Like many educators around the globe, last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in Google’s virtual “Education on Air: It takes a teacher” conference. There were options to “attend” the event in Australia and New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the Americas. I chose the Australian event (being Australian) and it was refreshing the hear presenters speaking my “language” educationally.
However, whilst the contexts were Australian, the key messages were universal.
3 key take-aways from Education on Air
- technology is not a cure for ineffective educational systems and poor pedagogy
- the importance of student voice
- balancing consistency with flexibility and meeting learner needs
Essentially it is about moving towards the ideal, learner-centred environment that combines student ownership, personalised learning, mastery based learning and positive relationships between peers and educators. The focus of the sessions was how G Suite for Education was being used by educators to help achieve this.
Below I have outlined ideas from 3 of the sessions I found most useful, along with the videos of the sessions.
Meeting the needs of 21st Century learners – Google Classrooms, Learner Agency and Universal Design for Learning
“Rather than finding a digital educational cure, [Dr. Kentaro Toyama] came to understand…technology’s ‘Law of Amplification’: technology could help education where it’s already doing well, but it does little for mediocre educational systems.”
Dr Kentaro Toyama in Time Magazine.
This session was presented by Claire Amos, Deputy Principal, Hobsonville Point Secondary School.
This school is unique as it is a “greenfield”, planned school. Twelve months was spent on research, the designed space and pedagogy, including technology.
The mandate was rethinking what secondary education is and expecting teachers in particular to let go of their preconceptions. The key tool for their blended learning solution is G Suite for Education and, in particular, Google Classroom.
The schools approach to curriculum has 3 components:
- Learning hubs – “home room on steroids”. Idea of “learning coach”, the students’ “important adult” at school.
- Learning projects – two thirds of every Wednesday focused on long term projects. Tend to be community based – “we not me”.
- Learning modules – both stand alone and integrated subjects. Working with colleagues across curriculum areas.
Hobsonville Point Secondary School have kindly made available their E-Learning Best Practice Guide which is available here:
While many of us do not have the luxury of a 1-on-1 or a purpose designed school, the ideas can be implemented in most learning environments that have access to some technology.
Claire identified that, for their students, the key is a balance between consistency in delivery (students know what to expect and how to access what they need) and student voice and student choice (multiple modes of engagement and expression). Google Classroom is the tool which helps meet these needs.
Below is a video of the session.
Xavier High School – From DER to Freedom
This session was presented by Ben ThomasTwitterg, Learning and Digital Pedagogy Coordinator, Xavier High School Albury.
(“DER” stands for “Digital Education Revolution”, a now defunct government program in Australia.)
This school’s approach was to leverage available funding and create a medium term plan to benefit the school and students with specific, measurable goals.
The school transitioned from Win PCs provided under a government funded program to Chromebooks after an extensive trial. The affordability of Chromebooks vs PCs meant they could go to a 1-to-1 environment and could update the hardware every 2 years. This means they could maximise access to G Suite tools. Because not all students have access to Internet at home, it is important that the G Suite tools were available offline on the Chromebooks.
The school’s goal was to improve literacy and numeracy using technology tools, in particular Chromebooks and G Suite for Education. Data supports that this has happened although time did not permit an explanation of exactly what technology helped achieve this.
G Suite is also used for organisation at the school, e.g., substitution lessons and teacher absences.
Below is a video of the session.
Using Google in the Student Engagement context
This session was presented by Ian Thomson, Director of IT and Timothy French, Director of Student Engagement at Amaroo School.
The school is a public school in ACT (Canberra). The school offers Years 6-10, and has 1000 students. The specific case study presented looked at the use of G Suite as part of a student welfare solution. The school has a diverse student base and needs.
The school has a “student tech team”. This team development a Google Site as a student engagement site. The aim of the site was to provide an opportunity for students to empower themselves and access what they need for their wellbeing and education. Students designed, proto-typed, tested and refined the site. An important note is that students built it but they cannot access the data.
The advantage of using G Suite to help manage student welfare – engagement, pastoral care and behaviour is it is something students already use and are familiar with. The school is using G Suite to:
– to communicate opportunities to all students.
– reach more students.
– empower students.
– allow communication from parents.
– staff resources to help with student welfare.
– access welfare services.
– triage tool, predominately for mental health.
Some students may be more likely to engage with services through technology in the first instance.
The idea can easily be implemented in any school and personalised to fit the needs it’s students.
Below is the video to the full session.
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