Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Increase Student Engagement With Google Apps

Hi all!

The following post is one I wrote for Synergyse, a company that specializes in Google Apps training, and their blog. Check them out!

Increase Student Engagement With Google Apps

Technology integration can become stalled when teachers and coaches focus solely on the subject area. Further, by necessity, many professional learning sessions are given to the entire, multi-discipline staff, and either the content becomes too thin or subjects get left out. It can become very easy for some teachers to say Google Apps is not a natural fit with what they teach.

But there are topics that are applicable in every classroom and I am going to focus on one of those: Student Engagement.

I subscribe to the idea that engagement is defined as “students speaking, writing, creating...DOING!” In other words, being polite and compliant does not mean the student is engaged. When students are actively involved in the learning, and it is visible, then it can be said that they are engaged. According to John Hattie, in his book Visible Learning, engagement has been identified to have an effect size of .48 on student achievement. Anything over a .4 is considered “significant.”

So how can Google Apps be used to increase student engagement? As it turns out, quite simply and powerfully! I am an instructional coach in a Google Apps district and I am going to share with you a few practices I have seen in our classrooms.

Google Drawings

I have found the creation of Graphic Organizers to be one of the best use of Google Drawings. I, and many of my teachers, still utilize lecture for some instruction and like to have a slide deck as an accompaniment. In order to get students taking notes (writing) and understanding how the pieces fit together, graphic organizers are tremendous tools! I will go through my slide deck and create a flow-chart, using Google Drawings, with headings that match the presentation.

Below, you can see a simple graphic organizer that I made for an instructional theory class I teach.

Now, it is very easy to just print it off and let students put pen to paper, and that is just fine! However, if you have the technology, you can utilize less paper and have students complete it using a device. Here’s how:

  1. Give the students access to the document by either linking it to your website, the Google Template Gallery, or via Google Classroom. It is not necessary to share the document with the students.

  1. The student will open the view-only document and make a copy of their own by selecting “Make a Copy” from the “File” menu.

  1. Now, in the student’s copy, they will be able to double-click in the boxes and type directly into the document. There is no need to add text-boxes! Just click and type!

Google Slides

The best part of Google Apps is the simplicity in sharing documents. With Google Slides, teachers can make available a copy of their slide deck so that students can follow along with the lecture. However, just clicking along is not enough to be engaged. Here are three methods I have seen in my teachers’ classes:

  1. The teacher makes a view-only copy available to students via a website, email, Google Template Gallery, or Google Classroom.

  1. Students then make an editable copy for themselves (from the “File” menu) and take notes in the “Presenter’s Notes” at the bottom of the window.

Even Cooler:
  1. The teacher makes a view-only copy available to students via a website, email, Google Template Gallery, or Google Classroom.

  1. Students then make an editable copy for themselves (from the “File” menu) and use the “Insert Comment” feature to add notes to the slide deck.

The Coolest:
  1. The teacher makes a copy of their own Google Presentation and takes out key words on every slide. This new copy is the “Student Copy.” They then make available a view-only copy of the student version via a website, email, Google Template Gallery, or Google Classroom.

  1. Students then make an editable copy for themselves (from the “File” menu) and simply fill in the blanks as the teacher lectures.

These practices can be applied to other Google Apps as well and all get the students DOING something during a lecture. Get kids involved and active and they will learn more and enjoy learning more!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Time On Task: A New Perspective

Full disclosure...I might be late to the party here. But I had a "mental model" totally redesigned the other day.

I am a HUGE New Orleans Saints fan and I watch the weekly press conferences of the coaches and quarterback, Drew Brees, almost religiously. Last week, I was watching Drew's press conference and a reporter asked him if he feels more comfortable, the further he gets in his career, with putting passes in tight coverage or places that other quarterbacks might not even try. Here was his answer:

(video via www.neworleanssaints.com)

What struck me was how he addressed "Time On Task."

Historically, I think it is safe to say, teachers and administrators have defined this as the student "doing what he/she is supposed to be doing." We have techniques to quantify "time on task" that instructional coaches, administrators, and teachers use in the classroom. But Drew talked about "Time On Task" as a joint effort between him and his receivers. It wasn't just about his receivers, but it was about him, as well!

"We've had a lot of time on task..."

That made me think about Anita Archer and her ideas regarding instructional procedures and scaffolding. She addresses this here:

(video via Utah Personnel Development Center)

Notice that she references the "I Do/We Do/You Do" method of scaffolding. The last time I saw her in person, she made the point that the "We Do" is the most important part of that method. She said we should spend more time on the "We Do" than the others. This is much like Drew Brees talking about his relationship with his receivers.

Teaching and learning are partnerships. "Time on Task" is not just about behavior. It is about the time the teacher and student spend together working with the content. Too often, teachers move quickly from the "I Do" and go straight to the "You Do" and get frustrated by the lack of performance.

Maybe there is something we can learn from a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Have a happy day!