One major benefit of the Teach-It series being regularly updated is that the ideas increasingly reflect the growing availability of mobile and other internet-connectable devices in the home, community, and at school. Lesson ideas are extended into motivating homework and higher-order activities. Students can be given a greater choice in how to work, for example, collaboratively or through a choice of media. This approach pre-empts a possible future where students are encouraged to use, in school, those devices which they presently only use outside of school time. Such an approach may be seductive to education leaders who wish to make learning more accessible, relevant, and personalisable without making taxpayers responsible for funding such a shift.
Despite impending resource cuts and lengthening refresh cycles for ICT, most schools will possess powerful devices such as digital still and video cameras, games consoles, mp3 players, and idle desktop computers. Recognising that smart tables, phones, and other application-based mobile devices are as likely to remain as rare an investment as school-wide free wifi, we have engaged with the new curriculum through ideas which can be acted upon using technologies and connectivity that have been around for several years and for which many teachers will have already had successful, direct experiences of in their classroom. Teach-It 2 builds on this widespread prior knowledge and practice, while we provide In Service training and CPD to those who wish to ‘get started’ or to further extend their professionalism.
Google Apps for Education is ‘on the radar’ of many teachers across the UK. It is a suite of customizable tools that appears to be more intuitive and less ‘clunky’ than those virtual and managed learning environments that commercial and publicly-funded organisations have introduced into local authorities and schools over the past ten years. Their focus is on enabling students and teachers to communicate and collaborate through: web-based email, video chat, shared calendars, documents and work spaces. Students can work in ‘real time’ across a number of sites, meaning that project work can be done ‘anytime, anywhere’. This certainly challenges the practice of classroom, period-by-period centred education!
All of this is done ‘in the cloud’, that is, via the Internet and remote from school networks. Google claim that all activities are done in “safe” and “secure” environments. Nothing is downloaded onto school and home computers, with no software updates necessary.
However, some areas of Scotland find only around 1/3 of its citizens with an internet connection at home. In addition, there is a widely held assumption that young people presently face a number of technical and familial barriers to getting online to engage with learning opportunities. Google Apps for Education, and therefore Glow, are not panaceas for improving the life chances of our young people. However, the new approaches to education made possible by such a free suite of tools needs to be engaged with by teachers.
One way that teachers and Google meet is through the Google Teacher Academy. This is a free ‘experience’; a day where classroom teachers can find out about “innovative technologies”, in the context of Google Apps for Education. The networking possibilities are also a draw to many who apply for these invitation-only events. Participants become ‘Google Certified Teachers’.
Although all educators are able to introduce Google Apps for Education into their learning community, there is a high skills threshold to being able to apply for the Google Teacher Academy. Successful applicants will have recorded and uploaded an engaging and relevant one minute video of themselves. Many have a significant online presence as a tech-savvy educator, and as will many ‘deep’ professional learning opportunities nowadays, there are time-consuming pre- and post-event tasks and expectations. In addition to these restrictions, the first academy only took place in the UK last year and there are none planned for Scotland.
Fortunately, Teach-It gives a simple step-by-step guide to many Google tools and shows how they can be integrated into in- and out-of-school learning. For example, with Google Docs widely regarded as the most useful aide to collaboration, teachers and students benefit from a dedicated lesson idea in the Media section of Teach-It 2. Teach-It extolls the benefits of so many of Google’s free downloads, search tools, and apps, why not invite us in to your school to provide a workshop that focuses solely on helping staff to gain the knowledge and skills to move forward with the latest in no-cost ‘cloud’ ICT, whether that be through Google Apps for Education, Glow, or something else?
Share on Facebook