Getting Good with Google

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With the arrival of the internet the ability to research and “look things up” has never been so easy but as a teacher I am finding myself getting continually frustrated with pupils because they can not actually use the internet effectively. They type basic questions directly into Google and expect the answer to pop right up. There is no resilience, there is no effort put in any more. As a student at University I remember slogging through the library archives trying to find past papers that could be of use to my thesis. I can’t imagine any of my students trying to work their way through a library index system, but then why should they? Everything has now been indexed on-line and if you can search correctly everything is findable. And that is probably half of the problem. Students expect to be able to find out anything with a simple click of the mouse. They do not consider the filters that can be applied or the search terms that can be used. Most students do not even know that you can search by images directly in Google!

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In a mission to try and correct this wrong I have begun a process of educating myself and my students. How can I possibly preach to my students if I am not fully effective myself? With this in mind I started a search on Google for Education courses on using Google(!) I quickly found that Google host a series of courses and online tests for individuals and educators to prove that that can use all of the products effectively. The first set of tests I tried where multiply choice and fairly easy. But they got me thinking about the possibility of testing the students that I work with. If I could persuade them to take a test on Google then perhaps they might take the time to research actually how to use it effectively. After a bit of “research” I found that a brilliant educator Jeff Utecht had already had this idea and had set up an entire course on Google Sites, Search, Gmail and Drive. His project is called the “Google Apps Ninja Programme”. The programme has been built around Google forms and incorporates the self-marking script Flubaroo (please see my previous post regarding Scripts). I emailed Jeff and he shared the entire programme with me. I saved a copy and renamed it and boom I have a fully functioning Google Ninja Academy for my students. The programme is made up of different tests that the students must progress through to become the ultimate Google ninja. There are different “belt” tests for each of the various Google elements. After taking each test the results come through to me. I run Flubaroo and the students get a score. If I set up and run another couple of scripts they would allow the students to be emailed the score with a letter of congratulations or commiserations! If your school has gone anyway along the road of gamification this would be a perfect opportunity to present badges, belts or level ups! The tests themselves are not easy which make them worthwhile and will allow the students to associate some measure of pride when they pass them.

I had a go at all of the tests and read a bit around the history of the “Ninja programme”. They were devised to test students on their knowledge of the GAFE products but also ensured that any student that wanted to pass any of the belts HAD to be able to research effectively. This whole premise has come from the GAFE Individual Certification programme that Google themselves currently run.

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Google Certified Individual

Having gone this far, I knew that it was important that if I expected my students to be able to pass the Ninja tests I should be able to pass a certified Google test on the same products. I managed to persuade my Head teacher to pay for the tests ($75 for 5 tests) and if I pass I will be a Google Certified Individual for Google Apps for Education for one year! I started reading the course material but it quickly became apparent that to pass any of the tests on pure knowledge alone would mean that you would probably have to work for Google themselves! We mere mortals would have to rely on something a bit more basic, the ability to use Google effectively. The tests are not set up to test your knowledge on Sites, Calendar, Drive, Gmail and Admin, they are set up to test your ability to research information on the products! I decided to first sit the test on Gmail, having used it for a number of years and deciding that I had a good grasp of it. How wrong I was! The test itself is a 90 minute on-line ordeal, there is a clock constantly ticking down and 60 multiple questions to be answered. But some of the questions were so obscure that I could not see how anyone could possibly know the answer, hence the belief that the test must be a research task and not a knowledge based test. Over the 90 minutes I have never stressed so much over a computer! I was so relieved when it was over and after checking out saw a score of 83%. The pass rate is 80% and you only get one chance at each test (you have to pay extra for each additional test you require). I still have another 4 tests to go until I can claim that I am a “Google Certified Individual in Google Apps for Education” but the ball is now rolling. I know what to expect and have already sourced another laptop to do the research on whilst taking the test on my one.

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Is it worthwhile?

With digital information becoming the primary source of information for the children that we teach, them having a “good” ability to research will become more and more important. I know that children still need to be taught how to ask the right questions and consequently how to structure them but in an age where virtually every child has a smart phone and internet connectivity them knowing how to find the right information and how to use Google products effectively will save them time and effort, and from working with them, this generation of children are going to need all the help that they can get.

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