Online learning communities with Google tools

Create online learning communities with Google toolsRecently I read an interesting article by Christopher Pappas, 8 Tips To Foster Knowledge Sharing Through Online Learning Communities. In the article, the writer looks at ways that online social and collaborative experiences can enhance learning outcomes and improve knowledge sharing in a corporate environment. I was inspired to look at how these strategies might be used in a K-12 environment using Google and G Suite for Education (GSfE) solutions. Of course, the same ideas can be applied to vocational and higher education environments as well. Also, many of the ideas can be implemented without having G Suite for Education (however, you will need access to G Suite for Education to use Google Classroom).

Below is a presentation giving an overview of the strategies and the corresponding Google tools. Read below for more details.

Before you start…

Before you start, you need to think about a few things with regards to your online learning communities.

  • Who will be part of the community? For example,  your class, multiple classes, the whole school, the wider community, etc. It may be that there are multiple online learning communities that are used for different purposes
  • What is the purpose of the learning community? What are you hoping your students will gain from the experience?
  • What are the terms of use? It is very important that all participants agree to and understand the community guidelines. These should be simple and clear. Look at the post Collaborating for success with Google Apps for ideas on developing a suitable framework.
  • Understand which tools are available to you and which aren’t. For excample, Google+ and Google Collections are not always made available in GSfE environments and the terms of service do not allow access to people under the age of 13.

Idea 1: Online forums and groups

Online forums and groups are not a new idea and these can be useful for students to share questions, opinions, knowledge and resources and for teachers to communicate to the whole class or smaller groups. The idea is to create a forum or discussion around a specific topic.

Google tools for forums and groups

  • Google Classroom allows for posting in the class stream. However, this can get a bit messy although the labelling and filtering feature can make it easier to find topics in the stream.
  • Google+ Communities is essentially a social media platform and allows discussions and threads. You can control who has access to a Google community. There is a search function.
  • Google Collections is a feature within Google+. It is a bit like Pinterest. However, only one person can own a collection and post new items to the collection but other users can comment on items in the collection. For more on using Google Collections, see the post 5 tips for using Google+ Collections at school.
  • YouTube allows for commenting. If you or your students upload videos and mark ‘Unlisted’, only people with the link can view them and comment on them.

Idea 2: Collaboration projects

Working on projects together with peers helps build belonging as well as developing communication and teamwork skills. The good news is many Google tools were made for collaboration!

Google tools for collaboration projects

  • Google Drive, particularly Slides and Docs. One student or the teacher creates the file and then invites the other group members to edit the file. The built in revision history feature makes it easy to see who has done what.
  • Blogger is a powerful and often overlooked tool. You can make your audience and collaborators as wide or as narrow as you like.

Idea 3: Peer-based learning teams

This is an important emerging concept, the idea of learning to learn. Peer-based learning teams encourage students to create individual learning goals and place students in teams to support each other in achieving their goals.

Google tools for peer-based learning teams

  • Google Hangouts allows students to ‘get together’ on line to provide feedback via video, audio or messaging.
  • Google Drive, particularly Docs and Slides, allows students to document their goals, progress and barriers with the comments feature enabling the peer team to provide assistance, feedback and encouragement.
  • Google+ Communities allows the peer team to create a private community to provide and ask for support and feedback.
  • Blogger allows for the creation of a blog shared only amongst the peer learning team. Students can share their learning goals and progress as well as commenting on the posts of others in the group to provide feedback.

Idea 4: Micro-learning library

Ditch the outdated text books! As students learn about a topic and become emerging experts, create a crowd sourced ‘learning library’ of resources that can be used by current and future students.

Google tools for a micro-learning library

  • Google Drive (Docs, Slides) can be a handy repository for useful links, just give students editing privileges to the file.
  • Google+ Communities is a useful way to share resources, documents, pictures, etc, providing a preview and allowing for a description. Students can search for specific information using the search feature.
  • Blogger is an easy-to-use repository for many different kinds of resources including links, written information, embedded videos and Google Drive files.
  • YouTube allows users to collaborate on playlists and create a repository of videos relevant to a particular topic. Click here to learn how to add collaborators on a YouTube playlist.
  • Google Classroom allows users to share links to the class stream, allowing the sharing of resources. If you use Google Chrome, the Share to Classroom extension makes it even easier to share a relevant webpage. Be careful of cluttering up your class stream.

Idea 5: Learner blogs

Learner blogs can help document the pathway to knowledge and skills development.  It allows the sharing of useful knowledge with peers and provide proof-of-learning. They are multi-modal, allowing students to express themselves in different ways.

Google tools for learner blogs

  • Google Sites are easy to use and allow users to easily combine text, embedded videos, images and Google Drive files. It is easy to create attractive websites but the features are limited at the time of writing.
  • Blogger is a traditional blogging platform (as the name would suggest!) You can take control of how wide the audience is (down to individual users) and allows for multimedia as well as text.

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Flip your classroom using G Suite for Education

One popular current trend in education is the concFlipped classrooms with G Suite for Educationept of the flipped classroom. The flipped classroom can be defined as:

… a pedagogical model in which the typical
lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7081.pdf

Below is an infographic with some tips on ‘how to flip a classroom’ along with potential benefits to flipping your classroom. Of course, G Suite for Education provides excellent technological tools to assist in blended learning and flipped classrooms. Some ideas:

  • Share content including video through Google Slides, Google Collections, Google Sites and Google Classroom
  • Evaluate learning using quizzes in Google Forms
  • Create learning communities using Google+ and Google Hangouts.

One of the advantages of using G Suite for Education to flip your classroom is its cross platform compatibility – whether iOS, Apple, Windows, Android, Linux, Chrome OS (and possibly dome others I may have missed!)

However, it is important to be conscious of the ‘digital divide’ – some students may not have access to the Internet at home which means they cannot prepare for class under a flipped model. An alternative is ‘flipping’ within the classroom. For examples, stations where students alternate between watching a video and taking a quizz online, a group discussion with their teacher,  applying new skills and knowledge and working on a longer-term project.

However you blend, the G Suite for Education toolkit is a terrific asset.

Here are some other posts that can help with blended learning ideas:

4 Google Apps tools to blend your classroom today: http://googleappsaction.com/?p=286

Creating mini-lessons using Google Slides in 6 easy steps: http://googleappsaction.com/?p=292

FlipClass_2b
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

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4 Google Apps tools to blend your classroom today!

Blended learning is not a new concept. It’s been around for a while. Better and more affordable softwarEasy blended learning with Google Appse solutions and improved internet access means more educational institutions are implementing blended learning solutions. Blended and elearning isn’t ‘good’ just because it is digital; it needs to meet student needs and learning goals.

Even on a budget and with limited resources, any educator can look at implementing some level of blended learning. Blended learning can help create a more individualised and flexible learning environment. Free Google Apps put blended learning solutions within everyone’s reach, whether or not you’re in a Google Apps for Education (GaFE) school. And you don’t need to be an IT expert to use them. You also don’t need to have the latest and greatest hardware and operating systems to use Google Apps.

Here I’ve collected four Google Apps that are easy for beginners to start using as part of a blended learn environment. I’ve included some ideas on how you can use them and links to resources to get you started.

But before that, maybe we should talk about…..

…what is blended learning, anyway?

1. Google Classroom

Only available as part of Google Apps for Education
Available on iOS, Android, Chromebook and full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)

Okay, this one might be a no-brainer but no discussion about Google Apps and blended learning would be complete without including Google Classroom.

Google Classroom is described as:

…a free web-based platform…[that] makes it easy to create classes, distribute assignments, communicate, and stay organized. Teachers can quickly see who has or hasn’t completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback and grades right in Classroom.

https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6020279?hl=en

Google Classroom is a very strong ally in creating a blended learning environment. As well as distributing, monitoring and marking assignments, you can share resources, post a quick question to the class and view results (great for checking understanding), and create and monitor discussions. The great thing is it allows you to share any clarifying questions or comments with the whole classroom.

Once you understand the basics, Google Classroom can be a useful tool to help you implement and manage differentiation.

It is very easy to create your first class and assignment and to have students join, especially if you have your class setup in Google Groups.

Look at the post Google Classroom Goodies for more on using Google Classroom – from the basics to pro tips.

How to access Google Classroom

Log into your GAfE account.

Go to the following website:

http://classroom.google.com

2. Google Sites

Available free with any Google account, including Google Apps for Education
Editing functionality best with full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)
View Google Sites on any device using Chrome Browser

As great as Google Classroom is, if you try and cram too much content in, it can become cluttered and unwieldy. If you want to share content, Google Sites is a great way to do it. It is easy to create a simple site even if you’ve never created a website before.

Google Sites is described as:

… a structured wiki- and Web page-creation tool… People can work together on a Site to add file attachments, information from other Google applications.

It is a great way to keep all relevant content related to a class in one place and makes it easy for students to stay up-to-date. You can easily organise different topics or modules into different ‘levels’ on your Google Site and develop it as you go. It also allows students to work at their own pace, provides opportunities for you as the teacher to include formative assessments and to easily make available extension tasks for students who need to be challenged.

As well as embedding other Google apps and YouTube videos, you can also embed other media into your Google Sites. I often include Prezis and Zaption videos, allowing me to use and curate existing content rather than having to create everything from scratch. You can also include the Google Classroom calendar on the site to help students keep track of due dates or a quiz using Google Forms.

Google Sites are also a great way for students to present evidence of learning and portfolios of work. Just like Google Drive apps, Google Sites can be collaborative.

And you don’t have to know anything about web design to use Google Sites. Try the Beginner’s guide to creating a site if you’d like some direction.

Not sure where to start? Create a page with a YouTube video and a Google Form with a few questions to check for understanding. Instant (well nearly) online mini-class!

Web design purists like to criticise the limitations and quirks of Google Sites but I have found no quicker or easier way to create websites as I need them.

How to access Google Sites

Login to your Google account.

Go to the following website:

http://sites.google.com

3. Google Slides

Available free with any Google account, including Google Apps for Education
Editing functionality best with full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)
Apps with fewer features available for iOS and Android

Ahhhh, Google Slides. One of my (almost) daily go-tos. So versatile, so easy to use and a great way to introduce blended learning practices.

Google describes Google Slides as:

… an online presentations app that allows you to show off your work in a visual way.

Google Slides can be used as part of a blended learning solution in several ways:

Google Slides can be embedded into a website or blog (like the one above in this post). They are easy to use and easily allow the insertion of links, videos, diagrams, etc.

Google Slides is part of the Google Drive suite.

4. Google Forms

Available free with any Google account, including Google Apps for Education
Editing functionality best with full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)
View Google Forms on any device using Chrome Browser

Google Forms offer a lot of possibilities, from the basic to the complex. The great thing is you don’t have to be a guru to get started with Google Forms which is the reason I selected it as part of my easy-to-use blended tools list.

According to Google:

You can plan events, make a survey or poll, give students a quiz, or collect other information in an easy, streamlined way with Google Forms. You can create a form from Google Drive or from an existing spreadsheet that can record the responses to your form.

Google Forms is so easy to use that you could set up your first short quiz in 5 minutes even if you’ve never used Google Forms before. Your students answer the questions and these are saved in a Google Sheet for you to review the answers. If you are part of a GAfE school, you’ll now exactly who has (and hasn’t!) taken the quiz.

Take it to the next level and add images and YouTube videos and have students answer questions based on those.

You can even create self-grading quizzes with a free add-on called Flubaroo. Another use for Google Forms is creating branched learning scenarios where students are directed to, for example, a video or link depending on their quiz responses.

However you choose to use Google Forms, part of its power is that you can quickly and easily check student understanding, apply any required intervention and keep track of progress and student development.

Of course, this would be part of a wider blended learning and assessment process.

Google Forms is part of the Google Drive suite.

So what are you waiting for? There’s no excuse to not start blending today!

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Creating mini-lessons using Google Slides in 6 easy steps

Google Slides is one of my everyday go-to tools in Google Apps for Education (GAfE) and Create interactive mini lessons using Google Slides Google Drive. It is so versatile and easy to use. As an educator, it makes it easy to put together and distribute information and content. It is also a great app for students to show evidence of learning or to curate a portfolio.

One way to use Google Slides is to create mini-lessons that students can go through at their own pace. They are also useful in ‘flipped classrooms’ and other blended learning approaches.

Mini-lessons are presentations that contain content that students need to know and include some sort of navigation, like a menu, and, ideally, some sort of activity, like a quiz, for students to complete to check for understanding.

Below is a sample mini-lesson designed for illustrative purposes and below that are the 6 easy steps to creating your very own mini-lesson as well as a video tutorial. The content in this mini-lesson has been copied from Wikipedia (not recommended!)

6 Easy steps to create a mini-lesson

1. Create your Google Slides presentation

Login to Google Drive and create a new Google Slides presentation.

2. Write your content

Don’t forget to leave a menu slide so you can go back and create your menu links when you have completed your content.

As well as text, you can include images, videos and links to external content.

As this is intended as a mini-lesson designed to be consumed by an individual rather than a presentation, you can include a lot more text than you normally would in a presentation but be careful about making it look too crowded.

3. Create your menu

Once you have completed your content, go back to your blank menu page and add buttons for links to the different topics in your mini-lesson.

To make your buttons clickable go to:

Insert > Link… > Slides in this presentation > Select the slide to link to

See the video tutorial for a demonstration.

4. Add your “return to menu” button

Create your return to menu button using shapes or inserting an image into one of your content slides. Insert the link to your menu slide:

Insert > Link… > Slides in this presentation > Select the slide to link to

Copy your button to the other content slides

Note: ideally, you would add the return to menu button in the slide layout in slide master view. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, when you view the presentation normally, the link is not clickable.

See the video tutorial for a demonstration.

5. (optional) Add a link to the student activity

For example, this could be a link to a quiz created in a Google Form.

See the video tutorial for a demonstration.

6. Distribute your mini-lesson

Test your mini-lesson first to make sure all the links are doing the right thing.

There are different ways you can distribute your mini-lesson. These include:

  • Use the “Share” option to email a link recipients
  • Use the “Publish to the web” options to embed the presentation in, for example, a blog or Google Site

See the video tutorial for a demonstration.

Video tutorial: Creating interactive mini-lessons in Google Slides

 

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Responsive elearning made easy using Google Forms

Google Forms is an incredibly versatile and powerful tool. Google Forms has made it simple (not to mention free!) for anyone to create a simple, online form. These days, surveys created in Google Forms are almost ubiquitous, used by individuals and big companies alike.

Over time, Google Forms have improved and evolved. Now you can add videos and images. You can even set-up a form to go to particular sections based on responses provided. And that’s where the branched elearning scenarios come in to it.

A branched scenario throws up a challenge to the student and gives the student choices. This leads to consequences based on the choices made. These ‘3cs of scenario building’ are outlined in the below illustration and explained in the video at the end. Google Forms lets you build these scenarios by moving users through the form based on their responses rather than in a straight line.

Branched scenario

Is Google Forms the most elegant and sophisticated of the elearning scenario building tools? Well, no, but it’s easy to use and quick to learn and the price for Google Apps for Education users is perfect (free!)

Tips and tricks

  • Mathematical concepts can be hard to express properly in Google Forms (as per my example in the video). In hindsight, I should have created the 3 different options in a drawing and cross referenced them in the question.
  • Plan out out scenario and organise all your media (images, video, text, etc) before putting it to together in Google Forms. It will make the process quicker and more efficient.
  • Make sure you test your form before you unleash it (even get a friend to test it for you). You want to make sure your branching works or you could create confusion.
  • Responses will be saved to a Google Spreadsheet. In a GAFE domain, students can login and you can check using the responses spreadsheet how they went, how long it took, etc.

Applications for education

Branched scenarios are great for checking students’ skills and knowledge. You can provide instant feedback, as well as instant support if there is a skills or knowledge gap.

To find out more and see step-by-step how to set up a branched scenario in Google Forms, watch the video below.

References

http://blogs.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/build-branched-e-learning-scenarios-in-three-simple-steps/

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