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?

Thursday, 9 May 2013


In the Ontario curriculum, teachers are to assess students' learning skills (responsibility, organization, initiative, etc.).  Google Apps will definitely be helpful in this regard!  I decided as one of my assessment tools, I will use Calendars as a means of assessing the student's organization.  I asked them to plan out the next 2 months for the project, because they need to work outside of our 20% time in order to complete their action.

So by the end of the first week, the students were asked to share their calendars with me.  This is what my calendar now looks like for the month of May.  Some of my students are really busy on their actions! Another learning skill done as I can see some great initiative here!

I told the class I will be using their calendars on Fridays (our 20% day) to "check in" with them and see if what they have on their calendar is what they are working on.  The next part of this is integrating what is on their calendars with a self-assessment Google Form.  More on that in the next week, once they have completed it.

Week 2- Forms and Search

For our second week, I enlisted the help of the Head Teacher-Librarian for a search strategy lesson.  The students were asked to fill out a form (new page here with all the forms being used) which would then direct the lesson.  This did not work out that well; only 7 of 25 students filled in the form before class :/   We used what information we had to help the students narrow down their search.

First we used Wiki Mind Map (always use the information appears) to demonstrate subtopics they could explore.  I showed them our Google Search Posters, especially the one with qualifiers ("", OR, -, etc).

Then we touched upon Works Cited.  The students had already been shown the research tool in Documents, but we had noticed that it did not quite match up with the current MLA handbook.  For example, images are 'cited' with just a web link, not the MLA standard.  The students were reminded to double check the entries against the MLA sheet the Library posted on their Moodle site.

I am happy to say that students are being proactive and sharing their research notes with me, without being asked!  And using the correct document entitling (last name, P1 title).  One student last week had shared her topics but had the wrong title for the document.  I reminded her in class, but she had caught the mistake herself and fixed it! Initiative!

The rest of class today was using the information in the forms for a teacher-student conference, the students completing the form, researching and creating their calendars (due Tuesday).  I returned to my office with multiple invitations for sharing calendars with me.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Day 1

Today my class started on their projects and I think it went well!  In a class of 25 grade 10 students, 17 were using gmail for email, 16 Chrome as a browser and 11 had experience with Google Apps.  It made the learning curve much smaller.  There was a good question about whether the students would have to set up the account, but I showed them that it was all done for them.  I demonstrated how to log into Drive, how to create a document, how to change the title and how to share with me.

As a class, we used Mindmeister app within Drive to create a mind map of what is an issue.  I used this to demonstrating sharing a document, which was a good thing as it allowed me to use a student with a more common first and last name and how to make sure it was the right person to share with (we looked at student numbers, low might be elementary, higher should be secondary).

Today was just an introduction and a general research day.  As we are looking at current issues, I also showed them Google News so that they could quickly skim news for Canada and/or Ontario.  Their task was to create a doc with their 'Top 5' issues.  I, with the head Librarian, will then use their lists to create a specific search strategy lesson for our next 20% class.

I have included my whiteboard (we were in the library) so you can see the instructions I gave them for how to use gapps.  I included the tip from Ken Shelton about naming files (last name assignment title), and they all did it that way.

The only problem I encountered was that not all of the Library computers can run Firefox, otherwise students have to use IE6.  For the students who could not get onto Firefox, they asked to use Word, but I asked them to make notes and upload them later in Docs.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Welcome to the 20% Project!

Some background: Shadi and Heather attended the (first) Ontario Google Apps Summit and were inspired by how Google operates. At Google, they spend 80% of their work week on Google appointed projects, and 20% on projects of their own initiative.  Some of those 20% projects have resulted in products, apps and features that we now use everyday!

So we thought, why can't we do this in our classrooms?! Our school board is rolling out Google Apps to everyone, and it is a great platform for collaboration and publication.

We hope you follow along with our two classes projects :)