What a week!!
I found myself in a car this past Tuesday driving the 10 hours to Illinois for the Google Apps for Education Summit 2015. This conference was hosted by the amazing EdTechTeam just outside of Chicago.
The first thing we were asked, before we ever set foot in the building, was how well do you know Google and the apps used for education. I typically walk into any setting knowing I am likely the least knowledgeable person in the room on the topic. This way there is more collaboration and I can see how others are using things rather than push the ways we do things. I humbly said I knew quite a bit, but that I was no Google Ninja.
However, I felt pretty confident about my Google skills, but tried to undersell myself.
Turns out...there was absolutely no frickin' reason to undersell my abilities. These programs which I have been using and sharing for the last couple of years have a whole new level of kick-ass to them that I am pretty sure educators are not even touching. For instance, take this quick quiz for me and see what I am talking about. This blew my mind. I mean, I have been using Forms for many reasons and for over a year now. Think about all of the cool ways you can then formatively assess your students in the classroom. This still comes with all of the analytics so you have an overall snapshot of your class or group in pretty pie charts or bar graphs.
Sidebar - Summative assessment is the icky word that makes people think of standardizing or Unit reviews because they are in the book. Formative assessment is the super cool way to know if your kids get it. NOT because it will be on the test.
Ok, so another cool thing I learned this week is Google Sites. Teachers, and principals for that matter. Hell, administrators!!! You can use Google Sites for your classroom, school building, or district website. And it's free. Or as my friend Johnny Atchley likes to say, "it's free 99!”.
I will link the overview page here and here is a video on the process if it's all new to you. The leader of the session I attended, Molly Schroeder, explained how to use Google Sites as a digital portfolio for her students to upload their work. Gosh, I have had students work together to create a "textbook" of the content they learned over the year, but the potential here is astounding. You could have a shared or individualized 2015 website where the students share with the/their parents the work you have been teaching and they have been learning all year. Here is a link to Molly's (our session presenter and Google Certified Teacher) presentation on how to use sites as digital portfolios for your students. The link is her own Google Site. You can see how professional it looks, and again, ITS FREE. #gooddeal
The last take home for the week was the idea of throwing out the grade book and going with a badge system. My Twitter feed has been slowly coming around to the idea in the last year. It completely disrupts everything tradition schools schools stand for, so I am sure I will catch some flack on this one. If it helps you traditionalists out there, the session was titled WTF: Why Teach Failure.
So in this session Google Certified Teacher Jeffery Heil (On the twitter he's @jheil65) talks about giving a syllabus of all assignments at the beginning of the semester or school-year and assigning badges to different checkpoints along the way. You will have to decide for yourself if this will work for your age of students. He works with undergrad students at the secondary level. I have tried this with my students in personal finance. Each checkpoint had an essay, presentation or video that allowed the students to demonstrate their level of knowledge for each subject.
This was a LOT of work for me and I had to let the parents know what I was doing and that their kids would not be receiving weekly grades in the class. This was incredibly difficult for some parents....and students to wrap their minds around, but the level of work was amazing. I did not provide a three column rubric, only a single column. For them it was sort of a check list of all the things that the projects needed.
Why would we show the first and second column of that rubric? Why would we allow them the chance to fail at a topic so crucial to life? Because the school system was not ready for a non-graded system, and students must receive a final grade, the number of badges awarded in the class determined the grade at the end of the class. But all of the projects ended up looking amazing.
So, there is another EdTechTeam #GAFEsummit this October here in Oklahoma. I highly, ardently, and insanely recommend this conference if you think you know Google and want more or if you want to see what other amazing educators are doing with Google. I will be attending this conference again, as there were like 10 rooms per session, so there is obviously more to know out there. Here is the link to get signed up for the Tulsa Conference.
Cross-Post from Educating Me Blog