Going GAFE from Scratch, My Thoughts

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One of my colleagues recently got the position of assistant principal in a new school. This got me thinking, in a school with no prior practices and protocols, how could GAFE help:

Sharing Work

On a basic level, Google Apps provides an easy way for students to share work. As I have written about before, Google takes away the problem of collecting all the workbooks on a Friday afternoon, only to find that the one student whose work you were desperate to check has failed to hand their book in. In addition to this, students are then able to share and collaborate with each other. In support of this, Hapara allows you to streamline the process even more by providing teachers with the means of keeping track of work even easier.

Formative and Summative Feedback

Another benefit of staff and students working with Google is ability to engage with multiple points of feedback. In my experience, students often receive feedback and have little means of following up. Using comments in Google not only allows you to provide more timely feedback, but it also means that students can easily follow up with any questions that they may have in response. In addition to comments, Google Forms provides a powerful means of checking in with staff, students and parents on any number of topics. For more ideas, see Anthony Speranza’s presentation.

Curriculum Planners

One of the common problems associated with curriculum planners is who has the most up to date copy. In the past, such documents have been housed on school share drives, while the modern trend has been to move them to clouds sites like Dropbox. Although both of these solutions work, they restrict collaboration (I don’t count five teachers sitting at an interactive whiteboard as collaborative.) Sharing documents and assessment trackers with Google not only means that anyone can properly collaborate during planning, but it also means that people can add further comments at a later stage. This subsequently allows such documents to live and breathe, rather than be static creations lost in time.

Curating Resources

Whatever the purpose, whether it be booking resources, broadcasting daily absences, providing a repository for various resources, such as forward planning documents, or simply providing a central collection point for curriculum and assessment documents, Sites provides the means for connecting everything together. The best thing is that such spaces are completely open to make it what you want. You could have a whole school space or just a space for a specific class. The choice is yours.

Portfolios

Whether it be embedding a range of media within Sites or putting different pieces of work in Slides, Google offers a range of ways to easily create learning portfolios. What is also great is that staff and students can add comments or content to them at any time. For more ideas, Anthony Speranza’s presentation from 2013 GAFE Summit.

Calendars

Although you can share calendars using Microsoft Outlook, something that I have done for a few years now, sharing calendars in Google is so much easier. In addition to this, you can easily create multiple calendars. This then offers a different option for scheduling various flexible space.

Learning Communities

Associated with calendars, Google+ provides the means for connecting and coordinating things with staff. Like Sites, these communities could be whole school or based on curriculum areas, such as literacy and numeracy. They can be used to provide information, links to readings and resources, or a space for ongoing dialogue. I have discussed this elsewhere in regards to creating networks between schools.

So these are my thoughts. I could have discussed Google Classroom, benefits of various Add-ons or the ability to link with other programs, such as Edmodo, but felt that this at least provides the basics. In saying that, there are a couple of other things to consider. One is whether you completely migrate all of your emails and activities to GAFE or continue to run two email systems? The other is whether you invest in Chromebooks to support your investment in GAFE? Interestingly, some schools that have gone iPads are investing in Chromebooks for other activities such as testing, although this is limited to those tests that run on Chrome. For some reading see Blake Seufert’s posts on ‘Why Chromebooks?’ and ‘Successfully Deploying Chromebooks’.

In regards to the big question of safety and security that the sceptics often ask, Jenny Luca wrote a fantastic post outlining the research she did into security and privacy laws and legalities with an extensive list of links attached for further reading. In addition to this, Suan Yeo wrote a helpful post clearing up some of the differences between a normal Google account and an educational account.

So what about you, how have you introduced GAFE in your school? Are there any ideas that I have missed? I would love to know your thoughts.


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Going GAFE from Scratch, My Thoughts by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

7 thoughts on “Going GAFE from Scratch, My Thoughts”

  1. You’ve written a great summary here Aaron and have encapsulated many of the ways we use Google at our school. In particular, we’ve found the benefits for staff collaboration and open sharing of documents to be invaluable and it has transformed their notion of what it means to collaborate.

    Our next step as a school is to have more student involvement and use – we’re currently negotiating the issues of access, teacher knowledge/comfort and nerves about security concerns so I’ll be following up on some of those links you’ve posted to support our next moves. Thanks for a great post!

    1. I think that student collaboration is so powerful with GAFE. So much more potential than the Ultranet, especially in regards to ease of use. I have heard that Hapara can help improve some of the hurdles.

  2. Hi Aaron,
    This is a great summary, but I think the benefits of setting up a school from scratch with GAFE would be the ability to not even think about file servers or mail servers and to not have to worry about people who (quite understandably) have become attached to these ways of doing things. i don’t know what we spend on these things, but if we could put that money into bandwidth I suspect we’d still come out ahead. Also, as much as I’d like everyone to have the job of their dreams, I suspect that a Chromebook/GAFE setup might save on some technician salaries as well.
    More than this, though, I agree that GAFE allows students to do things that they just couldn’t do with a more traditional setup. Our VET Hospitality students will be using Forms to get their customers to sign up for functions in 2015. We’ve been struggling with how to get this to happen for years.
    And finally, I think that GAFE is model for the way that ICT will be used in my foreseeable future. If we’re teaching students to store files in H,P,S… drives, then we’re not preparing them for the world they’re going to have to work in.
    Having said all that, I’d love to know if you see any downsides to going Google. I spend so much time thinking about the benefits that I really haven’t thought about the potential problems GAFE might raise. I’m not worried about privacy, but are there any other possible dark sides to GAFE?
    What do you think?

    1. I was talking with someone from a different school today and they were discussing the thought of getting batches of shared iPads, but were concerned about HOW to implement them, especially with limited technical support. Just screamed Chromebooks to me.

  3. A great and insightful post Aaron. The question of ‘why would an educational setting NOT want to go GAFE’ I actually find astounding. The benefits towards teaching and learning are enormous and ability to implement GAFE could not really be simpler.

    GAFE for us has been an absolute god-send since we opened the floodgates back in 2010. Since then the culture of collaboration, connection, communication and creation has blossomed to a point where I am proud to say that Google App’s are the norm. They’re not an add on or something seen as an extra.

    The students I am even more proud to say have been the biggest drivers of this. To bridge the gap between how technology is used at school and how it is used outside of it, is certainly assisted and facilitated by GAFE and how it can transform learning.

    Moving forward I am very keen to have just more than a ‘play’ with Google Classroom and to see how this integrates with the other Google App’s. Also, to see if G+ would be a better medium for online collaboration than G-Classroom.

    1. Thanks for your comment Corrie. I agree, I find it hard to believe why NOT to go Google. Will be interesting to see Google Classroom develop. G+ is a bit of an untapped space at times. Seen some interesting uses of ‘communities’ in schools. I really like the ease of use compared with something like Edmodo which can be a little cumbersome at times.

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