Going ‘Google’ in the Classroom

The power of passionate teachers shines through with the right tools.

GUEST COLUMN | by Rob May

Google Apps for EducationBack in January, the City of Boston joined the growing number of organizations who made the switch from Microsoft to Google Apps. The city moved 76,000 employees to the new platform, which included the faculty and staff of the Boston Public Schools. Boston isn’t alone—cities across the state of Massachusetts and beyond have adopted the use of Google Apps in their classrooms. As more and more school systems have “gone Google,” the successes of teachers and students alike have been huge.

At my company, I’ve assembled an all-star cast of dedicated teachers who use Google Apps every day and asked them to share what they’ve learned using the platform. As teachers

In 2014, teachers are working with a generation of “digital natives,” who find most every technology intuitive and second-nature.

with hands-on experience using Google in the classroom, the tips and ideas they share are not theory, but rather real world examples collected from practical experience with students at all grade levels. What better way to learn about this valuable suite of tools than to absorb the insight of professionals who are in the trenches teaching with them every day. One thing in particular resonated with me. These teachers are passionate about what they do, and they are always up for experimenting and collaborating with others so that their students can have the most rewarding learning experiences as possible.

Jonathan SchmidJonathan Schmid, Meadowbrook School, Weston, Mass. As the director of innovation and technology at the Meadowbrook School in Weston, Mass., Jonathan Schmid works with students and teachers in grades K-8. Jonathan has made Google Apps an essential component of his classes and as a result, it has fundamentally transformed the way he teaches. For example, during a science project, Jonathan directed his students to use GPS devices to map trees across the school campus. They then used Google Sheets and Google Maps to chart the hundreds of points they collected. Using some creative methods, they completed the project by printing a six-foot tall, high-resolution map. Jonathan’s number one tip to fellow elementary school teachers is to not be concerned with the technical details. He encourages teachers to approach Google Apps as a way to empower students.

Jermaine NewmanJermaine Newman, Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, Dorchester, Mass., and Putnam Ave Upper School, Cambridge, Mass. Jermaine Newman, a math teacher at both the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester, Mass. and the Putnam Ave Upper School in Cambridge, Mass., first incorporated Google Apps into his classrooms in 2007. Jermaine’s first experiment was with Google Forms, which serves as a testing mechanism to provide timely feedback to students and parents. Jermaine used the app by posting a multiple-choice test online, and once students were finished, the tests were graded immediately. Answers were highlighted (green for correct and yellow for incorrect). This allowed for a quick visual check to see which students needed additional support and helped him gain a relative understanding of the class’ performance.

Christopher GodfreyChristopher Godfrey, Boston and Cambridge, Mass. Public School Systems Christopher Godfrey, who has taught math and science to middle school students in the Boston and Cambridge Public School systems, says he has used Google Apps “to bring creative minds together in and outside of work.” He’s been using Google Apps in the classroom since 2011, and his number one tip for fellow teachers is to never stop learning. He frowns upon anyone who claims that they are “all set,” and believes that teachers and students can learn from each other. On a more tactical note, Christopher requires that his students submit their work through Google Docs to enable teacher feedback inside and outside of class time. This allows for a more consistent stream of information between teacher and student, which enhances learning and builds overall trust.

Vicki DavisVicki Davis, Westwood Schools, Camilla, Ga. Vicki Davis, founder of the blog, Cool Cat Teacher, is a Google Certified Teacher and was named by Mashable as one of the “10 Teacher Rockstars on Twitter.” She teaches in grades eight, nine and 10 and also works with college-level students. Vicki’s students are totally immersed in Google Apps, using the platform for presentations, organization, document building and communication with Vicki, as well as other students. Vicki also encourages students to communicate via Google Live Chat (Gchat) when they’re working from home to collaborate with their peers and ask questions.

Alice KeelerAlice Keeler, California State University, Fresno College Alice Keeler, also Google-certified, is a member of the adjunct faculty at California State University, Fresno College. As a doctoral student at Boise State for EdTech, she uses Google Apps to enhance her students learning as well as her own. Like her peers, she encourages fellow teachers (and students) to take risks and not be afraid if you don’t know something. It can be extremely beneficial when a student can help you. There’s value in being part of a classroom of learners rather than all the students learning from the teacher. She also encourages her peers to stop using Microsoft Office if they’ve started using Google Apps, claiming that anyone who straddles the fence between the two platforms will be unhappy.

There’s no question that experienced teachers are singing the praises of Google Apps in the real world every day. It’s clear that this interactive suite of tools can help transform a classroom in exciting ways. In 2014, teachers are working with a generation of “digital natives,” who find most every technology intuitive and second-nature. These students grew up in a world of video games, smartphones, online chat and technology that never seems to stop evolving, and are comfortable in that world. Providing those students with a toolset that is compatible with that environment gives you a fighting chance if you hope to pass on the lessons they need to succeed in their dynamic futures.

Rob May is the CEO of Backupify, makers of Backupify for Education, a leading cloud-to-cloud backup solution allowing schools to retain control over their critical data, prevent data loss and adhere to data compliance requirements. Write to: rob@backupify.com

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