5 Ways Google Apps Saved My Life In First Term

This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given some permissions to explore Google Apps For Education as our school looks to move closer toward cloud-based learning tools for teaching and learning. As a result, I’ve done a lot of reading of blogs, watched countless YouTube instructional videos, completed the Google Educator online course (which I highly recommend spending the $75 for the certificate!) and used our whole school goal of using data to inform future teaching and learning practice, as a basis for all of my planning and reflection.

In one of my previous posts I shared my personal goal for the year, which was to implement routines and structures to better manage myself and my students thus maximising use of class time for effective learning. Perhaps the biggest influence, for want of a better word, is Google Apps.

So here are five ways that Google Apps saved my life:

1. Student self-assessments

At the end of our first unit of inquiry, students reflected on their learning journey through the six-week unit. Our central idea was ‘Communities are enriched/influenced by the contributions of individuals and groups.’

Rather than hand each student a paper copy of our beginning-developing-established rubric, I created a Google Form and offered the students multiple-choice questions and responses to reflect upon and assess their own learning. As part of our class Essential Agreement, we agreed to be ‘principled’, and as a result, our answers would be honest, truthful and a reflection of our own personal learning, not others.

Here is what the questions looked like, and the original form:

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Linking the responses to a Google Sheet, I was able to see all the data from the students updated in real-time.

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Give that all questions on the form were ticked with ‘compulsory’, students were required to give evidence for their responses to the respective learning focus. The data that was received by our teaching team was analysed to assess student learning, inform which inquiry focus perhaps needed more attention in the future, and provide students with a means and a voice to share their journey through this particular unit.

2. Conditional Formatting in Google Sheets

A big thanks must go to @misskyritsis who introduced me to conditional formatting in her TeachTeachPlay YouTube webshow several weeks ago, but this has been a genuine life-saver. Previously, student assessment data would be loaded into a spreadsheet and I would spend hours trying to find trends by looking at letters, numbers, symbols and the like. Conditional formatting, however, has allowed for a better visual display of student data.

To allow for conditional formatting:

1. Select an area within your Google Sheet that you would like to format:

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2. Click Format, and select Conditional Formatting:

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3. Select from the drop-down menu the rule(s) you wish to follow for your selection:

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4. Consider the background and text colours for your formatting. I know that if I type in 1, I am considering that to mean ‘Established’; 2 is ‘Developing’; 3 is ‘Beginning’; I use the traffic light colours to differentiate those levels, and I do not wish to see any text, so make the text colour the same:

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5. Click save rules, and you can begin to input your data, and the formatting will change automatically!

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Rather than taking hours to click individual cells or columns and filling the background colour to visually demonstrate student achievements, now it is done for me with the click of a button. So what once looked like this:

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Now looks like this:

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3. Take-home reading reports with Google Forms

In a previous post I shared how I assess my students’ reading by combining Google Forms and Sheets with weekly email to parents. I have since found this to be a positive way to include my students’ parents into the learning process, while at the same time receiving (positive) questions, feedback and ideas, as well as collecting data about what my students are reading, enjoying, missing and practicing.

4. Enhancing collaboration with teaching and support staff

I am so pleased that I no longer have to sift through dozens, if not hundreds of emails in my inbox, searching for that elusive Word document containing anecdotal assessment notes from three weeks ago that I really needed for a meeting or phone conversation with a parent whose son/daughter is grouped with another teacher for numeracy and… well, you see where I’m heading with that.

Now, all of the data from our 100+ student cohort is saved in a shared Google Drive folder which can be accessed anywhere at any time. Further, rather than filling out our own notes and then emailing back and forth, multiple users can edit and modify the same document at the same time on multiple devices. Folders and documents can also be shared with learning support staff and administration. We share folders for Literacy, Numeracy, Units of Inquiry, handy websites, excursions, documents, meeting agendas and more. Our learning team leader created a Google Calendar to share important dates, meetings and events.

We hope to explore add-ons like Goobric and Autocrat, Kaizena and Doctopus in the future.

I dare say that as a team, we have likely saved 100 hours of administrative work by electing to go the collaborative route rather than the ‘traditional’ save-and-change-and-send-on route.

5. Provoking student thinking and inquiry

It is truly amazing to see what my students have explored with Google Apps and their action approach to the learning process. From going home and creating a Google account, to sharing YouTube videos through Twitter. From basic surveys about favourite colours and foods in Forms to collaborative thinking routines in Google Docs and Drawing.

We have established and modified our Essential Agreement of appropriate Internet use and provided examples of the way we use Google Apps for learning and linking them to the PYP Learner Profile. Google Apps encourage learners to inquire, to think and to reflect. It has further promoted my class’s ‘Big Words’ of respect and responsibility.

And the journey is just beginning…

— How has Google Apps For Education saved your life? —

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About Dean Kuran

I'm a primary school teacher at an IB PYP school in Melbourne, Australia. I believe in establishing positive environments in which students can develop confidence and curiosity, while nurturing the skills that will benefit them outside of the learning space.
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3 Responses to 5 Ways Google Apps Saved My Life In First Term

  1. Linda says:

    You’ve really run with this, Dean – really interesting to see what you’ve done, from both the perspective of teacher admin and also student learning. It really shows us the potential.

    • Dean Kuran says:

      Thanks Linda. I love the way that GAFE is used by teachers to facilitate learning, but when put into practice, it is actually the students who are responsible for its effective and authentic use.
      Perhaps the best part about it is parents emailing me and asking what they are going to see next. It really includes them into the learning process as well. The anywhere, anytime nature of cloud-based learning tools means that learning can continue at home, on weekends and be shared beyond the classroom walls.

      And we’re just getting started!

  2. Pingback: OTR Links 04/13/2015 | doug — off the record

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