Purpose and Background

This post is to provide insight into my COETAIL Course 5 Project.  At the end of last school year I asked if it would be possible for the Grade 4 students at the school I was transferring to could be given individual Google accounts,  I was extremely happy when I was told that they could.  During one of our initial sessions in the computer lab the students were asked to read through the Internet Policy.  I was curious and asked a simple question, "How many of you understand what you have just read?"  It came as no shock to me that only about half of the students understood the policy.  As I left school that day I thought about how best we could work with the student's to create a policy that they understand, while also having them make use of Google Apps.

An Initial Brewing

During several conversations with the teaching team that I work with, we came up with an idea to provide the students with a Google Apps bootcamp.  To demonstrate mastery of Google Apps the students would then work collaboratively to research and educate others in the class about Digital Citizenship/Digital Footprints.

Google Apps

To begin with I introduced the students to Gmail and how to sort e-mail, add labels, filter, archive,  create contacts, reply, and Google Chat.  I also provided them  with an introduction into Google Calendar.  This aspect has just been completed and over the next couple of weeks the students will be introduced to Google Docs.  To help with the implementation of Google Apps I have been creating video tutorials using Camtasia 2 and posting them to my Vimeo account.  The advantage to having the students trained in Google Docs is that I can share everything with the students digitally (rubrics, checklists, assignments, resources) and they can do the same for me.  This will hopefully increase opportunities for reflections, commenting, and collaborations.

Digital Citizenship

In order to help the students understand the issues behind digital citizenship they will be broken up into speciality groups.  For the initial note-taking process all students will be asked to use a Google Doc template.  Once the students finish the note-taking process they will be asked to create a multi-media campaign to help promote various aspects of digital citizenship.  Once completed the class will create a shared Digital Citizenship Policy that is written by them, for them and hopefully minimal teacher guidance.

Reflections

As you can probably tell by some of my wording that this project is ongoing and will hopefully wrap up before the Christmas Holidays.  So far the students have completed the Gmail and Calendar tutorials but have yet to get into Google Docs.  Despite the delay in this particular unit I have noticed a change in how my students are communicating and already have some reflections for next year.

My students have been very quick to pick up on Gmail and Google Chat.  It has been a joy to see them learning how to sort through and filter their e-mail.  The students feel comfortable e-mailing me for forgotten documents or due dates.  One student in particular sent me Google Chat message over the holiday asking for a tutorial on how to screen record on a Mac.  This type of communication allows me to tailor lessons and resources more carefully to my students and allows them to practice online communication skills with someone they know and trust.

Making tutorial videos is a task that I enjoy doing.  Currently I am using Camtasia 2 and learning how to make my videos look more professional.  When my videos are ready, I upload them onto my Vimeo account and send a note out to the class.  If we are in the IT lab I will go over it first with the whole class and answer any questions.  They can then watch the Vimeo videos if they need refreshers.  This allows me to focus on students who need extra assistance or allows me to push the students who grasp it easily. Instead of answering the same questions over and over again I tell them to watch the tutorial.  That said my tutorials thus far have not been fancy.  One major change for next year is that I would make sure that each tutorial only focusses on one skill or aspect of Gmail or Google Docs.  Several of my videos included multiple concepts, which confused some students.

Overall I'm enjoying the process of educating the students about Google Apps and Google Docs.  However, I feel that the emphasis should be there from the beginning and it should be a full UoI for six weeks.  This would allow the students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to take full advantage of these tools and thus allow their full usage much earlier on in the school year. This year the unit was done during two lessons a week of ICT.  I felt that this was not sufficient and the students would need reminding of skills.  By having this be the focus of a UoI the students will be given daily reinforcements.   Also, by having a specific tech lessons each week, it helped to reinforce the idea that technology is something special that is only used sometimes.  This is not the message that I want to send to my students.  Perhaps conducting some of these lessons in class using the laptops and other devices would help alleviate this problem.

SAMR Model

A major component of the evaluation of the big project is student demonstration of online collaboration using Google Apps and the creation of a multimedia informational campaign. Looking at the SAMR model I believe this meets redefinition as both the means of communication and creation of the final product would not be possible without the technology available today.

Extra Resources

All of the resources that I am using will be made available here.  More resources will be added as students begin to find their own resources and rubrics and checklists are finalized.

Image Credits 

Modification by ianguest, found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed 

Special Thanks

Over the past year and half I have met many wonderful people.  There are four people in particular I would like to thank for the culminations.  The first is of course my brother.  Without his constant editing and pushing me to clarify my ideas my posts would not as nice.  To @DBullio, thank you for encouraging me to follow the path and take the course with him.  Really it was like twisting a rubber arm.  @seansensei, I can't thank you enough for agreeing to work with me on that little project.  I can't wait to start editing and revising it during the cold winter months.  Finally to the instructors and fellow students of Cohort 1 of COETAIL at YIS, thank for you expanding my mind and encouraging me to try new things, accept failure, and dream of a world where our classrooms are flat and our students have no walls preventing them from furthering their learning or coming up with new and interesting ways to share their learning.
11/18/2012 07:53:35 pm

Awesome! So great to see you move to a new job in a new school and just pick up and go! You've started with a smart goal, and you're implementing well, particularly your consideration of what students already know and the team your working with. Well done!

Reply
Marie Eksteen
11/22/2012 08:20:30 am

Brendan I can see you've put a lot of work into this and I think these are really good skills to teach the students as we try to prepare them for a world that is so different from a few years before. I have enjoyed teaching my students these skills and giving them an opportunity like you said to practice it in a safe environment. Well done and keep developing this further!

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    Brendan is an international school teacher.  He currently teaches grade 4 at Busan International Foreign School.

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