Saturday, May 03, 2008

Google Certified Teacher Final Reflection

Joseph Hartman

K-8 Technology Teacher

Albert Einstein Academies

San Diego, Ca.


The majority of training that I did related to Google Apps and the tools offered therein. My first foray into any Google Apps training activities began immediately after converting every Albert Einstein Academies (AEA) teacher's email account over to the new Google Apps gmail service. It was the summer of 2007 and I was working as an IT Consultant at San Diego State University. It was here that I learned to use Adobe Captivate to create flash based video tutorials for SDSU faculty, staff, and students. Captivate seemed like a good tool to use for the purpose of introducing my colleagues at AEA to their new Google Apps tools so I created tutorials on how to use the Google Calendar and how to use Googlepages. I then uploaded these tutorials and sent them out to the teachers a couple of weeks before the school year even began.

Before each school year AEA does an annual retreat with the entire faculty and staff, so this was my first opportunity to show off Google Apps in front of everyone. I made a succinct presentation that showed off all the new tools that would be available to the teachers, although not exactly how to actually use the tools. This was more of an introduction to make them aware of the possibilities afforded by our migration to Google Apps.

Once the school year started I did a lot of one-on-one coaching with various teachers, held a couple of all staff training sessions for the more basic Apps, and also held a few optional after-school trainings on specific aspects of the Google Apps. In total I was able to reach nearly every member of our 55 person staff. Additionally all 34 teachers in both the elementary and middle school are using Googlepages as their classroom website solution.

Midway through this year I began to seriously consider creating another domain with Google Apps for the student population to use. In February 2008 this idea came to fruition and went live, offering over 500 students in grades 2-8 their own Google Apps Calendars, Docs, and Sites (Chat and Email are disabled). Since that day I have devoted countless hours teaching and training these students on the various Google Apps. In the process I've utilized various teaching methods, but the most effective has been to create an example of what I want the students to produce, show them the example, then give them a good start on recreating the example before cutting them loose and allowing them to explore the apps in attempts to complete the assignment. At this time the different grade levels are in different levels of completion, but the furthest along have finished lessons in both Documents and Presentations and will begin the Sites lesson next week.


The impact of Google Apps on our school has been tremendous. On the faculty/staff side the most tangible result has been an increase in productivity due to the streamlined nature of Gmail and the elimination of any need to delete old messages. The most exciting result, however, has been an increase in collaboration due to the Google Docs and Chat (the Middle School Principal is especially fond of this outcome). I myself really appreciate the Calendar and its ability to assign and reserve "resources" because so many of our resources and related to technology (projector carts, etc.) and Google Apps has made turned the logistical nightmare this could be for me into something so simple I rarely even think about it.

The student side impact of Google Apps is a little more difficult to quantify because there has not been the same amount of time from which to draw conclusions as there has been on the faculty/staff side. The biggest gain thus far has definitely been the Google Docs because it simply eliminates the need for students to "save" work on a disc or flashdrive and allows them to access all their files no matter where they are. We have recently moved our Middle School Newsletter team over to Google Sites for their monthly releases instead of using a graphic layout editor. I'm hoping that the 2008-2009 school year will prove to be a transformative year for our school in terms of student/teacher collaboration and cooperation across Google Apps. I will be spending the summer thinking of ways to encourage teachers to share calendars and sites with their students, and to accept shared assignments digitally from their students as well (hopefully resulting in a significant decrease in our school wide paper consumption).

That said, I think the best measure of success is made by simply looking at the teachers who are using google apps and how they are using it. Every teacher at our school believes that their classroom website is the best one in the school and the all take great pride in what they put online for their students. In simply making it a painless process to put content online Google Apps is making a huge and tangible difference in the way our teachers teach and our students learn.


The biggest challenge by far has been encouraging the teachers and staff to move from using MS Office and their normal set of technology tools towards using the Google Apps suite. Certain Apps like Googlepages were much more easily adopted by the general faculty because few had any experience using web page tools to migrate from. Therefore Googlepages was their first foray into the world of web page creation. Google Docs on the other hand has been much slower on the road to acceptance because so many teachers are familiar with MS Word that they see little reason to set aside the hours of time it would take to become proficient on Google Docs to accomplish what is essentially the same task they already do with MS Word.

Certain facts are changing this belief though. When our principal's hard drive crashed on her PowerBook everyone noticed that she had not lost any work that she had created on Google Docs.
There also seems to be a slow trickling effect within the school in which one user begins using Google Docs more effectively and a close colleague takes notice before venturing into the program a little further than they may have otherwise.

I have also noticed that my work training the students on Google Apps has helped to coax some of the teachers to use Google Docs a little more effectively. This is because the students oftentimes have not significantly used Word Processing Software or Digital Presentation Software before and Google Apps is their first experience really getting to know how to use such programs. Thus when they return to their home classroom from my class and their teacher asks them to write a story about their fieldtrip or something, they naturally ask their teacher if they can use Google Docs to do so. This has been my most proactive approach towards encouraging adoption among the faculty and staff and it seems to be working really well because I have noticed a recent increase in faculty requests for tutoring in Google Docs and its features.

Personal Growth

Implementing Google Apps has affected my teaching greatly. Training teachers was something I had prior experience with, but teaching students how to use an online suite of software was something entirely new for me. It was also a unique experience because I was attempting to teach it to students ranging in age from 7 to 14. My strategies for accomplishing this goal went through quite an evolutionary process, but with the latest iteration (see a description of my latest method in the "Summary" section) I think I have been able to find a solution that succeeds in both teaching the students the capabilities of the programs while simultaneously encouraging their imagination and curiosity about what these programs can really do. By finding that balance between explicit instruction and guided inquiryin my Google Apps lessons I really notice an opportunity to make similar changes in the other areas of my teaching. Ideally I would be able to mimic the teaching method I utilize in teaching Google Apps across all my other lessons, but whether that is feasible or not at this point I will have to wait to find out.

Maintaining Momentum

My biggest hope for the coming school year is to eliminate the option for teachers to use any office productivity suite at all except for Google Apps. There are several good reasons for this change, not the least of which would be to lessen the potential for catastrophic IT emergencies given that we will have virtually no IT support next year due to the budget cuts. I also think such a move would ultimately be a positive one for the students as teachers, now at least introduced to Google Docs, would be forced to utilize it in ways they may not have been this year and would hopefully pass on some of that newfound knowledge to their students.

Aside from such a drastic step as this, I hope to produce some additional Adobe Captivate tutorials about how to use other aspects of Google Apps such as Sites. A few brief training sessions might also be in order, especially in the arena of layout options within Google Docs since this is one area that MS Word easily trumps its competitor. Finally I would like to initiate some incentives for students to further their mastery of the Google Apps, so things like a Google Presentations competition among the students might be an option.

Overall Google Apps has been a transformative force in the way our school community works and interacts. What gains might be seen should we ever begin using Google Apps to its full potential is something I would love to find out.

No comments: