Monday, 17 June 2013

Rhws Primary Online - Google Apps for Education Pt3

In Pt2 I talked about how Rhws Primary School introduced Google Apps for Education into the organisational processes of the school. How the staff uploaded their planning documents to Rhws Teachers Online, had easy access to essential school documents, shared meeting minutes and recently collaborated with several members of staff on their end of year pupil reports.

As I previously explained, the aim was to get staff used to using the platform for their everyday work, to help them gain some confidence and skills in using the platform before engaging the pupils in learning and teaching activities. However, it wasn't long before a couple of teachers and a learning support assistant wanted to get the pupils online and try out some of the various tools that were available to them. Yr5 and Yr6 pupils were given user names and passwords which allows them access to many of the tools that their teachers have. Like the staff, the pupils were directed into 'Rhwsters Online' via the school's website. This Google Site was built as a landing page for the pupils, where there are shortcuts to their Google Drive, GMail, Google Sites, PurpleMash (which the school has subscribed to),  Gooru (which is a search engine for learning) and a link to Google Maps. A RSS newsfeed from BBC Newsround is embedded and finally 'Frogger' (which you may have played if you are as old as me :-)

Rhwsters Online

Yr5 teacher, Mr. Allers has kindly allowed me to share with you, in his own words, some of the activities he has been involved in with his class

Google Sites
Pupils first starting creating sites linked to their topic - which was WW2 at the time. It didn't take them long to familiarize themselves with sites and its capabilities. I am now looking to get the pupils to create a personal site which will pretty much act as an 'Education Passport' which will be all about their learning experiences, skills, abilities, interests and most importantly, targets - maths, English, Welsh, guided reading - pretty much anything constructive feedback they get thorough the year, can be listed on their 'Targets' page.

Example of page from a pupils WWII site

Google Drive
This feature has been the most relevant to my class as of late. I decided to take the pupils 'Own Learning' - which is Rhws' version of homework, online. The pupils all created a 'review template' in their own drives, which they use fortnightly to review what they have been learning. They also then explain how they've learned it and what they would like to learn more about. They then share this with me, online of course. I then send the pupils their Own Learning task via email, which they access/retrieve at home. So far, the tasks have revolved around the pupils using the different functions/apps in their drives - word document, questionnaire, spreadsheet, drawing and presentation. I set up a scanner in my classroom and trained the pupils on how to use it. This allowed the pupils to continue creating 'manual' pieces of Own Learning like drawings, etc. They also scan photographs and various other hard copy items and upload all of these into their own drives, always sharing with me.

I have allowed my pupils to use the email function of their online accounts. So far, there has been no issues with this in fact, quite the opposite. Pupils, 9-10 yrs old, actually email me in the weeknights and over the weekends for completely positive, educational reasons. I can understand that some teachers may not appreciate fielding emails from pupils in the evening and over the weekends but again, not only has this empowered the pupils, it has made them entirely more independent! I actually don't receive that many emails - they tend to email each other with their queries!!

In pairs/small groups, go down to the Forest School area and pick a piece of shrubbery (flowers, etc). Then write a creative, short story about how that object got there. Ensure you do it collaboratively - one partner/group member open up a document and share it with the other members. (Multiple users can access the same document at the same time and edit it). Use instant messages to communicate/sort each other out.

In pairs (guided reading session) one person writes a basic sentence. Then the other person has to up-level the sentence, taking turns. This task is to be done collaboratively (when I say this, the pupils know to share a document between them. They are very good at quickly deciding who is going to open and share.)

Silent lessons:
Some lessons we do will be totally 'silent'. The only form of communication will be via instant messages. This has proved particularly beneficial in terms of inclusion. Even the extremely quiet and shy pupils who normally NEVER put themselves forward to ask questions or speak publicly get involved. They happily, and confidently, send myself and other members of the class messages throughout the lesson. What's most pleasing is how on-task all of these instant messages are. I had to show the pupils how to add each other/accept their instant messenger requests and we also had to change our settings to allow desktop pop-ups - meaning that regardless of the screen or window they're in, the message will show on the screen. 

Taking it further:
Now that all the pupils in my class are well versed at using their Google accounts, I am now going to branch out in terms of access to a wider of Google apps - we have already 'connected' to a few different picture editing apps, which the pupils have been using to edit/alter different pics that they have uploaded and shared with each other.

What I find pleasing is that Mr. Allers as well as trying out the more traditional ways of working with tools such as word processing and presentations, he is also utilising the collaborative capabilities of working 'in the cloud'. Sharing documents, collaborative writing activities and using the messaging tool. He's also started to investigate a couple of other freely available 3rd party apps that can support learning and teaching. The picture editing apps for example fill gap in the range of tools offered by Google Apps for Education. A neat feature of the apps he's currently looking at is that they work together with Google Drive. A pupil opens the app from Google Drive, works on the image and it's saved back into their drive. Everything is kept in one place.

In my next Google Apps for Education blog I'll share the results of an online questionnaire that the teachers recently submitted about the first year of using Rhws Primary Online.


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