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:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgN83iuRJ8k]

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

Telling Search Stories with Google

Yesterday, my district hosted a day of professional development for teachers and staff that are involved with the e-learning program at three area districts (including mine).  It was a great day for teachers to collaborate and learn with each other about best practices and hopefully get some new ideas for teaching online.

In the afternoon, we had a good ol’ tech tools smackdown where folks from each respective district went back and forth sharing a favorite tool they have used or think students would enjoy using in an online course. I decided to share the Google Search Story Creator.  If you’ve never created a Google Search Story, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to quickly share a search experience. Since the search story creator is kind of hard to find (it’s located towards the bottom of this page and says YouTube is making a new, permanent home for it), I also made a custom link that was easier to share with others. Please feel free to pass this along: http://bit.ly/searchstorycreator.

I wanted the teachers to see a relevant example first before I explained how to create one. I only had about 4 minutes total during the smackdown so the first 35 seconds was sharing an example of a finished search story. One of the online courses in my district (American Government), students have an assignment to create a short commercial for a political candidate. I thought this would be a great way for students to chronicle locating information about a specific candidate. So I created this search story:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sH3wW3Dz28I]

I picked the first candidate that came to mind and it very briefly shows how I located information on a particular subject. Students would have a great time creating these and I’m sure would do a much better job than my example (as I alluded to in a conversation later that day).

Then I went on to explain how the search story creator works. You plug-in your search terms, define the type of Google search to be completed on each of those terms (web, images, maps, news, blog, product, or books), add some music and upload to your YouTube account. As you can see in the above example, YouTube (Google) packages it all together in a nice little video to share with classmates or make it a nice addition to an overall assignment.

Click for a larger preview

When you’re creating one, definitely take advantage of the preview area as you plug-in your search terms and define the kind of search you want to perform. This comes in handy for checking out the kind of results that are going to appear in your video before you finalize it.

Have fun creating your search story!