Last week, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Summit, held at MLC in Burwood. As a now-second year teacher, it was a fantastic opportunity to be able to attend an event with such a great reputation. It was so worth making the trip to Sydney to take part (in holidays no less!) and I’m really excited to share what I learned.
It was a whirlwind of new information and busy sessions, so it’s taken me a few days to process some of the things I’ve learned and I thought I’d share some of them here.
- Collaboration. Collaboration is the key theme that ties it all together. So much of the potential that I see in the Google tools that I got the chance to play with is the way that students can work together almost seamlessly.
- Google Docs and Drive. Google Docs will totally change how my students and I work in the classroom. There have been so many times in this past year when an activity has been hampered (or ruined altogether) by difficulties in getting students to easily work together. Group work in particular will be made so much easier – you know what it’s like when one student being off sick causes the whole group’s work to grind to a halt! It also avoids the nauseating back-and-forth of email attachments of 1st draft, 2nd draft etc. etc. Google Forms will also be really useful, especially for beginning of the year activities.
- Flubaroo and Doctopus. These are scripts that run inside Google Drive to help try and take the fuss out of some of those everyday but time-consuming things. Flubaroo works with Google Forms to automatically mark students’ quizzes and email them their results. But the one that I’m really interested in is Doctopus, which works with Google Docs to quickly share documents with students, help manage group work and give students feedback. The potential for this one – especially in terms of the time it can save – is fantastic.
- Google Sites. I had been investigating Moodle to help put all my content in one place, but I think that I’d be better off putting my efforts into a Google Site instead. Much more seamless integration for a start!
- Fusion tables. By far the geekiest thing that I looked into while at GAFE, this is all about new ways to visualise data using Google Maps. You can make interactive maps that incorporate whatever data you like across a map, as long as it has a geographical component. It gives the visual element and still conveys a richness about whatever data you like. In having a play around with it, I discovered a number of useful sources of data that might be useful: the UN Environmental Program, Geoscience Australia and data.gov.au.
So many things to try! We’re just starting to implement Google Apps in our school this coming year, so it’ll be an interesting learning experience to put some of these things into practice. I can’t wait!