Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Blogger Rita Zeinstejer: Traveling to England w/ Google Apps for Education

Guest Summit Blogger: Rita Zeinstejer 
Google Certified Teacher 2008 
Presented at the EdTechTeam Mexico Summit ft. Google for Education
Looking for a summit near you to attend or present at? Click here.

Traveling to England with Google Apps for Education

As an EFL teacher in Rosario, Argentina, for over 30 years, my aim has always been help my students speak and feel English to communicate meaningfully and naturally. Colleagues, parents and students themselves, however, have had a different goal in mind when approaching a new language: that of sitting for an exam, and if an international one, all the more honourable!


With the advent of the Internet, my personal goals became attainable. Before, only those who had the willingness to make the effort to study printed textbooks lessons or else the skill to imitate the only model they had in front of their class --only those privileged students of English could achieve a good command of their target language, not to speak about the fortunate ones who had the economic means to travel and get the necessary direct practice to mingle with native and non-native speakers and hence gain more exposure and a more accurate use of the language. After many years, and making the most of these times when traveling has become a more popular and more doable objective for all, I decided to launch an accompanied trip to England here in my area, taking upper intermediate students of English with me, to allow them to feel the importance of learning English, to realize how the language they’ve been investing time in learning now becomes the main tool that will let them interact with people in other countries in the world.

 This was my ultimate goal, but I had another aim in mind: that of helping my students appreciate the value of getting introduced to the English culture prior to their trip, thanks to the power of the web and Google and all of its Apps. Convincing teenagers that the Internet is the wealthiest source of information as well as the most valuable means of communication --other than a chatting or gaming tool-- was quite a job. I took my students to the Multimedia Centre in the Institution where I worked for +30 years, and gave them the chance to browse different blogs. We had a talk, a discussion, and we analysed objectives. I opened our first class blog with Google's Blogger at http://travellingtoengland2011.blogspot.com/ and enticed them to share on this new site, our main channel to post queries, news, answers and information.

They would have the chance to virtually explore those cities we would be visiting during our real trip and the way for the integration of Google tools was paved. They chose which city in England to explore and process information on. They got together in groups of twos and threes and they were responsible for the final outcome, copyright considered. They selected different Google Apps and made good use of them. The students in the project were from 16 to 25, and while Blogger and Google Sites were our core tools where they housed all other their content, they also integrated Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Search, Google Street View, and I added Google Forms for a quiz I put up once all pages had been completed.

 Aims of the Project

 • familiarize learners with Google Apps for Education
 • appreciate the value of Google Apps for Education
 • allow them to practise English in authentic, meaningful situations
 • allow them to get in contact with English culture
 • raise awareness of the importance of going global
 • help students hone the four skills
 • expand learners' cultural understanding and horizons

 I’ve been repeating this successful experience every January, when I gather new groups of teenagers avid of visiting England. And Google has always been my hub, the virtual space where to get to know prospective travelers to the United Kingdom, the information centre I open up for them to explore, to do research on, and to investigate. And, most importantly, to collaborate and share with the world.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

From Beta to Full-Blown Integration: Casey Finch's EdTechTeam Grant

Casey Finch, 8th grade social studies teacher from Fox Ridge Middle School in Aurora, Colorado, came to our EdTechTeam Rocky Mountain Summit featuring Google for Education and applied for our Student Device Grant afterwards. All attendees of EdTechTeam Summits are eligible to apply, and we've been so thrilled to see the magic transform classrooms around the world so far! We hope you'll attend a 2014 Summit and apply for your own class set this year.



 Photo by Casey Finch. 

 Casey's been documenting the process on his blog, and is also sharing his edtech musings on his Twitter @FinchAcademy. We caught up with Casey this month -- in between his teaching, coaching, and facilitating the live Tweet of the President of the United States State of the Union address!-- to see how things have been going since he first piloted his class set of Nexus 7's last fall.

"I have been incredibly fortunate since my teaching career officially started in 2007. This was right around the time Google Apps for Education (GAFE) was starting to take off. At my first school, we received a training in how to incorporate Google into our classes. I was pretty blown away by the collaboration piece and saw a HUGE potential. I immediately brought this into my classes. Soon enough I was sharing and training my grad school colleagues. In 2009, when I moved to my current school, I made it a priority to fully embrace and teach GAFE to our school.

I was lucky to attend the EdTechTeam Rocky Mountain Summit and applied because I knew this would be a great way to test out a new device that was designed to work with GAFE, much like the Chromebook CR-48 I tested. Luckily I was picked and these devices proved to be extremely useful for my students, especially the size. Now are district has just rolled out Chromebooks and our tech department is consulting me about the potential of using Nexus devices at the district level. What a great experience! We also got the chance to meet some of the other winners, including Beth Mossholder and Julie Stewart, and I was invited to attend their "Geek Camp" just down the street from us.

 Really, it has been a great learning experiment for me. I learn most of the stuff from my kids as they found incredibly unique ways to use the devices that I would not have created on my own. With the 'cohort' that has the devices, we are able to do a lot of cool things in the classroom using Schoology, the web, and drastically reducing paper. The devices provide much more tailored learned that allows kids to work at their own pace and I think there is great potential for these devices."

 Some of the tips from his blog include his students' favorite cases, apps they used, and how he transitioned from a beta to full-blown integration. Read his blog for more! Google also has plenty of exciting Play for Education options for integration apps into your tablet environment quickly and easily.

 Our next EdTechTeam Rocky Mountain Summit featuring Google for Education is October 10th and 11th at Monarch High School-- we hope you'll join us then, or join any of our Summits around the world!