Google Classroom has probably been the best new tool of 2014-2015 in our division. What I have especially been loving about it is that Google has taken teacher (and Tech Coach) feedback to heart and has made changes to enhance the experience for teachers and students.
Recently, Google has made these changes to Classroom (& the App):
I appreciate that Google makes changes based on feedback and is really working hard to make this FREE resource work for teachers.
Does your staff worry about being replaced by computers? I think ( okay, I know) that some of mine does. Our division put an online learning graduation requirement in place and I have heard that some people are concerned that they will be replaced by an online course.
It makes sense...we could have the students all on module-type courses working from home or proctored computer labs...or have one teacher instructing hundreds of students in an online course. It would certainly save money in these times of tight budgets.
Seriously though? I don't see that ever happening. I certainly hope it doesn't happen!
While I love online learning (it works really well for me), I know so many more teachers (and students) who aren't fans. I would wager that most people need at least some face-to-face, human interaction in order to learn comfortably and effectively. Module, automated-type courses offer a wonderful opportunity for credit recovery, acceleration, and home-bound students but for the majority of learners, I doubt that is their preferred method of instruction.
Even when you add an online teacher into the mix, some people don't know that teaching an online course is A LOT of work! It takes organization, engagement, and (copious amounts of) time to make an effective online teacher-led course. If I were the coordinator for online learning, I'd make the classes smaller online, than they are in a brick & mortar school.
As an Instructional Technology Coach, I love to inspire teachers to use more technology to engage and inspire their students, but I worry that some of them might think that the computers are trying to replace them. So, I made this (below) and put it on my office wall, just so those concerned teachers know where I stand. Feel free to print it and post it in your space, too.
I have supported a number of 1:1 classes with different types of devices: iPads, laptops, Chromebooks. I am passionate about 1:1 learning. I understand the challenges (read: funding) to making that happen in many schools, but if a teacher is going to REALLY integrate technology into their instruction, then technology needs to be ubiquitous...like paper.
Do people think twice about a classroom having paper? Of course not- that's just something that you 'have' to have in order to teach/learn, just like students. Back in the day, paper was a hot commodity (truth be told, at some schools is still is now). Students would write on any scrap they could find and many times, practice was done on slates or other reusable-type surface. Over time, paper became less expensive, readily available and in most classes (ubiquitous) and now, most people can't image a classroom without it.
Shouldn't technology be the same? If you wheel a cart of devices in once a week or have 2 computers set up in the back (that take 20 minutes to login), is that really integrating technology into instruction?
I think there is really only one way for teachers (and students) to fully embrace technology and to truly integrate it into teaching and learning...by having a 1:1 classroom. One device for one student, every day, all day. When considering expanding 1:1 programs, my guiding idea is that students should reach for that device like they would any other tool...it should be the paper, the pencil in the classroom. When that happens, you're integrated.
Aside from the money issues (ugh, money), a 1:1 program is scary for teachers (and for IT support if we're being honest). When you ask teachers to make a shift from what they've been taught and what they've been doing, it's a cause for apprehension. There are some things you can do as the coach to ensure (hopefully?) a positive outcome.
1. Make time. You might not know it now, but that teacher is going to need a lot of your time. Plan with them before the students get their devices. Spend some time in the classroom, especially when kids first get their devices. Set aside some on-going planning time with the teacher (this is SO valuable). This is your ambassador, your baby bird...eventually they will fly from the nest and share the wonders of 1:1 at your site, but they're going to need support to get there.
2. Build a student support network. I take a two-tiered approach on this. First: ask the teacher to identify a handful-ish (2-6) of students that are capable, kind, and trustworthy to be your student support team. These students should be the first place that classmates go for support (train the teacher to refer kids to colleagues first). I love this because it shows that students can fix problems too AND it saves the teachers' time, which is key. Second: get self-serve resources together for kids. Make a link for password resets, support guides, and other helpful information all in one place so that students can be self-sufficient. Most of them don't want to ask for help, so give them the tools to be a problem-solver.
3. Get an extra device. I can't think of how many times one device would go down and the teacher would be desperate for another, because they had their whole lesson based on needing that device (YAY...that's just what I wanted!). Rather than disrupting the lesson or having them share, have an extra device (if you can). It doesn't have to be the newest or the best- just something that they can use to do the same work.
I won't lie. Starting, expanding, and maintaining 1:1 programs is a lot of work, but in my experience, it is the best way to support teachers in shifting their instruction and supporting students in learning how to learn for the future. Could I have saved a whole mess of aggravation by not pushing them with my school? Sure. But the benefits and fantastic changes coming out of those classes make me want to transform the whole school into a 1:1 learning zone. A Tech Coach can dream...
As you may be aware, there are so many instructional models out there...LEARN, TPACK (which is more big-picture), ADDIE, SAMR...among many others.
SAMR is a big one in Educational Technology Integration- we hear about it a lot. SAMR is an acronym for...Substitute, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition and in theory it's a great model & concept if we stop right there.
When you're working with teachers to integrate technology into their instruction, it's important to scaffold them (a lot) and meet them where they are at. So taking their lesson or activity and starting out with substitution is a great way to get your Technology Coach foot in the door. My issue with coaching and SAMR is that for many coaches and teachers, this is where it ends. You could effectively rebrand SAMR as S.
Open Chrome and do a search for SAMR. Really, do it. You'll see all sorts of great graphics and articles extolling the glories of SAMR...and as I said- I like it- I think it's a great idea. Here's one of the more involved graphics on SAMR. I like this one (source), I think it's one of the better ones.
Here's my issue: if you look at this...really look at it, it's nearly all substitution. And it's not just this one graphic. There's more here and here and here. I'm especially drawn to this one (source), too, but whether you're at the first cup (coffee) or the last one (pumpkin spice latte)...aren't you still drinking coffee?
For sure, in both cases, there is technology use happening in classrooms, which is great (it's my goal every day). But to say that you're augmenting instruction or (my stars) redefining what you're doing? Really? Because I still see the kids taking notes. When I hear redefinition, I think about what this chart says... "creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable."
Wow. That's a powerful statement. You're making such a shift in instruction that students are able to do things that you (or they) couldn't have even thought of yesterday.
Isn't that what we're going for? Isn't that the education you want to see? It sounds like it's what parents want. I was reading the Speak Up Survey Results tweeted by TCEA (who I love) this morning...I'm working on my data for Virginia...and I was shocked to see that 57% of parents reported that they felt their students weren't "learning the right skills in school to be successful in the future."
Let's really redefine learning and education. I (obviously) think that any systemic change will require time and an investment in technology (read: money), but anyone can start small. Rather than redefining your class with notes using a slick app, maybe put the ball into your students' hands and make them create the learning opportunities. They have the tools, the facts and the space- give it a try and see what happens. Even if you fail...won't you be failing forward?
I'm a Technology Coach and IT Support for a school. I'm passionate about 1:1 classrooms technology in instruction.