Saturday, February 20, 2016

Google Drive: A Innovative and Collaborative Tool in our Classroom

"Modern learning is about doing authentic work in the world that can be amplified by technology." (Will Richardson)

Technology is just one way we enhance our pedagogy and provide flexible structures for ourselves as a teaching team to capture what our students are saying, doing and representing as part of our assessment practices and daily programming. As an active explorer of different types of technology and through a lot of trial and error and much reflection over the years, I feel that this year has been pivotal for me in developing a collaborative system between myself and my teaching partner that capitalizes on the use of Google Apps for Education as an assessment tool. 

This post will highlight a few examples of how I have organized my Google platform and used it as a catalyst for collaboration when capturing our ongoing observations, conversations and products of student learning. 

In previous years, a clipboard, a digital camera and my favourite pen would be attached to my hip throughout the school day because I didn't want to miss an opportunity to capture learning in action. While this way of assessing was great at the time for us as a teaching team, it also involved a lot of paper, extra steps for digital downloading (e.g. of images, organizing them, etc), and then doubling up with the notes and photos captured by my partner. We didn't really have an effective and efficient organizational system that allowed us to correlate, collaborate and/or coordinate our paper assessments. This is where Google Apps has been incredible for my practice because it has taken all the "pros" and "cons" of my past assessment tools and combined them into one online, collaborative, and innovative space!  

On our Google Drive, my teaching partner and I have a "Class Folder" that is our main "hub" for all of our assessment folders. These subfolders are easily organized by content area and accessible across any of our classroom devices (iPad, iPhone, iMac):

If we click on "FDK: Mathematics" for example, we again have subfolders set up based on the strand to allow for easy organization and tracking:

Presently, my teaching partner and I use Google Docs as a collaborative way to capture observations and anecdotal notes of student learning throughout our day and with the focus on various curriculum areas. Since we can both be "online" and on the same document at the same time, it has allowed us to be incredibly proficient, organized, and reflective on the observations we're making, what student needs are evident and where we can take the learning next. I have set up the Google Doc to resemble what I used to have on my clipboard whereby the paper included the area of focus at the top, curriculum expectations linked to our "look for's" and squares for each student. However, Google Docs can eliminate multiple photocopies if you run out of room, and can be easily manipulated and duplicated since you're not restricted on space. 

Using the example from above, here is what one of our Google Docs looks like for capturing student learning:

As you can see, we have included the dates for observation at the top, the curriculum strand and overall and specific expectations for reference, as well as our "look for's" and guiding prompts to support our interactions with students. The same template is used for other curriculum areas. Below is an example of our Grade 1 and SK Print Awareness template:

In addition to Google Docs, I was inspired by a colleague, Ashley Michaud, a Grade 1 teacher in York Region, who uses Google Forms as a formative assessment tool. She was generous enough to share with me all the wonderful ways she uses this Google App in her practice. Since I've been learning as I "tinker," I decided to create my own Google Forms specifically for Math to start small and see how I can use this app to support my understandings of what my students can do. Here is an example of one of my forms:

Lastly, and as part of our Learning@School Collaborative Inquiry, my teaching partner and I decided to challenge ourselves to use Google Slides as a "digital portfolio" of sorts to capture the learning of our small focus groups. The spark for this idea came from my wonderful friend and inspiring colleague, Angie Harrison, who showed me how she uses Google Slides over one of our lovely coffee dates! 

Each slide leaves room for us to capture our observations, refer to question prompts and include a photo(s) of the student in action.

I hope that this post leaves you feeling inspired and I'd love to hear how you may be using Google Apps in your classrooms! Please leave a comment below!

For those of you that may not be familiar with Google Apps, here are two short videos that highlight the purpose and practicality of how they can be utilized in the classroom: