Well, hours of time set aside to blog extensively about my experiences with the early phases of implementing Google Apps in my two Social Studies 10 classes have come and gone. Unfortunately, over an hour of that allotted time was spent attempting to get my sick 5 month old back to sleep. When you combine this time with the hour or so I seem to spend procrastinating while suffering through “bloggers block” you have a fairly lethal amount of time well-wasted. As a result I’m going to have to post some initial observations about implementing Google Apps in a few short bursts and hope for some feedback from my legions of fans…
Observation #1: My students dove right into their personalized Gmail accounts. They immediately went about adding their friends and classmates to their instant messenger contacts and had no complaints about only being able to add users from our Google Apps domain name. Initially students focused on using the IM tool for socializing only, but the time I found a student that was home sick communicating with me and her classmates on IM during class time in an effort to stay on top of what was happening in class was a pretty cool moment.
Observation #2: Google Sites are incredibly easy to use. I was able to set up a simple yet effective class site in a short period of time. I introduced Google Sites to my students and then let them lose with building their own personal sites. After some time spent exploring on their own I had them build their own “Socials 10” sites for our class. These sites are fairly embryonic at this point, but they’ve played around with inserting my homework calendar and inserting work they have created in Google Docs. I’m looking forward to continuing to come up with new ways for my students to use their sites as they have really embraced this idea so far.
Observation #3a: Google Docs is a great tool for collaboration, but I wish the “Revision History” tool, which allows you to compare past versions of a given document, was a bit more powerful. I have had my students collaborate by using Docs to do some group writing and some peer editing, but it would be nice if the “Revision History” tool made it easier to get an overall picture of how much individual collaborators have put in to a given document.
Observation #3b: Keeping track of all the Google Docs that students share with you can get messy in a hurry! I’m still working on creating some system for organizing incoming documents automatically. I’m also attempting to figure out how NOT to get an email every time a student shares a doc with me. Any tips regarding either of these issues?
Observation #4: I was able to create a fairly thorough student survey form relating to their use of technology using Google Forms. I intend to use this tool for gathering student feedback on our use of Google Apps as a part of my masters project research. I also plan to use it to quiz students and as a type of “exit form” to figure out what topics students do or do not understand. Shortly after using my technology survey I witnessed another teacher attempt to survey every student in our school using paper surveys. I shuddered thinking about the nightmare of compiling all of that data and was glad had Google Forms to do the dirty work for me.
Observation #5: I need to continue to search for different lesson activities that can be improved through the use of Google Apps. I think I’m barely scratching the surface of what my students can be doing using these tools. If anyone has any ideas (big or small) that they’d like to share I’ll compile them all and test them out over the next few weeks.
Well, in the end I would say that this post is neither short nor sweet, but it is a start. There is still lots to be done and I will try to do a better job staying on top of my work with Google Apps in the coming weeks.
PS: I realize I forgot a fairly important observation…
Observation #6: All the Google propaganda I have been spreading in my blog, tweeting about on Twitter and bookmarking in Delicious hasn’t gotten me a whiff of an invite to Google Wave. C’mon Google, I’m drowning in your Kool-Aid here, would it kill you to toss me an invite already?