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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QR code fun with Google Chrome

What are QR codes & why should you care?

QR code is short for ‘quick response’ code. It is a type of bar code that can be scanned by a smartphone or Scanning QR codes using Google Chrome on iOStablet that has the required app installed needed to interpret the QR code. QR codes are being used for:

  • manufacturing
  • tracking items
  • promotions and advertising
  • product labelling

QR codes in education have been on the fringes of ’emerging’ technology for a while. There are some educators who swear by them and use them in interesting ways to create engaging and effective learning experiences. Now, Google have added a feature to the Chrome app on iOS allowing users to scan QR codes without needing an extra app! This is great for users of G Suite for Education and educators operating in a locked down tech environment that does not allow you to add apps to iPads or iPods.

The great news is QR code technology and ideas are not hard to understand and there are plenty of resources and ideas to have you up and running today. All you need is an iPad, iPod or iPhone and an updated version of Chrome (plus a teeny pit of prep/printing).

Note: other operating systems can also scan QR codes but you will need a separate app that will scan the code.

Using QR codes in the classroom

The good news is many educators have shared their ideas and resources on using QR codes in the classroom so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Below is a Pinterest board of resources to get you started.

One of my favourite QR code activities is the scavenger hunt. It can be used across many subject areas and gets students up and moving.

Scanning QR codes using Google Chrome (iOS)

If you have an up-to-date version of the Chrome app on your iOS device (iPad, iPod or iPhone) you have everything you need to start scanning QR codes – no separate apps needed.

There are 2 ways of accessing the QR code scanning feature in Chrome:

  • 3D touch of the Chrome icon (newer devices)
  • Using spotlight search and searching for ‘QR’

The short video below takes you through step-by-step on using both of these methods.

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Digital student workbooks with Google Slides

There are lots of different ways to use Google Create digital student workbooks with Google SlidesDrive apps in the classroom. Google Slides offers many possibilities. One way of using Google Slides in the classroom is developing digital student workbooks that include different types of activities. You can take a static, paper based, black and white worksheet or workbook and make it interactive and colourful, incorporating different ways of engaging with information and demonstrating understanding.

Items you can include in your digital workbook include:

  • words and images (I know, obvious)
  • multimedia including YouTube videos
  • links to other resources
  • short answer activities
  • drag and drop activities
  • extended response activities
  • links to a quiz in Google Forms
  • links to a Google Classroom
  • collaborative activities
  • student portfolio

The ability to create drag and drop activities is particularly appealing. Below is a short video tutorial showing you how to create drag and drop activities in your workbook that prevent student from accidentally moving the wrong elements on the page. This is done by using the “Slide > Background image” feature of Google Slides.

Advantages of digital workbooks with Google Slides

  • Free!
  • Reduce paper.
  • Easy to distribute via your preferred method. For example, email, Google Drive sharing, Google Classroom.
  • Does not require G Suite for Education (just Google Drive).
  • Can differentiate by developing different versions for students aiming to achieve at different levels.
  • Ability to incorporate different learning activities.

Free sample digital workbook

Below is a link to the sample workbook shown in the video. Feel free to make a copy for yourself and use it as you like:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1z9sfkNXCYxebr1Fe8U1A7dtuGIDzuD7RATBXnixgXuw

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Student-centred learning environments with G Suite for Education

Like many educators around the globe, last weIdeal student learning environmentekend 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:

  1. Learning hubs – “home room on steroids”. Idea of “learning coach”, the students’ “important adult” at school.
  2. Learning projects – two thirds of every Wednesday focused on long term projects. Tend to be community based – “we not me”.
  3. 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:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SRFj3JYLUabd2pjHNSRVVRQMyAycQJCJTTZnp9o0WlI/edit

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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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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Create blank PDFs in Google Classroom

Another month and another handy fLearn how to create blank PDFs in Google Classroom for iOS and Androideature update in Google Classroom. This feature was first released for Android and is now also available for iOS. Students can create blank PDFs and submit them as part of an assignment in Google Classroom. Students can annotate their blank PDFs freehand using pen, marker and highlighter tools as well as a text tool. (At the time of writing, this feature was not available for the web/Chrome OS versions of Google Classroom).

There are many useful applications for these blank PDFs in Google Classroom. Students can now draw, draft or design directly within Google Classroom. The zoom in and out feature can make it easier for students with poor handwriting to write information (particularly useful for mathematics). Students can use either their fingers or a stylus.

The short video below show how the tool can be used from a student’s perspective.

 

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Google Classroom basics: cheat sheet for teachers

OnFREE Google Classroom basics: cheat sheet for teacherse of the most powerful features of G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education) is the Google Classroom app. Google Classroom is ONLY available with G Suite for Education. Google Classroom is also free and integrates beautifully with other Google apps such as Google Drive and Google Calendar. The mobile apps are also excellent and have the additional advantage of allowing annotation of documents.

There are previous posts specifically on the benefits and features of Google Classroom. You can access those here:

http://googleappsaction.com/?cat=38

Below is a link to a 4-page ‘cheat sheet’ created to get teachers up and running with Google Classroom quickly and without hassle. It is in Google Doc format so you will be able to create a copy for yourself and you can edit the copy if you wish. The cheat sheet can be accessed electronically or printed if preferred.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OG8Vf0M7hTcfHvQgZInbeFblIz6PGW5unp4e_nahUgU/edit?usp=sharing

To create a copy of the cheat sheet:

In order to edit the cheat sheet, you will need to make a copy to your own Google Drive.

  • Click on the link provide. It will be ‘View only’.
  • From the ‘File’ menu select ‘Make a copy…’
  • Follow the prompts to name and save your file

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