I first heard about Google Apps for Education in 2011 when I attended a conference session with Rich Lambert. At the time I was teaching a Prep, one and two combined class, my school was very small, only around eighty students. I decided I would try some of the tools out with my own class. The first thing I did was create a Google Site, which was used in a similar way to a blog. It was a place for students to share their work and communicate with each other.
The following year, I did a similar thing. I had a class website which was used more as an organisational tool as that same year I began using a class blog. In 2012 I also began using Google Docs and Google Calendar, for my personal use as well as for teaching purposes.
Reflecting on how I was using Google Apps, I wrote a ‘proposal plan’ for my principal on why the school should go Google and how it would be organised. It was approved, but my timeline was slowed slightly due to other priorities and tech issues. By the end of 2012 Aitken Creek Primary School finally had their own Google Apps for Education Domain. In 2013 this was deployed to staff who were teaching years three to six and the two classes of year five and six students.
This was the beginning of what I would like to describe as a very beautiful friendship. I was blown away by what our students were doing, the collaboration I was seeing from students was more than I could have hoped for. Their digital literacy skills were improving daily and their confidence was something to be proud of.
From a teacher’s perspective, I found it to be an incredibly powerful tool for my team of teachers. I was grade sharing at the time, so to have that level of collaboration between myself and another teacher was quite powerful for our organisation and lesson planning. I really loved how easy it was to share documents rather than emailing back and forth.
I did however, find it difficult to get other teachers on board. At the time I was a 5/6 teacher, team leader and part time teaching and learning coach within the school. I struggled to share the love of Google Apps with teachers who I did not work with closely. I always talk about tech stuff at school that sometimes I swear I hear people think “Here goes Bec again…going on about something I will never use”.
I finally found an in…our staff intranet page was playing up, staff were getting frustrated that they could not access it from home. Our Tech’s would fix it but then it just kept happening. One win for me, one loss to the silly intranet that reminded me of an incredibly ancient display of computer technology. At this stage I began creating a Google Site page that would eventually take the place of our intranet. I started to upload all of the documents that were on our shared drive, added in some links and it started to take shape. I also added all of our events to a Google Calendar, invited all staff to it and embedded into the site.
At the beginning of 2014, my school employed many new teachers, the old intranet wasn’t working properly and my staff Google Site was ready. I was also appointed as an Acting eLearning Leading Teacher and Teaching and Learning Coach, I do not have my own class this year so this have given me the time to implement it properly, on a whole school level. I basically threw staff in the deep end, I was worried as it was and still is quite a big change from what many teachers were used to. But at the same time, I knew I had support from leadership and let’s face it, the times they are changing, it’s about time many teachers start to learn how to use technology effectively, so the deep end it was…with me standing on the side with floaties of course. And do you know what happened? They swam…every single one of them. Some were off and racing pretty quickly and I still have a few who are treading water but I am working with them and have all the confidence in the world that I will get them there.
When I began my journey into leadership, I was quite young and I could never really understand why things just couldn’t happen, it used to frustrate me to no end that people weren’t willing or ready to take new things on board. It took me a while to understand that just because someone did something differently to me or didn’t agree with my way of how things should be done, did not mean they were wrong. The biggest things I have learnt from deploying Google Apps for Education at my school is that it pays to have a plan, that perseverance is everything and that with support and a need for change big things are possible.
I am so proud of all of the teachers at my school who have taken Google Apps for Edu on board so positively and can already see the benefits for their own organisation. I can’t wait for the penny to drop as they realise what they can do with their students.
A look into Google Apps for Edu at ACPS:
Staff ‘intranet’ Site
Staff Shared Documents
Collaborative Team Folders