Google, helping with the workload crisis

This guest post was written by Andy Waters @peorbust.

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I have written several posts on how Google products can be used to help your teaching, in this post I would like to share with you how I am using Google products in my pastoral role and how they can also be used to help your school run smoother.

As a middle leader, I am constantly asking for updates from teachers regarding pupils that I am working with or mentoring. The school’s previous system involved sending out a word document to every teacher and then the admin assistant would collate all of the comments. This is clearly and ineffective use of time on behalf of the teachers and of the admin assistant. I have now set a Google form up to collect the information from teachers (who don’t all need GAFE accounts). The information is much more readily available from teachers and can be updated using the same form so the information is always “live”. I can now access the information via my Drive app on my iPad and can conduct the mentoring session away from my busy office.

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I have also been part of an interview panel recently and suggested that we use a Google Doc to collate all of the information on the different candidates. I set up a Google doc on each of the candidates and shared it with each of the other panel members. At each stage of the process – the lesson, the task and the interview, each panel member was able to add comments to a single sheet. At the end of the interview I printed of the Google doc and straight away we had all of the comments for each candidate on a single sheet of paper. For anyone that has taken part in an interview you will know that, at the end of the process there is normally a swapping of notes and a ranking of candidates. With all of the comments made by all of the panel members being on one sheet the deliberation time was much reduced and straight away a candidate stood out. The Google doc also allowed the HeadTeacher to be constantly informed of all of the candidates progress throughout the day. All of the panels members found the sharing of information really useful and allowed them to ask really specific and relevant questions during the interview and during the “break time” and “ lunchtime” sessions.

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We also had a candidate for the job interview from another country. This in itself presented several issues, but none that could not be overcome using Google apps products. The interview itself happened via a Google Hangout, with each member of the interview panel coming in individually with the candidate. We also asked the candidate to complete a task during the interview (a bit harsh, I know) and issued them a Google doc that had already been shared with the panel members. This allowed us to watch “live” as the candidate completed the task on the Google doc. Admittedly, it was a lot of pressure on this specific candidate, but it did allow us to ask very specific questions in a short amount of time.

Overall, the process was much more efficient and showed our school as forward thinking to all of the candidates. It also speeded up the process, especially the deliberation at the end. We will definitely be using this process in the future.

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We have also started using Hangouts to share ideas and expertise. With the “Hangouts on Air” feature, colleagues are being encouraged to share good practise via a Hangout, which can then be made available on demand. It has become instant CPD and a great way for specialists to explain ideas when time is so tight for us all. We can all now access the Hangout as and when we need or have time to watch it!

My whole school responsibility is currently mentoring and the delivery of the Impartial Information Advice and Guidance (IIAG). The previous post holder issued paper forms for all colleagues to complete during the mentoring or IIAG sessions. The information then had to be manually entered onto the system so that we could then manipulate the data. This took time and the pupils ended up not connecting the next session with the previous one due to the amount of time inbetween. I have now converted the forms to Google Forms which allows the teacher to enter the information either during the session or just afterwards. The information is the collated into a Google sheet and the next session can be planned much faster than before. The person that then conducts the second meeting can also have all of the information with them to either clarify or question further the information that was given. I also included a question on the form relating to a connexion meeting and if the pupil felt they needed one. By sharing the Google Sheet with the Admin Assistant that sets up the connexions appointments, the process has become a lot more cohesive with pupils getting connexion appointments days, rather than weeks after they request them. This has been so successful infact that we have had to buy in more hours from the advisor to meet the demand from the pupils. The IIAG and mentoring process is now much more effective and less time consuming for everyone involved and allows the pupils to connect the sessions that they are having, all thanks , again, to Google apps for Education.

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I have also been looking this term into Low Energy Bluetooth Technology or as Apple would have you believe – iBeacons. The name, that has been coined by Apple since the October update, is a bit mis-leading as most beacons can actually be used on both Apple and Android platforms. The potential for the use of these devices in education is massive. I am currently setting up a project with my digital leaders and in my next post I will let you know how it has gone and the possible uses. A few schools are currently leading the way using Beacons but both of the main players are using the Apple platform. Google needs to get on board with this fast.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and I will respond.

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