I had the privilege of meeting another phenomenal teacher recently. Last Saturday, I attended one of the free professional development workshops put on by our wonderful Education Students Association at UVic. We learned about classroom management (FINALLY!) from Tina O’Keeffe, a teacher from Esquimalt High School and Social Justice Facilitator for the BCTF. And this morning, she came to my EDCI 336 class to teach us about Google Classroom and some Google Apps for Learning (GAFE).
Tina teachers about a million courses at Esquimalt including: Info-tech, ADST, Graphics, Animation, Business Education, Business Computer Applications, Marketing, Yearbook, Photography, & Science & Technology. She’s also qualified for Science 9 and 10, Biology 11 and 12, and for Inclusive Education. She started teaching only in March 2013, has a family, coaches Esquimalt’s competition winning robotics team (help fund their trip to compete at the FIRST World Championship in Texas), helps run a business with her husband, and runs summer camps. She’s also a master of analogies. So, she’s basically super human.
Tina’s also Level 1 Certified Educator – Google for Education and recommends that all pre-service or working teachers take this free certification. Check out the super informative Google Slides on Google Classroom and GAFE that she presented this morning (shared with permission): https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ydY4ZdRQk3wIQCk2b_oIKH7n1baOSXWAk0N6eXSPL5g/edit?usp=sharing
Here are some of Tina’s reasons for using Google Classroom:
- Simple navigation and interface.
- No more lost assignments. In Tina’s district, SD61, all students have a Google account and access to GAFE and Google Classrooms. This means they can access their work anywhere they can access the Internet.
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Google Classroom is super customizable behind the scenes. This means teachers can assign differentiated assignments to specific students, and only they can see it on their Google Classroom (not the rest of the class).
- Students can access the course from anywhere. Because students can access their Google Classroom from anywhere with Internet, Tina has uploaded all of her resources, lessons, assignments, announcements etc. on her. This way, students who are chronically ill or have valid reasons for missing class won’t fall behind. Also, students who have timetable conflicts with courses she teaches are able to take any of her courses during other blocks since everything can be accessed online.
- You can invite TTOC’s into your Google Classroom. This way they can access all classroom resources and know exactly where students are in their learning when coming in to sub.
- You don’t need a Google account to access a Google Classroom.
Because her students can access the course material anywhere, Tina’s classes are similar to distance education or online courses and she carefully customizes her Google Classrooms to fit the temporality of students’ learning. But, that doesn’t mean there’s no face-to-face teaching in her classroom. Here’s how Tina incorporates Google Classrooms and GAFE in her teaching:
- When students arrive to class, she projects the agenda with the lessons and assignments for the day.
- Because a large portion of course materials are available on students’ Google Classrooms, Tina is free to spend a lot of her class time conferencing, teaching 1-on-1 and supervising the learning in her classroom.
- Tina doesn’t assign much, if any, homework; kids do mostly everything in class.
- Tina also doesn’t upload assignments until she’s introduced them in the classroom with students. Otherwise, she finds that the keeners will do all of their work for the week ahead of time on Sunday night and the anxious students can become overwhelmed when seeing the assignments without verbal introductions.
- For her lessons, assignments, resources, and tutorials, Tina takes a lot of screenshots and adds them to her documents or uses screen capture software to make everything more multimodal.
- She embeds digital literacy and digital citizenship teaching throughout her classes. She discusses how to leave a good digital footprint.
- She includes EA’s and parents in her Google Classrooms.
- Like I said before, Tina is careful not to reveal everything in her Google Classrooms all at once. She chunks it up but is also able to reveal more to the students who are progressing quickly.
Tina’s a teacher through and through, and she has designed each of her courses and Google Classrooms to best serve students. Here are a few ways she begins each course:
- Tina knows that many students aren’t familiar with Google Classroom, so she has designed an introduction module in each of her courses’ Classrooms.
- Within the intro module, students are asked to fill out a Google Form and answer some get-to-know-you questions.
- On day 1, students take a tour through the Google Webstore to familiarize themselves.
Tina's quick assignment for introducing apps and Google Webstore: Each student chooses 3 apps that they would want to use in the classroom (1 fun, 1 for learning something specific, and 1 can be an educational game). Students then add them onto Google Slides and the teacher scrolls through as each student describes their apps.
- In the first week, Tina teaches a whole class on how to use Google Read&Write. This eliminates the stigma of using text-to-voice software from the get-go.
- She introduces the idea of leaving behind a digital footprint.
Tina's quick activity for introducing digital footprints: When introducing the idea of leaving behind a digital footprint, Tina bravely gets students to Google her. They then discuss what they've found and how she models leaving behind a professional digital footprint. She then asks them to Google themselves and evaluate what they find, prompting them with the question, "would you want your grandmother sitting beside you as you scroll through your digital footprint?"
- She spends the majority of the week introducing genius hour.
Genuis Hour: I love this so much! Very similar to Trevor MacKenzie's open inquiry projects, Tina's Genius Hour is based on the principles of open inquiry. Students in Tina's classes spend 20% of their class time on their Genius Hour project. They can make a project on anything they want, so long as they use technology in the classroom or it's about tech. She's had students write books, build 3D printers, make hundreds of paper cranes. At the end of the semester, she invites Ministry professionals, admin, parents, other students, and officials to her class and students showcase their learning. Tina spends the whole first week introducing Genius Hour and getting kids excited. After the first week, students have decided on their project and have written their proposals. Tina has decided to place genius hour on Wednesdays for a couple of reasons. First, Mondays and Fridays are often lost to Pro-D days or holidays. Wednesdays, for some reason, are also less likely to be interrupted by assemblies. Secondly, this helps her chunk up her her lesson planning for the week; she doesn't have to do it all for Sunday night. She also uses Genius Hour project work time as a reward for students who finish in-class assignments before the end of class. Tina recommends Kevin Brookhouser's book The 20Time Project: How Educators and Parents Can Ignite Google's Formula for Supercharged Innovation.
Tina offered a lot of advice for us pre-service teachers, one of which really stuck to me. She said that early on she realized that she could have a conversation with a student who was attending all of her classes but not turning in any work. She wrote a list of questions and they had a long conversation. She used this conversation as her assessment of the student’s knowledge. Now, Tina uses conferences to assess her students’ Genius Hour projects at the end of the term. This totally relates to what Val has been teaching us about assessment.
Observation = True Score + Error Observations, otherwise known as assessments, tell teachers what a student knows and can do but are entirely affected by all of the factors that could lead to a student making an error. These could be lack of sleep or food, anxiety, physical pain, whatever. Val and Tina both advocate for conferencing with students as a way to mitigate these often inaccurate observations.
After Tina’s visit, you could say I might be reconsidering my previous stances on LMS. But don’t quote me on any official change yet. That said, I can totally see the impetus for migrating resources, lessons, and assignments online for alternate education schools. My mum, who is an alt. ed. teacher, has been wanting to move all of her materials online for some time now. But, she’s overwhelmed by the prospect as her school is entirely paper based. Perhaps it will take an offer from someone like me to help her in this transition. We shall see!
Anyhow, here are some of my last thoughts on Google Classroom and GAFE:
- Having asked Tina if any parents are averse to the idea of Google Classroom and GAFE, she said she’s only encountered this issue once. She called the parent and explained that, as per their district’s contract with Google, no data mining is done on any Google accounts, Classrooms, or GAFEs. She said this put the parent’s fears at ease.
- Google Classroom will automatically make a Google Drive classroom folder for each of your Classrooms and will transfer all of your uploads and assignments.
- While I don’t think I’ll be using Google Classroom or a LMS in my art classes as I want students to practice as much handmade process work in their sketchbooks as possible, I’m warming to the idea of using it in my ELA classes.