After my great experience at the Google Teacher Academy in Washington, DC in December, I came back excited about implementing Google Apps at my school. Google Apps offers a full package of tools for students and makes it possible for teachers to have some control but not be in control.
In the past, we have had several options for teachers to use when posting information for classes, but none of them give the students a full range of collaboration tools. Blackboard is great for posting assignments and handouts, but our students are not able to share documents with each other. We do have blogs and wikis in Blackboard, but the sharing options are very limited. Teachers also use their personal web pages to post information for parents and students. Some of our teachers have created class Nings which have more of a social networking feel to them. Students can join Ning groups, but are still limited in how they can collaborate. All of these applications are teacher centered – not student driven.
Google Apps for Education has filled a large gap that we had in what we can offer to students. Before implementing Google Apps, we did have teachers asking their students to sign-up for g-mail accounts and share documents, but everything was a little disorganized and out of the teacher’s control. Now with Google Apps, our students can easily share documents, presentations, calendars, and e-mail with the group, the teacher, or individual students.
We’re just getting started with implementation at my school, but we have already seen successes. The group feature makes it very easy for students to communicate with classmates. Students are able to share class presentations or work with other students on the same presentation from remote locations. The great thing about all of this is that the teacher is in on the action and can keep track of student progress by using the revision history. We love having a standardized, professional e-mail account for the students. In a few weeks, our magnet students will begin working on their electronic portfolios using Sites. Our vision is that the students will be able to share these portfolios when they begin completing college applications.
The possibilities are endless, and I’ll share more successes as our implementation of Google Apps continues.