Over the past few weeks I've covered a few instructional implementation strategies for Google Apps. I'm going to take a moment to quickly recap on the framework behind these tutorials as well as identify a few of my favorite strategies.
What I mean by "favorites" is that I tended to use the strategy over and over again in class because of it's success in improving overall learning gains, or because they helped me streamline many teacher-tasks that became redundant and burdensome. If you missed one or two of the posts, I'll link those below, simply click on and image and it will take you right to the post.
Here's what I covered in this series
(click an image and it will take you to the post)
These tutorials/blog posts were designed to help educators who already have a rudimentary understanding of Google Apps (including Docs, Slides, Forms, and Sheets). The reason I didn't go into depth on each application, installation, or basic functionality is because that's already been written about a million times. In fact, you can learn how to use any of those applications by simply clicking this button below:
Therein lies why I decided to write this series to begin with. There is an incredible infrastructure behind the Google app suite. Not just technically speaking (a Google Search for "how to use Google Docs" yields 196,000,000 results), but in terms of in-person and online Learning Networks, blog posts, formal and informal PD, Online chats, hashtags, and the list goes on.
My professional suggestion to any teacher who plans on working for the next 5-10 years is to learn how to use these applications. This isn't one of those education fads that are going to go away. It's worth a weekend or two, and if you start using the strategies I laid out in my posts it will make you a more organized teacher at the very least.
My Favorite Strategies and Why I Love Them
MASTER THE ART OF CITATION
Follow each question with a separate box where students must cite where they got their information from. The sooner you do this the better, getting students in the habit of looking things up and citing will put them in a better position when they start taking everyone's favorite standardized tests.
Two great websites for creating citations quickly and easily are:
Why I Love This strategy
- Doing this early on can get students in the habit of citing sources. This will make them more effective writers overall, but it also gives you an opportunity to figure out where your students are REALLY getting their information from. This can be a real eye opener and lead to possible "AHA!" moments by both you and the students.
- This is really easy to do... it's as easy as adding a blank box after each question; no planning, no fuss. If you aren't religiously checking the citations, that ok. But, I suggest checking the citations from time to time to make sure your students are making them up.
- It reinforces skills they're going to need for standardized tests. Love them or hate them, students need to do it. Doing it this way saves you time in class for more important things.
- There are a ton of resources students can use online, this gives you a chance to impose some general rules for students to follow (APA, MLA citation standards). And, by simply creating a conditional formatting setting to your spreadsheets you can identify mistakes or students who have cited sources that you haven't approved. In other words, if they're using the online resources (bibme, easybib, etc) then all of the citations should look the same... you can program the sheet associated with your form to identify any deviations - making it easier to spot errors.
COPY EDITOR CHALLENGE
So your students have written a paper, now you have to go through and give it a grade. Not so fast! Why not have your student share their paper with another student, where that student then becomes a copy editor? Have the copy editor go into "suggestion mode" and edit the paper. Make sure the copy editor leaves constructive comments and even possibly corresponds via email, the same way a contract copy editor would do in the real world.
Why I Love This Strategy
To be completely transparent, this wasn't my favorite strategy when I first tried it. It was really difficult to take time away from my preps to train students on how to effectively add comments, edit, etc. However, once I did I realized that the students were quickly asking each other way more questions than I could ever interrogate them into asking while they were in class. Also, as soon as I stepped out of the classroom and into my current role, I quickly realized that the world uses Google docs... In other words, the more I can do to prepare them for how documents are created in the real world, the better.
CREATE A TREASURE TROVE OF TEACHING RESOURCES
This strategy is a little bit like what I mentioned in my previous blog post on google docs. However, instead of only using Google Docs to create lesson plans, you can actually assemble a group of teachers (PLC/PLN) to create presentation materials that you can all use. By using the sharing feature, you and a group of like-minded educators can assemble a pretty robust collection of teaching resources in short order (specifically presentations for the sake of this blog post). I wholeheartedly encourage this approach to resource aggregation for lots of reasons, time management, planning efficiency, creating a culture of powerful use, and setting a good example for student collaboration.
Why I love This Strategy
I love this strategy for the plain and simple reason of managing your time, especially for teachers who are either just starting out, or for teachers who have been given a new prep. One thing I've always found peculiar was an educator's capacity/tolerance to perform redundant tasks. In some cases, grading the same quiz 120 times by hand for example, it's rather unavoidable... well, now that you've read my post on creating assessments with google forms you'll know that part of that is unavoidable. But, when it comes to creating lesson plans and the presentations that usually accompany them, you shouldn't have to create 30 weeks of content more than once (unless you're improving what you already have). Why would you do that when you can simply work together with a few of your peers to create that same amount of content in short order? This just makes sense. Even if you're only working with a single, trusted educators, you can save yourself many weekends by simply agreeing on a framework, and cutting the work in half, or in a third. Working with other teachers will also make you look good professionally. This strategy is really a win-win.
SAY IT WITH NUMBERS
The old saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words". If pictures are worth a thousand, then well formatted tables and charts are worth a thousand thousand (a million)! Design a lesson where students work with pre-determined data sets (example: California Rainfall Data 2015) to make strong cases in favor of (or against) relevant political or ecological action. Students can play with this data collaboratively using Google Sheets, or you can format the table yourself inside of a model spreadsheet and share it with your students. Depending on the grade level/competence of your students you can modify the complexity of the table/assignment.
Why I Love This Strategy
I actually have two favorites when it comes to using Google Sheets in class, this one and "TRACK STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES AND PREDICT THE FUTURE!" But, I'll focus on "say it with numbers" because it's much easier to implement. So, ever since the introduction of the Common Core Standards we all have to start incorporating more numbers into our lessons. For math and science teachers, we've already been doing this, and it aligns more intuitively with our content, so it isn't a big deal. For liberal arts however, this can feel like an unnatural contortion. So, rather than try and figure this out yourself, why not put the onus on your students? The only thing you should be focusing on is providing the students with appropriate figures, which can vary greatly based on grade level, reading level, IEP, etc.
We've covered a lot of ground in this series. I've covered four of Google's most popular apps in terms of educational implementation: Sheets, Docs, Slides, and Forms. The instructional implementation strategies I've suggested were based on my own experience, and validated over time through my own research and attendance at educational conferences around the country. Google apps are here to stay, so if you're already using them then you're ahead of the curve. And, if you're just learning, then keep it up! These apps have come a long way in the last 10 years and they're only going to continue to get better. So essentially no matter how long you've been using them we're all still learning. In 2006 Larry Page (Co Founder and Current CEO of Google) launched apps for education at Arizona State University. Now, Google apps for education is used by 3/4 of Universities and has over 25 millions users. This doesn't even include educators like me who use the regular consumer version.
If you're still reading, do me a favor and add a comment, suggestion, or question in the comments section. Thanks for reading!
KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING
Please leave a comment letting me know what you think of the post, what strategies I should add, resources I should include, and/or general feedback. Also follow me on Twitter for more more posts like this one, and share the ones you find useful.
Thanks for reading!
[header photo credit: Dustin Lee]