharing content and accessing work have been calling for this feature for some time. To see the other updates, including usage statistics in admin panel click here.

When I presented a Google Classroom session for the first time at an Appsevents summit it solved many problems for teachers who already used Google Drive with their classes but those using Edmodo, Hapara Teacher Dashboard, Moodle liked the interface and usability but when they asked if it:

  • Can share information with parents like show my homework
  • Sync with markbooks like…
  • Work on iOS and Android
  • Annotate student work like…

It didn’t, but it does now! What we have learnt is that the feedback button was worth pressing. Google’s team of project managers and developers read every piece of feedback and have aggregated the main requests to regularly improve the product based on user’s requests. If you appreciate being able to sort by first and last name, you’re welcome.

All the items I listed in my training slides that Classroom couldn’t do have consistently been crossed off. Third party tools have made Classroom even more effective, more and more of your favourite web tools and apps work seamlessly with Classroom. Here are a few of my own favourites:

  • Geogebra
  • Share to Classroom
  • Desmos (sort of)
  • Peardeck
  • Smartamp
  • Texthelp

More and more providers of educational tools are taking advantage of the API access to integrate their tools with Classroom so your favourite may be linked soon if it is not already. Check out the ones that do here.

    For admins, some who eagerly await more integration with the tools teachers want to use, others who have used a lack of integration as a reason to deny teachers use of it, there are now ways to sync users, create classrooms for the whole school and monitor usage. Parents can get updates on assignments and a calendar is created for every class.

    Chromebooks are getting android apps and a stylus to make it even easier for teachers to annotate work submitted, which for me leave one last request…

    Google, please can you develop Google drawings to work seamlessly with touchscreen, stylus and interactive whiteboards?

    Ben Rouse, 2017

    For schools looking to harness technology for learning, can they really look much further than GSuite and Chromebooks?

    Enjoy

    Ben

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    Design Thinking in Schools: Which personas are in your school?

    Students are categorised by grades, level of need, progress from starting points and in some cases background or ethnicity. There are other categories some teachers might wish to use too. Could we use very different characteristics to provide the best learning opportunities for all children?


    Clearly I am not busy enough being head of maths for 3 days a week and Technology for Learning lead across a Multi-Academy Trust for the other two days. To fill in the slack I signed up to an online course on Coursera. The course title is “Design Thinking for Innovation” which has content and cohort discussion over 5 weeks with an assessed reflection at the end.

    Why Design Thinking?

    Design thinking provides a methodology and toolset for developing innovation (innovation is something we can all produce) and I am keen to apply it where appropriate to the way we work in schools. One aspect of the ground work needed to create conditions for Innovation is to go deeper rather than wider to understand the situation in which you are operating.

    Ewan McIntosh’s book “How to come up with great ideas (and actually make them happen)” is a great place to start your design thinking journey.

    How would it work in schools?

    An example for a school would be to consider putting the whole school excel sheet to one side and take time to conduct interviews with 10 to 15 students. The interview in Design Thinking needs to be conducted carefully, taking time to listen. The themes that come from a few deep interviews can provide more understanding of a problem than data from 100s of students.

    Personas

    The course is not education specific, in fact it is mostly business focussed. However, I have found relevance in most of the sessions. One in particular led me to write this post.

    A case study showcased the Design Thinking used by a healthcare start-up who interviewed 20 ‘users’ to define the things that influence their health and well being. From this work the company developed a set of personas to encompass their users, including strategies to help each persona improve their health.

    Consider if in schools we used design thinking to get an understanding of the personas of our students in order to develop strategies for each that help them become better learners? Leaders may also consider this for their staff as recruitment becomes tougher it is valuable to know what will keep your staff motivated and happy. These things won’t be the same for everyone!

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    Would this be of use to teachers and staff in your school? 

     

    If your school takes an approach like this please do share. I will be using this idea as my reflection assignment for the course.


    Further Reading

    Have a look into design thinking in education via the Teacher’s Guild.

    Other books you may wish to consider are:

    • Designing for Growth: A Design Thinkers Guide for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie
    • Edupreneur: Unleashing Teacher Led Innovation in Schools by Aaron Tait and Dave Faulkner

     

    Enjoy

    Ben

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    (1 of 3) Measuring the Impact of Technology on Learning

    How do we measure the impact of technology used to support learning?

    In the first of three posts I reflect on technology’s role in education and how we can measure the impact as we utilise it in our classrooms.

    Learning is a complex system, particularly in schools where we try to turbo charge it from 9am to 3pm. The measure of that learning can often be less complex, such as a letter or number to quantify the learning or benchmark the progress since the last check.

    Technology has always been part of learning…

    Chalk, slate, paper, pens, books and calculators… but we are specifically referring to new technology that has become so ingrained in our lives, therefore schools are grappling with whether and how to embed this technology in learning. If a school gives every child an iPad, will this improve learning? Of course it won’t, any tool is simply a small part of the system but we have become used to measuring impact on learning so much in schools we need to be able to measure the impact of technology on learning but it is crude and dis-ingenuous to measure the impact simply in results. However, schools can spend heavily on technology when budgets are shrinking and the investment needs to be justified.

    Measuring Impact in Schools

    The measures we are used to are

    • Results
    • Lesson Observations
    • Progress indicators

    If I were to visit your school and say

    1. “Implementing technology to support learning will improve results.”
    2. “Lessons with technology are better than those without.”
    3. “Learning with technology will improve student progress”

    I sincerely hope you show me the door as I almost definitely don’t have evidence to back the statements up. Furthermore, if those silver bullets existed you would already be using them.

    However, I do strongly believe that there are some learning experiences that technology can enhance, improve and provide that are not possible without it.

     

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    There are times we have reflected on lessons and note that mini-whiteboards, post-it notes, laminated cards or highlighters could have made the lesson more successful. This is not because it saves paper, looks pretty but because it improves progress, understanding, explanations, discovery, feedback and so on. Hence, I aspire that technology sits less as an entity on its own and becomes ingrained in learning and teaching. There are fantastic tools freely available to teachers that can enhance feedback (The Education Endowment Foundation and Hattie have research to suggest this has a significantly positive impact on learning. For balance you may wish to also read @LearningSpy’s blog post summarising some objections to the use of effect size and this post questioning the statistics in Hattie’s work) to students or facilitate more effective group work or peer review.

    If I were to visit your school and say

    1. “Implementing technology saves teachers time.”
    2. “Lessons with technology allow for more personalised learning.”
    3. “Learning with technology will improve student engagement”

    I hypothesise that I would be much less likely to be shown the door. Technology can be a distraction, irrelevant or a positive impact on learning and I suggest the measures we use to assess the impact of technology need to be discussed and a clear set of agreed measures brought in to general use. The team at Google for Education tried this with a vote on twitter:

    Technology used to enhance personalised learning requires some cultural change in schools as it challenges the teaching styles of many successful teachers, the learning preferences of good children and the digital literacy of both groups. Alongside any implementation of a change to embed technology in learning is a need for training, discussion and a clear vision for learning. The training deficit that I have become aware of as I try to embed technology in learning was highlighted more publicly in late 2015.

    On 15 September 2015, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report called “Students, Computers and Learning” on technology in the classroom and snippets from it formed rather sensationalist headlines, including this one on the BBC website.

    Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD

    The report looks at computer usage across a number of countries and compares outcomes. Using OECD’s Programme for International Assessment (PISA) results from 2012 the report identifies “no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT for education”.

    Do we ‘invest’ in ICT for Education?

    Is investment in ICT for education or technology for learning simply monetary? My school has an investors in people plaque in reception and I am pretty sure that doesn’t mean they pay more than other schools. However, the reference to investment in ICT in the OECD report is a quantitative measure. Despite the media headlines the report is detailed and aware of the data it has and has not used when summarising the findings.

    Technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching.”

    OECD: Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connections, 2015

    Schools will have to choose the level and focus of investment in technology for learning. Whether that takes the form of devices, training, open discussion, design thinking projects, bring your own device (BYOD) policies or even new learning spaces is a big and difficult decision for school leaders to make. Especially as the impact of these measures are unclear, hence this blog post.

    The discussion around technology in schools is often confused,  school leader. There is a distinct difference between school provided technology to support learning and a personal device used by a student. This distinction can be overlooked in the discussion that surfaces via bloggers, newspapers and those with vested interests. An Ofsted spokesperson was quoted in the Times Educational Supplement (TES):

    “Pupils bringing personal devices such as laptops or tablets into school can be extremely disruptive and make it difficult for teachers to teach,” an Ofsted spokesperson told TES.

    This quote is then translated into this headline:

    Ofsted warns against ‘extremely disruptive’ tablets in school

    Richard Vaughan – TES December 2015

    Here is a response to the TES article, (Ensure you also read a follow up post including Ofsted’s response as the reference to disruptive technology was specifically to do with technology in schools not for the use in learning) including a search through Ofsted reports for references to technology’s impact on learning.

    The decision six months ago to equip all students with tablet computers has not been universally welcomed by parents and carers, but the positive impact on students’ learning is obvious. The computers help students to work independently, they give all students equal access to online resources and they provide an excellent communication tool between teachers and students.

    Ofsted Report June 2012 – Secondary (School overall judged as Outstanding)

    The impact of technology on learning to this inspection was ‘obvious’ so we know it when we see it. The impact measures suggested by this inspector are

    • Independence
    • Equal access
    • Effective communication

    Did this school implement tablet computers because they identified weaknesses in these areas? When I work with schools advising them on their use of technology to support learning the first document I request is the school development plan as there is no point developing technology or the use of it in anything that does not support the key focuses of that school. Therefore the measures have to be the same measures schools put in place every day, week term and year.

    The OECD report summarises the implications of the findings and suggests that schools are not yet able or ready to embed technology in learning and leverage the potential. I agree, that we are yet to develop a clarity on how we want technology to blend into pedagogy and schools. I feel this provides more support for a drive to agree tangible measures for the impact of technology. What is the problem we are solving? The implications section concluding the OECD report implies the following potential benefits of technology in education:

    • Equality
    • Digital Literacy
    • Teacher and Student Collaboration

    I suspect a search through school development plans will find many that want equality, more officially known and closing the gap. A number of approaches can support this and technology, planned and implemented well, can help. However, a poorly executed implementation of technology can bring into sharp focus the inequality between students. We often hear educators present the now familiar concept that “we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist yet” (if I had a penny…) and therefore the use of technology in schools is necessary to prepare them for the world they are going into. However, I didn’t have any such preparation and I think I am doing fine. Technology is already allowing teachers to share and collaborate and we have dumped millions of mediocre to poor resources onto our blogs, social media and resource sites.

    What would your measures of impact be?

    In part 2 of this 3 parts blog series I want to focus on the tool versus the teacher.

     

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    Does UK have “edtech integrators”?

    I started writing a post some time ago:

    “I don’t think we do and if not why not?

    What is a edtech integrator?

    Chris Betcher wrote an interesting post about his role as a tech integrator. This is a term I have heard from US based educators using tech and Chris is based in Australia. I have no knowledge of such a role in the UK beyond enthusiastic teachers like myself developing a role for ourselves to support the use of technology for learning within our own schools.

    A true tech integrator seems to straddle a number of schools in alliances, districts or chains and oversee the training, implementation and support of technology to support and enhance learning.

    Why does US have edtech integrators?

    With a system like our Local Authorities still in place the US districts have a clear need for tech integrators as they will implement district wide implementations of Google Apps, Office365, ipads or chormebooks and they need people in place to make sure the investment has impact and there is consistent use of the new tools.

    Where is edtech on the UK schools agenda?”

    Since beginning that draft… er I think I have become one?

    From September I will be working as a mathematics teacher for three days a week and supporting technology for learning across my school’s academy chain for two. The role is aimed at working with the school leaders in the academy chain to get the most out of their existing technology to support learning and develop longer term strategies to enhance their provision to support learning and teaching with technology in effective and efficient ways.

    I initially met with heads of the schools and the response has been fairly positive in that they seem to be very open to the idea of someone supporting the school’s strategy in an area they do not always feel is one they possess excessive expertise in.

    So, I am hoping that I will be able to share the role of an “edtech integrator” in UK with you.

    Exciting times ahead

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    Going Google at my School: Y2 – Autumn 2014 Review

    Having implemented Google Apps for Education (GAfE) over a year ago it was time to get some feedback. The new academic year has seen a boost in the number of people logging into their school Google account so now the majority are logging in I want to know what they think about the experience.

    Staff and Student Feedback

    I sent out two Google forms, one to students and one to staff that were similar but some of the questions were adjusted. You can see a copy of the questions via the links below. The survey links were sent out by email twice each.

    Student Survey (188 responses out of 1800 students)

    Staff Survey (40 responses out of 140 staff)

    Both the students and staff were asked to assess the impact they felt GAfE had had on learning. Here is their response:

    Students:

    1 - very negative 5 - very positive

    1 – very negative
    5 – very positive

    Staff:

    1 - very negative 5 - very positive

    1 – very negative
    5 – very positive

    The written feedback provides the most interesting data and there are a few themes that come through in everyone’s comments. These are:

    • Lack of clarity on technology’s role in education
    • A need for consistent use with clear vision from leadership
    • Training for students and staff (i.e. time)
    • Infrastructure issues have limited access
    • Lack of single sign on

    Here is my favourite item of staff feedback

    “I am still in the Google mis’Ap(p)s stage of conscious incompetency… I’m afraid to say I’m tempted to assume a partial Canutian stance, such that despite realising that the tide has turned (irrevocably) I find myself, nonetheless, wondering whether death by drowning might be preferable.”

    And favourite student contribution

    “Chromebooks look like they have potential to be a everyday learning tool.”

    We had better find a way to get some!

    Best Practice

    Blogs

    Google Drive/Classroom

    • MfL – Marking and feedback on coursework
      • Presented to MfL faculty
    • PE Faculty – Written work in theory lessons and adoption of Google Classroom. The faculty have also included the use of Google Apps in their quality of standards review.
    • A-level Chemistry – Feedback sheet
    • Y12 Maths use of Google Classroom to enhance peer support and independence.
    • Admin are using forms for a vast amount of communication and data collection with parents and for options/applications.
    • Assistant Head lead successful training session on Child protection with other LMT members using a collaborative document
    • Drama are using Google Drive to share and collaborate
    • Computing use Google Classroom in every lesson to share course material, assign homework and resources. One teacher has reported an increase in homework being submitted on time for her Y11 group.
    • Law have implemented PLCs with Y12 and 13 students having seen a similar approach from Business Studies.
    • SEND are transferring information about students to Folders and sharing so they all have access to up to date information.

    Google Sites

    • Data site is in progress.
    • Sites have now been created for every house based on one head of house’s site as a template.
    • ICT BTEC are using Google Sites to create their portfolios.

    If you are an avid reader you may notice that Learning Portfolio sites for Y7are not listed. Currently they have not had the impact and exposure I would have liked so they are proving less effective but I continue to try and worm with Heads of Faculty and Teachers to see if they can be useful.

    Professional Development

    Next Steps

    Going forward I have created a timeline, shared with key stakeholders in the school. These include…

    • ICT Director
    • Head of School
    • Line Manager

    The timeline provides some next steps under a number of areas of technology for learning and I am recording progress against each one monthly. The key areas for development still revolve around

    1. Culture
    2. Training
    3. Leadership

    I have also purchased a copy of Stratosphere by Michael Fullan as people I trust say it is a must read in my position.

    Maybe a review on this blog will be necessary.

    Enjoy

    Ben

    Google Educator Group UK 2014-15

    What will this academic year hold for teachers using Google tools and how can the Google Educator Group help?

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    Google Educator Groups have sprung up around the world since they were launched and I have been involved with the UK one. We have had some hangouts and there is a Google plus community of around 350, however some other groups such as GEG Melbourne and many across the US have had events and meetups. The GEGs in countries like India and Philippines have huge numbers and they appear to be thriving.

    Some regional GEG groups have started in the UK.

    GEG UK London

    GEG UK North East

    GEG UK South East

    The UK has pockets of educators using Google Apps for Education (GAfE) very effectively but the number of schools with GAfE accounts suggests there are possibly thousands of teachers with access to use the tools.

    • Do those teachers know how to use the tools and what they can do?
    • Do they want to more about how they can be used?
    • Would they attend training on a weekend?
    • Would they be interested in meeting teachers who are using the tools for learning?
    • Can the current members of GEG UK provide any guidance for school leaders in schools with GAfE?
    • Do any UK schools give a budget to their teachers to choose their PD for the year?

    If you read this I would imagine you are not the target for the GEG UK but the people you work with are. Can you ask them if they are interested in learning more about the potential for Google Apps for Education and if so what support, resources and events can GEG UK provide.

    Thanks

     

    Ben Rouse

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    Google Classroom – an overview

    Google have taken on board feedback from teachers about using Google Apps and have created a tool to tidy up sharing with your classes and administering assignments and marking online.

    Here are a selection of posts, videos and links that provide you with everything you need to know to use Classroom effectively in your schools.

    Setup for GAfE Admins:

    Google’s full help guide can be found here but I have found Ziggy Dzeigman and Michael Fricano II to be most helpful via the Google Classroom community on Google+

    Resources for Training and Supporting Teachers to get started.

    This is a pretty comprehensive video that guides you through creating classes and adding assignments.


     

    Training Materials

    Appsevent’s Sarah Wood has created a six part blog to guide you through Classroom.

    Carolyn Wendell was part of the Google Classroom team and she shared some training materials to help deliver training to teachers.

    Kasey Bell has contributed a number of resources to a Pinterest board on Google Classroom

    This could be the only printing you need to do all year!


    What it doesn’t do…yet

    All users have to be on the same domain. (teachers.domain.com and students.domain.com would not currently work but this seems to be something Google are looking into)

    Adding groups via their email address (I have not been able to add students in one go using classcode@domain.com but hopefully this will be resolved soon.

    Grading is only summative but formative grading can be applied in other ways. I tried to summarise this in a video but I think it might be a bit too swift. The idea is that is tracks an assignment transferring from teacher to students and vice versa.

    Comparisons to other LMS (Learning Management Systems)

    Google Apps for Education is free so that gives it a significant advantage to start with even if you haven’t realised that the tools provide a fabric for learning better than other technology available to schools. However, to make the process of using GAfE seamless there are a range of free and paid for additions you can add to Google Apps to make it work even better. On the initial announcement of Google Classroom questions were asked about whether it was the end for these tools. The developers and users of these tools have been quick to dispell this idea. Here are a couple of posts to help you get an idea of the arguments.

    Andrew Stillman explains his view for Classroom and Doctopus etc. here.

    Hapara’s Teacherdashboard is an impressive management system for Google Drive. Here is their own take on Google Classroom.

    As I get the chance to work with my colleagues I hope to feedback on the impact of using Google Classroom in our school and add it to the “Going Google at my school” series.

    Enjoy

     

    Ben Rouse