Category Archives for Google Apps

Google Apps Training at St Joseph’s in the Park School


I was lucky enough on Monday to work with staff (and children) at the beautiful St. Joseph’s in the Park school in Hertfordshire, to help them to utilise Google Apps for Education effectively.

It was a really super start to the term and the enthusiasm, attitude and creativity of the staff was incredible.

I have never actually ‘led’ a training session, where everyone is off experimenting with different practical applications in the space of 5 minutes! 🙂

The school is already making great use of Edmodo with children to set homework and communicate and by linking up Google Docs to Edmodo, particularly using iPads, the hope is, there will be increased collaboration and effective learning. Connecting Google Docs to your Edmodo account is incredibly simple and adds another dimension to an already sophisticated tool.

Having worked with staff in the morning, it was really fun to have three children come in and demonstrate some instant teacher/pupil feedback via a ‘live writing’ task using Google docs. Each pupil worked on a different homework questions and their teacher, Graeme Ellis, ‘popped in’ and gave them instant feedback. The children said it felt a little ‘weird’ that their teacher was watching them, however they thought it was quite cool and helped them to get instant feedback from their teacher. I suspect these eloquent youngsters may be among the first Digital Leaders at the school!

Finally, it was wonderful to hear from Louise Martin about how she is using her blog with her Year 3 class. She explained how simple it has been to set up and use and the overwhelmingly positive response from parents and pupils. Hearing her discuss so modestly how she posts all her homework, spelling lists and activities on there in multi-media format was testament to the usefulness of blogging for all involved; I’m sure there will be some more great class blogs coming from St. Jospehs in the Park very soon!

I was made incredibly welcome at St Joseph’s in the Park (and had some of the best cups of coffee I’ve had anywhere, never mind a school!). Neil Jones, the headmaster is really inspiring when discussing, and demonstrating, topics such as effective leadership, sustainability of schools and using technology creatively. If you don’t already follow him on twitter (or the school), then I suggest you do!  I for one am very much looking forward to following how the staff (and children) are getting on!

Google Apps Workshops Autumn Term

We are delighted to be running three Google Apps for Education Workshops this Autumn Term with great Google Certified Teachers and Trainers. As always, the workshops will be packed full of ideas, examples and hands-on activities, leaving you full of ideas and enthusiasm for using Google’s free tools in your class and school.

Places on all workshops are limited, so book your place now!

Google Apps Hants  on Monday 17th October.

Google Apps Zero to Hero in Gateshead in collaboration with Vital and Synechism on Wednesday 16th November 2011

Google Apps to Engage Students & Support Literacy at Holywell High School on Thursday 10th November 2011.

Open For Education

My presentation from the Open for Education conference.

Education is Going Google

This post first appeared as a guest post on the Keboko blog
I’m delighted to have been asked to write this guest blog post for Keboko in which I’ll discuss some of the ways in which Google Apps for Education is being used in schools and colleges to enhance teaching and learning. From giving students new and safe ways to share their work, to increasing communication between staff and reaching out to the community, Google Apps for Education has something for every educational organisation!

Increasing collaboration and communication amongst students.
There are many ways in which Google Apps encourages students to work together. My favourite tool from the Apps suite continues to be Google Docs which allows students to work on one document in real time. This means, if desired, an entire class can collaborate on one document. In Phil Bagge’s primary class, his pupils conduct cooling experiments, enter their data on one spreadsheet and then undertake analysis as a whole class using the built in graphing tools.

Add into the mix the in-built chat facility when working on a document and you have a really powerful way that pupils can quickly and easily collaborate. In my own, and other teachers’ experience, once students have got over the initial novelty of the ability to send instant messages and work on the same document at once in Google docs, they generally use it sensibly.

Subsequently, it can have an incredibly positive impact on the way they think about and self-assess their work as shown in Oliver Quinlan’s class.  However, as James Mitchie’s experiences illustrate, even with the best of intentions, collaboration in this way is a new concept for students and takes time and careful planning to work effectively.

Another great way of increasing student collaboration is through a shared calendar on which they input their birthdays and other important dates. Responsibility for this can be shared amongst the entire class, or one or two pupils each half-term. Shared calendars are also a great way for schools to increase communication with parents.

Encouraging Parental Engagement
The ability to share and collaborate on multiple calendars means that schools can easily share important dates with parents. The calendar can be embedded into the school website, or another site, along with blogs, You Tube channels and other useful links as Helen Morgan has done in her department.

Google Sites are a very simple web design tool for children to use and Ian Addison’s pupils have been creating their own websites to share information about their local area. Many schools are also starting to use Google Apps instead of expensive virtual learning environments and Kevin McLaughlin outlines the process he went through to do just that here.

Furthermore, Google forms are also a superb way to find out what parents are thinking and collect anything from feedback on the school website to preferences for appointment times at parents’ evenings. The beauty of course with forms, other than the ease with which they can be created and shared via email or embedded into a website, is that the results are automatically collated into a spreadsheet, complete with timestamp. It is therefore hugely beneficial for schools who have been collecting such information via paper forms. Google includes some good instructions to using forms here.

Increase Teacher Productivity
Forms can also be used in many ways, to collect data and opinions and saving teachers time which they can then use to focus on teaching. There are some fantastic ideas from teachers all over the World in Tom Barrett’s fantastic ‘Interesting Ways’ series.  Another great, time-saving way of using forms is to create self-grading quizzes for pupils. A detailed tutorial of how to do this is here.

Moreover, communication and collaboration between staff becomes easier using Google Apps. Sharing departmental or administrative documents is simple and they can be worked on by multiple staff simultaneously meaning less time spent on administration and more time for teaching.

Similarly, the ability to share calendars with different groups allows senior managers and departments to have their own shared calendars which makes arranging meetings or checking when people are available very straightforward. A school can also set up a room, or laptop trolly as a resource, making booking that room or trolley very simple and one less administrative task for someone to have to manage. Reminders can be sent via email, popups or text message, making life easier for busy teachers.

Indeed, the ability to access email, documents & all information from home & any device with internet connection means staff can access their work from anywhere and at anytime, if they choose to do so, and being able to publish calendar events directly to twitter is fantastic for a school that is trying to increase communication with parents. Danny Silva shows you how here.

Although I have really only been able to scratch the surface of what can be achieved with Google Apps for Education in this post, I hope I have shared with you how the Apps suite is offering great collaboration and communication opportunities for students, staff and parents alike. Put simply, Google Apps has real scope to enhance teaching and learning in any educational organisation. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to Go Google!

Zoe Ross is founder of DoDigital, a social enterprise which promotes the creative use of technology in education. A ICT teacher, Zoe is a Google Certified Trainer and together with other Google Certified Teachers is running a Google Apps for Education workshop on 8th June in London.

Summer Workshops

Workshops LogoLast week we launched DoDigital’s summer workshop programme for teachers. As always, the workshops will be fast-paced, hands-on and focussed on teaching and learning, the emphasis being on our core belief that ICT should be creative, engaging and inspiring.

I’m particularly excited by the collaborative workshops that are going to be happening with some of those teachers that have, and continue to inspire me, in my own professional career.

For example, the ICT teachers that are joining me for the Creative ICT for KS3 workshop all share the same philosophy in making ICT a more dynamic, engaging, challenging and exciting subject. Subsequently, the sessions they will lead, from which teachers can choose, cover a fantastic range of topics, from App Inventor to Google Sketchup, Flash and Aviary, which really can transform ICT lessons in school.

There is much interest in Google Apps for Education at the moment, for a variety of reasons, particularly to do with the superb collaborative learning opportunities provided by Google’s suite and the low (free!) cost. Therefore, I am absolutely thrilled that some of those educators with both enthusiasm for Google Apps and experience of using Google tools in a variety of ways within their own classrooms and schools are joining me for the Google Apps training workshop.

Sheffield Deputy Head Julian Wood will also be sharing his considerable expertise and great enthusiasm for web2.0 tools to inspire writing in the Storytech Workshop he is delivering where he will demonstrate how digital technologies can be used to enhance written and oral storytelling and raise achievement in literacy.

There are also workshops in using Scratch & BYOB, Primary Computing, and using Flash and Dreamweaver. They promise to be inspirational days which will support teachers in using innovative technology in their classrooms and schools to support good practice, encourage creativity and help teachers to teach and students to learn. That’s what it’s all about.

Becoming a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer

This article first appeared as a guest post at ICT in Education.

I recently became the first Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer in the UK. In this post I’ll explain why and what that means, at least to me.My enthusiasm for Google Apps, Google’s online suite of collaborative tools, began last January when I began using Google Docs with my GCSE class using simply my own gmail account. The easy, yet impressive, whole-class collaboration allowed me to spice up my lesson activities and create a more interactive learning environment.

As a result of blogging about my experiences, I became one of the lead learners at the Google Teacher Academy in London last July, leading a session on using Google Docs – a great experience, the chance meet up with 50+ innovative teachers and learn loads about Google.

It was here where I first heard about becoming an Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, which seemed a natural progression for me from being a Google Apps Certified Teacher as I have been delivering lots of Google Apps training to schools, organisations and businesses since starting my own company. As a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer I would be able to advertise in the Google Marketplace and gain Google’s stamp of approval. As Google say:

‘Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers provide professional development services designed to make the most of your Google Apps implementation. Certified Trainers are carefully vetted by Google and meet rigorous qualification standards.’

There are three steps in becoming a Certified Trainer:

  • 6 tests based on the Apps for Education suite
  • a 2 minute video
  • an application form

Finding the time to focus on the process was a challenge, however, being snowed in at Christmas was the perfect opportunity to revise for and pass the exams, which cost $15 each.  I actually learnt a great deal from taking the tests, particularly about the intricacies of what Apps can do. I found that I really needed to know my stuff and the Training Centre was invaluable (it’s also a great point of reference for any teacher or school wanting to know specific details).

My video focused on how to access gmail offline. Danny Silva’s blog post was of great help to me and, as he advises, I used the Camtasia free trial to record and edit the video and finally, I  completed an online application, highlighting the training that I had and was delivering to teachers and schools.

I was very pleased to be accepted quickly as a Certified Trainer and applied to be in the Google marketplace. This cost $100 dollars for my first marketplace listing. The listing process is relatively straightforward – you need to create yourself a vendor profile and then create your  listing. The criteria for acceptance is strict though and it was a relief when I got the email to say I’d been approved.

Becoming a Certified Trainer has, for me, been a positive experience and well worth the time, effort (and money). Not only have I learnt a great deal and am officially recognised by Google, I have access to great resources and a whole community of trainers. Of course, it’s this collaboration that lies at the hear of Google Apps and it’s a bit lonely in the Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer UK contingent at the moment – I hope that will change very soon!

Google Apps for Education UK User Group #GUUG11

Image cc Graeme Fowler

Zoe RossYesterday I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Google Apps for Education UK User Group or #GUUG11 organised by Martin Hamilton at Loughborough University.

It was a fantastic event and a great opportunity to hear and discuss how Universities such as Loughborough and Portsmouth have rolled out Google Apps for EDU. Niall Sclater, the Director of Learning Innovation at the The Open University gave a particularly engaging discussion of how his organisation has adopted Google Apps for their students.

Similarly, it was interesting to hear from Jaguar Land Rover about how their business has migrated to Google Apps and given that the scale of these organisations is very different from the schools and businesses I usually work with, very informative. Much of the focus for these larger organisations was naturally, on the migration and use of Gmail as opposed to the entire Apps suite, so I look forward to hearing more in the future about how some of the innovative and collaborative practices that are going on in schools can be utilised at University level.

Interestingly, most Universities had also rolled out Apps to their students first, which replicates experiences in schools where students are the driving factor in change and Google is talking their language.

From a personal perspective, using Google Books , particularly the awe inspiring fact that over 15million books are now available to search and read online, and Youtube for Edu remain exciting opportunities for all educational organisations. Understandably, given the audience demographic, there was much interest in these fantastic resources during the panel session.

In fact, the opportunity to meet the hugely enthusiastic Google Apps for EDU team again was great, especially the open question and answer session at the end of the day. As someone mentioned yesterday, the opportunity to hear it from the horse’s mouth is invaluable when dealing with the ever-evolving innovation of Google Apps.

The Google team were keen to point out that they are focusing on usability improvements and that there will be many more exciting Google Apps announcements in the coming months. Great!

From a staff and productivity point of view, the ability for users to use Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office to sync their office documents to Google Apps is a great move and the promise of the reintroduction of being able to access Docs offline using HTML5, both of which which will be rolled out later this year.

Overall it was a suberb event, organised in a brilliantly slick and understated manner by Martin Hamilton and his great team who could teach many event organisers a thing or two.

In terms of my own presentations, I demonstrated using Google Labs in the Open Mike slot and shared the stage with Mark Allen to discuss how Google Apps for EDU is being used in primary and secondary schools. My slides for my second presentation are below.