Join CTL and Dani Kennis for a free webinar on how to get started with G Suite for student engagement and improved assessment on Wednesday February 22, at 9am PST.
REGISTER HERE: http://ctl.li/G-Suite-Assessment
By Dani Kennis (danikennis.com or @kennisdani on Twitter)
Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.” When considering change as it affects education, today’s digital age means that we get to try many new and exciting tools in our classrooms. However, not all stakeholders in education are ready to jump in head first and readily embrace change. This blog post will serve as a slow dip in the shallow end of the Ed Tech pool and will introduce you to some of the ways educators can incorporate Google tools into their teaching repertoire to enhance engagement and assessment in the classroom. It is my hope that this blog post can be a jumping off point for a conversation, or even the implementation of new strategies and lessons in your classroom.
G Suite offers teachers many options for connecting, motivating, engaging, and assessing students. ‘What is G Suite?,’ you ask? It is Google’s free collection of cloud based technology apps, such as Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Draw, Google Forms, and Google Classroom. Allowing students to utilize these tools as an integral part of their learning experience enables rich and memorable learning opportunities that focus on important future ready skills such as creating, collaboration, and critical thinking. Below are five ways you can utilize G Suite tools to engage students and improve assessment in your classroom.
- Flipped Instruction: In this model of teaching, the role of student and teacher are reversed. The ‘old school’ classroom model of lecture/note taking becomes work that is done at home so that class time can be used for questions, deeper learning, or group projects. While there are many different models of flipped instruction, I choose to pre-record videos (10 minutes or less in length) which serve as the direct instruction portion of a lesson. Then, the video is uploaded to my YouTube channel and students go home to watch and take notes. Independently, students fill out guided notes at home while following along with the lecture video. The final step is for students to complete a Google Form with questions on it, which is how I hold them accountable for doing the work. The next day in school, I review the answers on the Form to assess understanding and based on that information, we start by reviewing what students saw and heard in the video. Usually, this takes place in the form of a Post It where I have students write two things they learned and one question they still have on the material. Before digging deeper or doing a project, it is important to make sure to clarify misconceptions or misunderstandings that students may have. Eventually, when you’ve flipped a handful of lessons and students have gotten used to the new model, it becomes a seamless process whereby class time can more readily be used for various projects or other collaborative learning opportunities that foster deeper understanding and student driven learning.
- Google Calendar: Many of my students struggle with organization and executive functioning. When I asked my freshmen how they keep track of assignments they reported that they ‘just remember’ or store it ‘in my head.’ They do not yet grasp the importance of using an agenda, calendar, or alternative tool to keep track of long and short term assignments or due dates. This is why I take time at the very beginning of the year to introduce Google Calendar and suggest that students download the app onto their phones, along with downloading Google Drive and Google Classroom. I explicitly teach my students how to enter assignments, due dates, reminders, and how to access all of the information independently and at home. I show them how to use Tasks and To Do lists, as well as discuss the importance of keeping track of both school and non-school related tasks, such as jobs, practices, or meetings. Focusing on these skills and teaching students to implement these tools early on in a student’s educational career stresses the importance of responsibility and organization, making them better and more effective students later on.
- Google Forms: Another beginning of the year procedure I stand by is having students complete an interest and learning inventory questionnaire. I used to have this survey on paper but I found it took too long to collect and sort through the stack. Now, I use a survey I created on Google Forms and post it on Classroom for students to access. The purpose of this is twofold; it provides me with a lot of valuable information and data and also reinforces the many key, rudimentary skills that my students will need to be successful in our class – Taking their assigned Chromebook from the cart, logging in, accessing Google Classroom, typing, and putting their Chromebooks away in an orderly and timely fashion.
- Google Draw: The information I collect from the above mentioned survey provides me with insight into students’ strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. I take the time at the beginning of the year to discuss learning styles with my students because I want them to understand that not everybody learns in the same way. We talk about the differences between being visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners and talk about how many people are a combination of many of those styles. For students who learn best by doing and creating, Google Draw is an invaluable tool. While I always provide written notes for my students, I will often assign them projects in which they have to interpret and prove that they understand the information. Many of them choose to do this using Google Draw either to create an illustrated summary of information or to create a graphic organizer. There are so many options for different projects students can do with Google Draw and, best of all, it’s simple to learn and easy to use for students.
- Group Essays: While essay writing isn’t typically a skill that students look forward to, allowing them to collaborate and assigning specific roles makes the process much less daunting and more manageable for students. Using Google Docs, I have students work in groups to complete the different parts of an essay so that they are able to specifically hone in on certain skills and components of essay writing. I will assign one person to write an introduction, another to a body paragraph, another to a conclusion, and another to editing and proofreading. This also helps them to understand how much effort, time, and thought needs to go into writing an effective and strong essay.
Dani is a high school Special Education Social Studies teacher and Technology Coach in the New York suburbs. She is also a Level 2 Google Certified Trainer and co-founder of The Education Calendar, a crowdsourced map and calendar of education events worldwide. Her blended classroom incorporates the use of G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Education) as well as other Web 2.0 tools in order to prepare her students to be successful 21st century learners in a global community. She blogs about her work and teaching at DaniKennis.com and would love to connect on Twitter (@kennisdani).