Sunday, 22 June 2014

Ontario Google Summit

This past April was the second Ontario Google Summit in Kitchener.  You may remember that it was at this summit last year, that I got inspired to start my 20% project (here).  I have learned so much about Google in the past year and have been fortunate to share my learning at both YRDSB Google Camps, as well as in my own school.

The two days in Kitchener are jam packed with interesting, informative and inspiring sessions.  The best way to follow everyone's thoughts were through the # on twitter: #ongafesummit or just #gafesummit (then you can see what is happening at all of the summits throughout the year).  I found that I measured how well the days were going through takeaways; things that inspired me, my teaching and my own learning.

The first takeaway came in the keynote session where I got to hear from Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera), a passionate and funny teacher.  Her keynote for me was all about engagement, and how we have to connect it to what the students like to turn it into creation because that turns it into empowerment.  That last word sums up my takeaway theme for the summit: empowerment.

How can I empower students? Staff? How can technology facilitate this?  I had so many questions.  Ken Shelton's keynote on the second day helped as he challenged us over the hour.  He told us to 'just make 1 minor modification, don't get bogged down in the minutiae".   He continued to challenge us to answer if we were risk assertive or risk adverse.  Such a great question because we are mainly risk adverse because we are scared to fail!  I have tried over this past school year to help my students understand that failing is not a bad thing, because from failing you see where you need to focus and learn.  This was my second takeaway.

I continued to be inspired throughout the two days.  I had a good grasp of how to use Google Apps/Drive, but went to some sessions to hear what was new or new to me (Cultural Institute!).  I learned a lot about digital citizenship from Tanya Avrith's session and hope to have our Positive Climates for Learning committee implement more digital citizenship ideas next year.

But I found the best takeaway was not in the presentation (though it was inspiring!) but from the community at Julie Millan's session.  There were some technical difficulties at the beginning and Scott Monahan jumped in to help. This led to a Google Hangout where I 'met' Rolland Chidiac, as Twitter became a back-channel.  This to me was a great demonstration in not only the possibilities of technology, but also of the reach of a PLN when help is needed.

From my beginnings at the Google Summit last year, I have been inspired to create this blog, try and go paperless with GAPPS, share my learning with others and apply to the Google Teacher Academy.  I didn't get in but am excited to follow Scott and Rolland who did!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Organizing a conference, all through GAPPS

Part of my extracurriculars that I do is that I am the co-chair of my school's Transitions Committee.  We work on various projects during the school year to help students enter and then leave high school.  Two years ago, in conjunction with the Positive Climates for Learning Committee and the Healthy Schools initiative, my school ran a conference for grade 8 and 9 girls.  The conference focussed on healthy relationships, healthy eating, leadership and inspiration from notable female athletes.  Our plan had been to do the same for the boys the next year, but the government helped derail that plan.  This year, myself and a few other teachers were adamant that the conference would run.  And this is where GAPPS came in.

Our logo was designed by a grade 10 student
and used for the invitation, t-shirts and banner.

Dwayne Morgan, Spoken Word Artist
Closing the conference

From the beginning, the preparation for the conference was all done via google apps.  We used Docs for meeting agendas which helped for those who couldn't always attend meetings and could add in their comments.  Then for the conference itself I used drawing to create the invitation, embedding the google form the boys would use to select their sessions, t-shirt size and lunch.  I even pushed myself and learned the autocrat add-on so that I could mail merge the information from the form to create personal letters for the attendees with their sessions.  
Myself and Graeme Murray, Sochi bronze medalist
in sledge hockey
Even though the planning was very time consuming, I am grateful for the opportunity to plan with both staff, students and elementary partners.  I had a great team and support from the staff and admin. We had a great response from many people who wanted to be a part of the day, and the best part was that students really enjoyed it!

Its been a while: catching up

Wow! People say that they don't know where the time has gone and for me that is partly true this year. I am sad to say that I have not really updated the blog in much too long, and I apologize to my readers. But I had some good reasons!  First is that I started my M.Ed!  For the next few years I am completing a M.Ed in Educational and Digital Technologies at UOIT.  Then I decided to help out more in the school and became a Student Council Teacher Advisor, which takes up more time than I thought, but is very rewarding.  And then I decided to organize and run a conference.

But now things have died down, and I can finally publish some blog posts that have been percolating in my head since September.  Up soon posts on 20% with my Politics class, Google Camps and the Ontario Google Summit and getting PD going in my school.

So I hope that you check back because I will be posting, I promise :)

Friday, 4 October 2013

Google Camp

Tomorrow, YRDSB is hosting their first Google Camp! I am so happy to be a part of it.  I can't believe it was just this past April that I attended the first GAFE Summit in Canada with three of my colleagues. From that Summit,  the idea for this camp, and my 20% project were born.

I am presenting the 20% project I ran in my Civics class as one of the sessions.  The information is not much different from what I have shared here on the blog, but I am looking forward to the discussion with other teachers about the possibilities of 20% Time in their classes.  I am also presenting on using Search features.   I will post the presentations here next week.

I will be back to blogging soon.  I have started 20% time with my Politics class, as well as a second Civics class with a new colleague.  To make everything more seamless, I have also gone fully google; my class is now (except for tests) completely paperless and on GAPPS.  I will be sharing this experience with my blog readers soon; I am still settling in to the semester.

If you are on twitter, follow  #yrdsbgooglecamp or our G+ community (YRDSB Google Camp) for how the day went.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Semester end review

My first semester doing 20% time finished about 2 weeks ago.  It has taken me that long to digest and reflect on the project.  I will be lucky enough to teach Civics again next year, so I wanted to look at the final self-assessment from the students to see how I could improve the next time.

The final self-assessment was broken into 2 parts: their reflection on their work and on the idea of 20% time.

Did you find that working having time each week to work on the project was a good thing?


The scale was 1 =not at all and 5 = absolutely!

I am glad to see that 79% of students found that getting time each week on their project was useful. This makes my decision to do 20% feel more validated.  96% also found that getting to choose their own topic was "nice" and "made them more invested in the outcome".  I asked whether they would like to do this type of project in other classes and their answers where what I expected: 21% yes, 25% maybe and 50% depends on the subject. I completely agree with the 50%; I found that a Civics class had great potential for very open-ended (yet guided) inquiry, but I am not sure that other subject matters could.  Any day now, the new Ontario Canadian and World Studies curriculum will be available.  We are told it has a more Inquiry based approach, so I am already planning how to use 20% time in my Politics class in first semester.

In terms of using GAPPS, it seems it was useful!

What is your thoughts on using GAPPS?

I found it useful1940%
It helped keep me and the project organized1532%
I liked the comment feature511%
I would have liked to use word36%
I found it confusing and hard to use12%
Other                                                         9%

So what I am taking away from this first experience is that it seemed to have worked. I have some refinements to make to forms, and in the setting up of the project overall, but I look forward to trying it again come September. 

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Feedback Loop

One of the biggest roadblocks I have had thrown at me when I try to show people about being paperless and using online tools to mark and give feedback, is that they prefer writing their comments on paper or that they don't like the idea of marking online.  That is their personal preference, but I find that the richness of the comments online can create greater feedback, and should increase student achievement and understanding.

Let me explain.  Even before I used Google Apps, I would use the review: comment tool in MS Word when students handed in work. Other colleagues have used TurnItIn for commenting for both drafts and final work.  Using the comment tool worked for me as my slightly messy writing was made clear by typing, and I had much more space to write.  But it was still a one-sided feedback; I did not find out from students whether they had even read it.  And most teachers will tell you that we are not even sure if the feedback sinks in, especially when we see the same mistakes being made.

So why use the same comment tool in Google Apps?  Because the students can respond/resolve the comment.

Example (the student's Action Plan on helping reduce Poverty): 

Heather Leatham
11:32 AM May 24
Selected text:
I am not clear on this inclusion of this charity. It seems to be more for renters than people who are hungry.
Whoops your right i'll change it right away
9:18 AM Today
Student Alright i changed it
9:41 AM Today

What I explained to my class is that we are now going to be creating a feedback loop: I comment, they reply and 'resolve'.  This would tell me that they have read the comment and acted upon it.  I am happy to say that I even saw some students' heads nod in understanding!

So far this seems to be working, though I have had to remind the students to go into the document and respond/resolve the comments.  I am getting my feedback that they have read the comment, and can see the changes taking place in the document.

Monday, 27 May 2013

An issue with Google Apps

Most of my students are new to Google, especially docs/drive.  When I started the project, I asked how many had a gmail account and/or had used docs.  More than half the class put up their hand.  I thought this was great! The learning curve will not be as high.  But I think that it actually went against me because those knowledgeable students have become an ongoing issue.

Let me explain: I find that the students who were previously familiar with Google, keep asking that I share the forms for class with their personal gmail account.  It seems that even though I have explained a few times why we are only using their gapps account in class (security, continuity, ease), each time I ask the students to complete a form, I get an email asking me to share it with their personal gmail.  Each time I write back 'no', please use your gapps account. It is becoming frustrating!

When I asked other teachers who are have been using gapps already, they have the same issue and they have responded in the same way as me.  Does anyone have some different advice? Or has had a better response when asked the same?