Ways to Support Teachers with Google Apps for Education

As my district makes the push forward with Google Apps for Education this school year, the instructional technology support that our team offers to teachers is critical to its success. We start with professional development and continual support for district level leadership, then building level leadership, then to teachers, which we hope all trickles down to increased use with and by students. Gmail and Google Docs are our students two primary tools for communication, collaboration, and productivity; so increasing comfort level among all staff is crucial. Since our elementary students are 100% Google Docs for productivity, we knew it was imperative to reach all 19 of our elementary schools first. This began with professional development for our elementary principals and assistant principals back in the summer before teachers reported back to work.  We started with the basics of Google Docs. After principals had a strong understanding and new comfort level with Google Docs, they then began to contact our department for Google Docs PD for their teachers. I have always liked how our team does such a great job of offering varying learning opportunities for our staff. As principals invited us out this happened a few different ways:

-A faculty meeting either before or after school to address the entire faculty at one
-A day long rotation schedule to meet with teams of teachers during their plan time
-On a district professional development day

During these sessions, not only did we cover the ins and outs of how Google Docs works and its benefits, but we also provided several concrete examples of how Google Docs can be used for student projects and best practices for maximizing their workflow as well as student workflow. So, to this point in the school year, the 4 of us that make up our team, we’ve already reached all 19 of our elementary schools. This is awesome! However, what’s important now is that we continue to offer support to all of our teachers so they can effectively support their students. We have had many teachers contact us for additional learning on some of the other Google Apps for Education products such as Calendar, Sites, and Blogger since meeting with the staff initially about Google Docs. This can look like one-on-one appointments and some have also been collaborative meetings  during PLC time. This continued support that we offer is vital to maintain teacher comfort level which leads to effective use at the student level. Our department has also produced online resources for our teachers and administrators to access as well. This is another level of support that’s important to have in place when a phone call, email, or face to face option isn’t immediately available. Here are some examples of our online resources:

Resources for using Google apps in the classroom

Google Apps F.A.Q.

We have also begun providing video tutorials such as this one:

While that example is a simple one, it can be the “just in time” help a student or teacher needs. Implementing something big in your district like Google Apps for Education requires not only the proper infrastructure to handle the usage, but it also requires continual support that’s offered in multiple formats. For myself, I know I like having options of how to learn something; we should offer nothing less to our administrators, teachers, and students.

All of these ways I have shared about how we support teachers don’t have to happen right away. They probably shouldn’t. Choose how you’re going to support your teachers and get really good at one way before adding on another. What matters most is that the support is there, it’s happening often, and it’s always building on what was learned previously.

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
John C. Dana

YouTube Settings Teachers and Students Need to Know About

We all have gone to YouTube at one time or another to watch a video of some kind; educational or not so educational. We’ve watched the latest viral videos sweeping the world by storm for their hilarity, shock value, or powerful message.  There’s no shortage of content to be consumed on YouTube. If you’ve never checked out YouTube’s statistics on their traffic you can go to their press page and give them a glance. An hour of video every second! That is astounding!

More-so than ever, content is available in abundance via YouTube. We, including our students, can consume content constantly from any device with an internet connection. Have you ever stopped to think about what it means when you upload your own original content to YouTube? Things like: How do I upload something? What settings are crucial to know about? How is this applicable to my classroom and students?

Whether you’re uploading content you’ve filmed yourself or uploading a screencast for your students, I thought I’d share some of the YouTube settings that I’ve found to be most important to make teachers and students aware of.

How do I get started? 

Once you’re logged in to YouTube with the preferred Google account, click the Upload link in the top right corner of the YouTube home page. Once on the upload page you have a few different options for uploading (I am using Google Chrome as my browser):

1. Upload a file from your computer (most common)
2. Upload multiple files
3. Record a video directly from your webcam

Basic Settings

As your video starts uploading, you can go ahead and begin to enter basic information for your video such as the title, description (which appears below the video when someone watches it), and keywords you’d like to tag your video with. Once your video is done uploading, you can also choose the thumbnail image that your video will have (the still image that will show before clicking Play). Remember: these are items of information that you can always go back and edit later, so don’t feel like these are set in stone but it’s always something good to do while your video is in the process of being uploaded. YouTube also does a great job of automatically saving these changes while your video is uploading as well (YouTube is a great multi-tasker!).

On the right side of the Basic Info tab (still on the upload page) you will see the Privacy and publish settings. These are very important settings to keep in mind, particularly for publishing student produced content. The screenshot below shows these settings. Public means that your video is out there on YouTube for the world to not only watch, but for anyone to find by searching for it. Unlisted means that your video will not be able to be located by searching for it on YouTube. The only way others can view the video is by you sending out its specific link. Private is another level of security beyond that. This is where you at the owner of the content can give explicit permission to only individuals you specify to be able to view the video. Again, these are settings specific to each individual video and can be changed at any time. Definitely important settings to know about. Videos uploaded to YouTube are set to public by default.

Also at this point be sure to properly categorize your video. Everything I upload I make sure and categorize with “Education”. When I’ve forgotten to do this, I was quickly reminded because the “similar videos” section on the right side of my YouTube video were not usually the greatest. By that I mean they had absolutely nothing to do with the topic of my video and were sometimes inappropriate.

You can also set the License and Rights Ownership of your video at this point. You can leave it at the standard YouTube license or mark your video with a Creative Commons attribution. If this option is chosen, that means you are giving others the right to use your work. This could look like someone using the YouTube video editor to incorporate your video into another video they have uploaded (with proper credit always pointed back to the source (link) of your original video). Be sure to check out the YouTube Creative Commons page for more information.

Basic Settings


Advanced Settings

Here’s some more important settings you’ll want to remember to check. Again, I like how this can all be done while the video is still uploading (especially if it’s a large video).  The most important advanced settings you’ll want to notice when you click on the Advanced Settings tab, are the check boxes related to comments and ratings. There might be sometimes you don’t want to allow viewers to comment on a video that is uploaded.  To do this simply uncheck the box next to “Allow Comments”. Or maybe you do want to allow comments but you want them all filtered through you first (this is a great option for student work that is uploaded). You can click the drop down menu and change that to “Approved”.

You’ll also notice you can turn off the ability for viewers to vote on comments, give a rating to the video, or create a video response. You will also see syndication, embedding, and information such as adding location and date to your video. I have seen the comments feature work great for teachers and students, and also work not so great.

Advanced Settings

Lastly, notice in the top right section of the upload page you will see two buttons: Share and Add to. If you’d like to immediately get the shortened link, embed code, or ability to share to another social network you will find all of these options by clicking on the Share button.

If you click the “Add to” button, the newly uploaded video can be immediately added to an existing playlist or a new playlist can be created for the video. Another very handy feature. Above those two buttons you will find buttons for the Video Manager or clicking Add more videos will take you straight to uploading another video in the same manner. Inside the Video Manager is where you will find all of your uploaded YouTube videos where you can go straight to any single one to check all of these settings by clicking the Edit button.

To reference back to creating screencasts, which I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I particularly like to use Screenr to create these. It’s web-based software and after recording them you can instantly upload them to your YouTube channel if you choose. It’s simple and works well consistently. If you do upload these to YouTube be sure to head to your YouTube channel and go through your basic and advanced settings for each screencast you create to make sure they are named, categorized, and privacy settings are all set how you need them to be.

Whether teachers or students are publishing digitally, YouTube or not, it’s important to make the time to learn how to make the content work best and publish properly.

While I’ve only scratched the surface, the “Googlers” have put together a great YouTube help site with loads more to learn about. We haven’t even got to the awesome video editor built right in. Maybe that calls for another post!

Happy YouTubing!

“Become an empowered participant rather than a passive consumer.” ~Howard Rheingold

Google Docs for Administrators – 5 Ideas to Get Started

'Reams' photo (c) 2007, pawpaw67 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

As another school year begins to come to a close, I have recently had some of our administrators (mostly elementary) contact me with ideas for making administrative tasks more paperless and create a more efficient workflow not only for themselves but for their teachers.  Some of these have been regular “end of year” tasks and others are being put into motion in preparation for next year.  Given my known affinity for Google Apps for Education, and being we are a Google Apps for Education district, my first inclination is always to figure out how these tasks could be completed using GAFE in one way or another.  As I begin to help several of our administrators with these projects, I thought I’d start a post that I could come back and add to over time. They might be beneficial to you as a teacher or you might want to share them with administrators in your district. So here they are in no particular order:

1. End of year checkout form – we all remember this one right? The checkout form for the end of the year that has to be completed before teachers can leave for the summer. Why not use Google Forms to make the form electronic and send out the link to staff? The principal sends out the link to the form, teachers can fill it out as they complete their required tasks, and the information goes straight into a spreadsheet for administrators.

2. Student information collection – When I was in the classroom this was another end of the year task to be completed. We would need to fill out a student information card on each of our students to help provide any pertinent information (academic or otherwise) to next year’s classroom teacher(s).  Again, this has always been something traditionally done on paper, so why not give it a digital go? Our administrator created a Google Forms version, then copied it the appropriate number of times for each grade level so that the data would come back to separate spreadsheets already separated by grade level.  This information also helps the administrative team build next year’s class lists.

3. Staff communication – We all know one of the best, if not the best feature of Google Docs is collaboration. The ability to have multiple people working on the same document at the same time is a huge efficiency booster for many. Documents don’t have to be emailed back and forth or saved on a network drive where only one person can have the document open at a time. Administrative teams can now easily create their staff newsletters in Google Docs so they can be built collaboratively and then easily shared out with the staff directly from Google Docs. This not only helps increase administrator productivity, but teachers can have a digital copy of building communication delivered right to their inbox.

4. Committees – Again, Google Forms can come in very handy for this. I recently assisted one of our principals who wanted to create a form for teachers to fill out monthly with any specific concerns/needs for individual students that will go directly to the building student assistance committee. This provides the team with valuable information ahead of time prior to the referring teacher meeting with the team. Documents and Forms can also help any building or district level committees communicate and collaborate which builds a more efficient workflow for everyone.

5. Fun stuff – Since this week is Teacher Appreciation Week and schools, parents, and communities are showing their appreciation, it reminds us that some times we also need better ways to work to plan fun stuff too. This could be to collaborate on a document to plan for this week’s teacher goodies, or a spreadsheet to plan Field Day, or make a form to send out to gather ideas for an end of year staff celebration. This possibilities could be anything with this one.

What I think is also great about this is that there’s positive modeling going on for use of Google Apps for Education. Administrators modeling for teachers, which will hopefully lead to teachers modeling for students. Helping the production equal or outweigh the consumption. A snowball effect that will always be in motion.

Please feel free to add your ideas in the comments section! Thanks!