Why schools are going Ga-Ga for Google

This text was originally published in the June 2014 edition of the Australian Educational Leader and has been modified to suit this post.

 

The power of the web

Figure 1 - 1024px-Google-Apps

If the web brings the opportunity to flatten our classroom walls and expand our horizons, then nothing has quite had the sledge­hammer-like effect on physical and digital barriers like Google Apps for Education.

Google Apps are a suite of productivity tools designed to help students and teachers work together more efficiently and effec­tively. It is a multi-purpose platform with myriad educational and instructional benefits.

At the core, Google Apps includes Gmail (webmail service), Google Drive (online documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings), Google Calendar (web based appoint­ments and organisation) and Google Sites (website creator); not to mention the many additional services like Hangouts, Blogger, Youtube, or Picasa which can be used with Google Apps with seamless integration.

As cloud-based technologies, they are always readily available, backed up, accessible at any time and place, and available to use on any device.

Unlike Google for Work, the Education suite is not only free but cost effective. Google take on the duties of many traditional tasks which IT administrators normally carry out. It means that technical staff avoid the hassle of maintaining file servers to be online, running security updates, or managing li­censes for applications. As a result, many hardware and software maintenance costs are removed, and over the long term, this will provide schools the opportunity to save for other resources.

Google’s foray into Education is enabling a total rethink in the way that teachers and students use technology for learning. Google Apps is an online solution that bridges the divide between learning at home or at school. It offers the opportunity for collaboration to happen in real time, irrespective of physical or digital location. It makes it easy to share with fellow students, teachers, parents and the wid­er community. Teachers can apply the appropriate security and share settings for resources as they see fit, all via one account and one password. Simplicity and flexibility at its best, it is removing obstacles for students, teachers, and even technical departments.

From primary to tertiary institutions, students and teachers are realising the benefits of the Google Apps for Education platform. Google Apps has been growing fast, if not virally over the last few years. There are currently over 30 million students using the service worldwide, and the number continues to grow each day.

Of course, there are the naysayers who at times do have genuine apprehension about ‘Going Google’. For example, some insti­tutions have concern that their organisational data is not hosted on their site or in their locality. There are issues around privacy and data security within the cloud. Google take this very seri­ously and are governed by a stringent privacy policy. They insist that the data is, and always will be, owned by the users within the organisation.

As with every business, Google has to make a profit to survive as a company. Their largest source of revenue is through adver­tising within their products (like Gmail and Youtube). Advertise­ments have always been turned off by default in Google Apps for Education. However this April, Google announced that adver­tisements will no longer be available within in Google Apps at all, nor would it scan emails for the purposes of collecting data for marketing.

Once schools see through these minor considerations, they are able to harness the richness that Google Apps offer. A high quality service, at a cost-effective price, as an easy to use system, with powerful potential. With guaranteed reliability of 99.9% up­time, Google Apps is scaling at an incredible rate.

Each week on Google’s Official Enterprise Blog, stories are emerging of the continued uptake of Google Apps and the way in which they are changing communication and productivity for the better once organisations have ‘Gone Google’.

From connecting 45,000 schools across 7,000 islands in the Philippines, to equipping 4 million students in São Paulo in Bra­zil, Google Apps is bringing new and exciting opportunities to education.

Locally, three of our top-tier universities (Griffith, Macquarie and Monash) joined the hundreds of tertiary institutions world­wide who have embraced Google Apps.

1.2 million students in New South Wales were migrated to Google Apps in 2010. In doing so, they were able to unify stu­dent email to one system and improve communication across campuses.

Schools and education systems around Australia are also investigating similar paths.

As technology is developing at an ever-increasing rate, it has the potential to make communication easier; and lead us to more powerful collaborative and connected experiences. Equipping this generation of learners with modern tools makes sense. This is why many schools are adopting Google Apps for Education, an extraordinary platform for the 21st Century.

 

Using Google Apps for Education and formative assessments

Our school has been utilising Google Apps for Education for almost two years.

Whilst there have been many benefits for the school on this platform during this time, one of the key ways in which Google Apps has had an impact on student outcomes is through the use of Google Forms for formative assessments. Google Forms can be used to design surveys or web forms to easily collect, analyse and export data.

Figure 2

Figure 2

For several years, the school has employed the use of pre- and post-assessments in mathematics. Formative assessment is used to accurately ascertain the needs of the students before the de­livery of lessons, provide direction for the student and teacher for the next stages of developmental learning, and determine the progression of each student on their own path of learning. (Figure 2)

 

Recently, in the Year 5 and 6 levels, the teachers began to de­velop their pre- and post-assessments using Google Forms rather than issuing the assessments on paper. Using an existing scope and sequence of curriculum in child-friendly language, they de­veloped questions to map the next stages of learning for their students in a given area of maths.

 

The Forms are completed online at a given point. Once results are collated, the responses are marked automatically and the test scores are emailed back to the students and teachers. This in­formation is then used for the students to develop an awareness of their understanding of the particular topic, and the teachers are able to formulate groups or stations in which they can pro­vide lessons, scaffolds and activities for the students to undertake learning.

 

Figure 3 - lesson

Figure 3

In this mode, students are flexible in their groupings and are able to focus on the given areas of the curriculum that they re­quire. Lessons and resources are also posted online so that stu­dents can revise or progress through concepts at their own pace at school and at home (if required). (Figure 3)

 

At the end of the topic, students take the same assessment as a post-test of their learning. Once again, the students receive their results and take delight in seeing how much they have developed during the given period of time.

The teachers carefully analyse the pre- and post-assessment data and use it to calculate effect sizes. Consistently, they have seen this teaching method achieve an effect size well above 0.4, easily exceeding the effects of a typical teacher and well into the zone of desired effects of highly effective teaching (Hattie, 2009 & 2010). Average effect sizes for cohorts have been observed be­tween 0.5 and 1.2, and students can also be tracked with an indi­vidual effect size. (Figure 4)

Figure 4

Figure 4

 

Using Forms as formative assessments has brought a lot of benefits for these students and teachers.

• There has been a large saving of paper and printing.

• Students nor teachers have to mark the assessment.

• Students immediately receive an email with their results.

• Teachers are able to track student responses in the assessment, eliminating manual data entry.

• It has assisted in making the process of learning visible to students.

• Time is saved in processing assessments, so that more time can be used for learning.

• Pre and post data is automatically collected and available for determining the effectiveness of the teaching strategies using effect sizes as a measure.

 

Further reading

Hattie, J (2009). Visible learning. London: Routledge.

Hattie, J (2010). Visible learning for teachers: maximising impact on learning. Routledge.

 

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