Google Apps for Education (Part 1)

This post was written by Ross Fairbairn @MrFairbairnPE.

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Working through the last 6-7 years as a mature student in education I have been constantly striving for a workflow which works in myself and a department’s best interest. I feel this passion for technology and organised workflow came from my days working in the private banking industry in London. Working my way from the bottom up to a leadership position provided me with valuable experience and enabled me to see the bigger picture of what goes on behind the scenes of such a big banking company driven by technology.

In those days things were a bit different and the main form of communication was by phone and fax. I constantly think back to my days in the bank and wonder how much easier my work and my teams work would have been with the technology we have available now. This has lead me to research, trial and test many forms of technology since changing career paths to education, and seek out a workflow which not only works for me but can improve how my colleagues work as well.

I have been working with Google Apps For Education (GAFE) coming up to a year now and what a year it has been. During this time I have moved schools and I am lucky enough to be working at Priory School in Portsmouth who are pushing to be at the forefront of technology and experimenting with how it can be used within education to enhance students learning & understanding.

Over the 2013 summer whole school wifi was set up across the site with students having a separate network to log onto. As a PE teacher with a passion for the use of mobile technology to enhance students learning, I was over the moon with this news. I was even more happier when the head of department on my first day passed me an iPad and said “this is yours, every member within the PE department has one.” This lead me on a quest to develop ways in which GAFE could be integrated within mine & the departments day to day work to enable us to work, faster and smarter with pupils benefiting from this in the long term.

My first task was to introduce GAFE to the PE department and open their eyes to the power of joint collaboration on documents and how it could potentially be used within the PE setting. I started this by providing a whistle stop tour of Google Drive and how the sharing functionality works. Many topics were discussed during the meeting but I was pleased to hear that the department wanted a way of collecting student feedback without it being a time consuming task during lesson time. This allowed me the opportunity to introduce Google Forms and the options available when creating a form. We discussed at length when and how a form could be filled in, and what types of questions could be used, e.g. at the start / middle of a unit of work to gauge students understanding, or at the end to allow students the opportunity to comment on the unit of work. This would then allow the teacher to reflect on that unit of work and adapt it accordingly for the future. See the Google Form for the types of questions we came up with for an end of unit student evaluation. I have used this across various year groups with a mix of ability pupils at the end of this term.

From the meeting it was agreed that everyone would try creating their own google form. Since then forms have been used in the following way:

  1. Students watching a video clip of BTEC dance embed in a google form, allowing students to give feedback and grade their peers performances based on the practical grading criteria.
  2. Collecting student bleep test fitness scores.
  3. Collecting team fixture / contact details during break and lunch.

All google forms collect responses into a google spreadsheet saving the endless task of typing students fitness scores, printing a contact sheet for team fixtures or typing up student feedback as evidence for their BTEC. All the details can be conveniently accessed through the google drive app. The google form has allowed us to work “faster and smarter” to maximise our time with our students.

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