Three weeks ago we launched Google Apps for Education across our school. Our teachers have been using it for about a year now, but in week 5 we went universal with it. Every student now has their own GAFE account including Gmail, Drive, Blogger and Calendar.
This feels like it has been a long time coming. We’ve been taking about it and looking at it seriously since around term 4 last year, but it wasn’t until we had an external provider come and say “You need to get GAFE for your students” that we had enough momentum to overcome caution and take the risk. Though to be honest I don’t really think it is much of a risk. GAFE is well established and widely used. With support structures like Teacher Dashboard in place it is a very easy and safe way to enable student e-learning.
As one of the TICs (there are two of us) of E-Learning, this week has been awesome seeing our vision finally come to life. However, I’m also aware that this is just the beginning of the journey and there will need to be continual professional learning for staff and support structures in place to help this roll out effectively. We’re lucky that as a relatively small school, it is easy to see how everyone is working with GAFE and who is struggling and find time to support those who need it. I can only begin to imagine how much harder that task would be in a bigger school.
We also need to provide spaces for innovation and idea sharing. Already there are teachers experimenting, trying new things, asking questions and pushing the boundaries of traditional pedagogy, and we need to foster this, but also makes sure it is being shared.
We’ve also received responses from a few parents expressing concerns over the fact that their children have emails, cyberbullying and internet safety despite having explained the precautions taken, so clearly we’ve got a need there in terms of helping our parents understand our vision for digitally-savvy students who can interact with confidence both online and offline spaces.
As a classroom teacher, I love the practicality of GAFE, I love that I can email my students important notices and share docs with them. I love using blogger with them for our class blog and I’m looking forward to getting them underway with their own blogs. We’ve only had it for a few weeks (and we’ve just finished writing reports) so I haven’t really had much of chance to play and start imagining the possibilities but I’m looking forward to having more time to really wrap my head around everything.