Thursday, February 03, 2011

Google Apps as an Educational Platform

The following is the layout R.S.U. #19 uses for its Google Apps for Education implementation. We are a K-12 district of 8 schools and about 3,000 students. We've incorporated GAE throughout the district and as we work through some of the best practices we've found for using this tool, I thought it worthwhile to share some examples.

There are some technical and educational assumptions necessary for an implementation like this. First, access to quality 1 to 1 hardware for teachers. Not necessarily everyday, but often enough to make the time teachers put into this worthwhile. (I say quality hardware because there are so many possible devices that apply from desktops, tablets, smartphones etc.) Second, because GAE is web based, it's crucial that Internet access and ample bandwidth are not limitations of its use.

The educational assumptions are, of course, far more important (and therefore can be more difficult) to work through. One acknowledgement that we've made is that students should have ownership of their work. This is a seemingly obvious assumption, but one that many Learning Management Systems ignore. I'm not claiming GAE is a LMS, but if an educational management system is top down, then students will treat it as such. They use the tool because it's expected of them, without ownership of why they are using it. Alternatively, students create the work in Google Apps, have control and can refer to their own work. We as educators look at it can give feedback and make suggestions, but ultimately the work is in the students hands.
Another assumption is that the work they complete there will build their digital portfolio into something they can take with them when they leave high school. The district gifts each senior their own web domain name, like www.kristopherredman.com that they can use as their 21st century business card. The site that comes up should showcase the work they have done for the previous 12 years.

The outline is split into three sections, Administration, Teacher and Student. It goes through the processes an Administrator would complete to set up a Domain and manage the GAE. It also has templates and samples teachers could use and student examples as well. It's setup to be chronological from the top to bottom and as there will be more tutorials added as we come up with them.