I dove into the world of Google in education four years ago. Our school has N Computing (pods), which means there is one CPU and 5 monitors that think they are separate computers. Except when one student was working in Word and his or her monitor froze, so did the others. I would have tears over lost work and instilled in my 5th graders the power of saving everything immediately. I sought to avoid this and decided to take a risk and have my parents sign their students up for a Google account. Google saved automatically, so if a pod froze students would not lose their work. Little did I know how much Google would become a part of how I teach and drive me to challenge myself and take risks from that one decision.
Google is not just about enhancing learning or being an effective tool. Yes it allows us to create things and be efficient in our work. It has opened doors to collaboration. The biggest piece of Google for me has been building relationships with students. I remember the first time I happened to be on a document the same time as a student. To him it was probably like a ghost typer as I began to send him a message. His mother said he screamed so loud she had to go flying upstairs to see what the commotion was. This started a live conversation with the family while we were each in our own homes.
The one conversation has led to countless others with students. Last year I took advantage of the comment tool, which empowered students to think deeply about their work. Students are more apt to revise and edit work with the comments. The student would then resolve the comment, thinking he or she was done. This year I am asking that no comment gets resolved, so we have a record of our conversation in the Google apps we are working on.
Our school finally is a GAFE school, and I am in year four of using Google tools. Glad I am not rogue anymore, as my eyes are fully open to the possibility GAFE brings to a classroom. I spent 30 minutes in our computer lab this week going over the basics of Google and already have many students using Google Docs for their spelling homework. I created some things ahead of time in Google classroom and students are having conversations not only with me but with each other on there. I have students emailing me, taking responsibility for their work and asking questions. I love the side comments in student work. It allows me to share stories with students or ask them questions or help them dig deeper.
We have been at school a little over a week, and I can already tell you something about each student. I have Google to partly thank for that. It allows me to reach all students synchronously and asynchronously. It helps us build a foundation for a better future. In teaching these students how to use various Google tools and as Alice Keeler says, that Google exists, they are learning more about their world on their own. I am just their guide. They are going to teach me way more about Google tools than I can figure out on my own. I am so glad I decided to try out the Google drive a few years ago. I know I have only scratched the surface of Google. Nonetheless, it has helped me be a learner with students and develop relationships that last long past the 180 days I have with each of them.