Step aside, VLEs. Google Classroom is here, and it’s free.

Hanh originally posted this on her own blog as part of a New Year’s resolution to blog more, and has kindly allowed us to publish this separately! You can read Hanh’s original blog post here.

By Hanh Doan

I’ve always enjoyed giving students an online option to resources used in the classroom and making homework tasks and deadlines as clear as possible. In 2008 I set up the Beaumont Music Department Blog which is still going strong.  Curriculum and extra-curricular information and resources are posted here, and students understand that they need to check here before coming to ask me an “unquality question.” My school has made some attempts into VLEs, and both times I have jumped on board and tried to use them.  However, the downsides (as many will agree) to Serco (I think it was called this) and Frog were too many to overcome and too many to name here. Students didn’t love it and quite frankly, neither did I.  But I tried, and the students tried but only because I persuaded them to, not because they wanted to.

Eventually, along with my colleague and now boss, Dave Guinane, we have been using the blog, Evernote, and a very cool app which Dave designed to manage students’ work.  Of course, at KS4 and KS5 they still hand in work on paper, and that’s fine too.  We have always known that it hasn’t been the perfect system, but it’s been close. There is a link to KS3 recordings from lessons on the blog, and feedback and “dialogue” (groan) all on the end of each recording. Boom. At KS4 and 5 however, I still found myself with a huge folder of stuff. Most of it is written or harmony work which needs marking which is fine, but then there are countless bits of paper with information like names of pieces for solo and ensemble performances, or music which needs to be scanned in for submission to examiners.  It was manageable, but you know how life is, the fear of losing something really important was always there, and occasionally it happened.

This year, the school has started to trial Google Classroom.  The word “Google” made me think that this was always going to be a winner and I signed up immediately to be on Andy Gray’s team of teachers who would pilot it. Andy is a 2nd year teacher and a member of the school’s T&L team, he knows loads of stuff about technology and more importantly has the personality to work with teachers to show them how to implement relevant technology into their current practice. But here’s the thing, after he set up my classlists (the school needs to sign up to a domain for Google Classroom, you can’t just do it as an individual teacher) and gave me and a test class (or 3) our passwords, we didn’t need any training. It’s so intuitive and easy to use. Like any other Google app. What’s more, the students love it too, because they are logging onto something that they all use every day. Google Classroom is also FREE unlike most VLEs. As well as being fantastic, each member of staff and student gets UNLIMITED STORAGE on Google Drive. Unbelievable.

Google Classroom is basically a virtual classroom. You can securely share comments, files and all sorts with your students, as well as have a dialogue with them about their work. The Google Classroom app is available for Apple and Android devices, and again, it’s free. Students who have downloaded the app receive notifications when the teacher posts assignments, returns work, or comments on their work. Here’s how we have used it so far:

Homepage: 4 classes so far (the UCAS one is something separate):

1 classroom_and_your_tweet_has_been_posted_

You can post an assignment, announcement, question or reuse a post:

2 11a_music3

Assignments:

Creating and assignment means you can set work and attach files or Google docs/slides and assign them to everyone in the class:

3 11a_music2

Students can then return with a private message and you can discuss amendments either on the document or in private message (please note this is from a Year 8 German class I teach):

4 home_learning_-_revision

Here’s an example of an interaction with a student:

5 home_learning_-_revision1

And here is an excerpt from the document:

6 meine_schule_-_lara_jones_-_google_docs

So you might be now thinking, well that’s fine for written work, but what about other types of work? When assigning a task, you can attach a link a sound file or even a YouTube video along with questions on a document as well:

7 11a_music4

Announcements

These are brilliant for just posting up quick bits of information, resources, or useful links. You can upload from Google Drive, your own computer, or weblinks:

8 11a_music6

Students can also post comments on the classroom. Whilst you may fear that they might take advantage, I have found that giving clear boundaries with clear sanctions for inappropriate comments deals with this issue. Students have posted questions for me or classmates.

9 11a_music7

The most recent paper and time saver, however, was actually the question function.  I asked “What are you doing for your ensemble piece?”

91 11a_music10

Their answers are all private (you can set them to be public as well) and all in one place! No random bits of paper everywhere or emails clogging up your inbox:

92 what_are_you_doing_for_your_ensemble_piece_

Genius!

This is only the story so far and there’s huge scope for students uploading recordings at KS3 in particular. On a whole school level, we are working on Google Classroom reading our MIS and fingers crossed, we will be good to go on a wider basis. We have no intentions to get rid of our blog or twitter accounts; they are still essential in the running of our department, but they will probably focus more on extra-curricular activities and celebrating students’ work and achievements. I do think that in terms of a virtual classroom, Google has everything you need.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t done it justice here, but happy to discuss on Twitter.


 

As Hanh mentions above, Andy Gray will be leading on piloting Google Classrooms at Beaumont, so you can expect to see more this in the future! If you have been inspired in the meantime, speak to Hanh or Andy for more information.

 

Advertisements

Santa visits Beaumont

Santa visited Beaumont during its morning briefing today to hand out thank you presents to staff for their hard work over the last term. A squeaky pig, foam sword, wool, glow sticks… the list goes on! Santa asked that everyone use their new present in a lesson before Christmas, and take a picture of it to show Santa what they have been up to! Email pictures to santa@beaumont.herts.sch.uk before the end of term.

Ho! Ho! Ho!Santa.jpg

Bring and Brag

IMG_0659Beaumont recently held it’s first Bring and Brag as part of a Teaching and Learning INSET. The idea is simple; every member of staff brought along an idea that could be easily explained in one minute, and the room was set up as a speed dating activity. In all, staff swapped ideas with around 10 other people and took away loads of new ideas! It was great to see everyone talking so enthusiastically about their own ideas, as well as making notes on what everyone else had to offer.

In between the two speed dating sessions, there was also a chance to have a lookIMG_3858 at the work that the Teaching and Learning team has been up to so far. Focussing on marking, two display boards were set up based on examples of great marking and ideas for reducing marking workload, and staff could also have a look at the numerous books laid out around the room. Andy Gray also set up a station demonstrating some of the new ideas for using technology in classrooms that will hopefully be adopted.

As an exit pass for the INSET all staff filled in a slip asking them two questions about what ideas they will take away from the session, and if there are any strategies for marking not already featured. Look out for a blog post on these ideas in the future.

 

 

Meet the T&L Team – How you can get involved this year

Today, in a special Teaching and Learning briefing, the members of the Teaching and Learning Team introduced themselves and their roles for the year. Read on to find out more about the various foci of the team, and how Beaumont staff can get more involved with T&L.

Bring Your Own Device and New Technologies

Andy Gray

Role

To share and demonstrate ideas on how mobile devices and ‘new technologies’ can be used to enhance and extend Teaching and Learning at Beaumont.

Aims for 2015 – 2016

  1. Create a document/booklet containing examples of apps, websites and platforms, categorised according to the following key areas of Teaching and Learning: feedback, assessment, revision, differentiation and collaboration and communication. Ideas have been (and hopefully will continue to be) submitted by a wide range of Beaumont staff.
  2. Seek feedback from departments with regards to which apps, websites and platforms they wish to utilise/learn more about. Find time in department meetings and/or INSET to demonstrate and provided training.
  3. Explore the use of Google Apps for Education, including Google Classroom (with James Goddard). Google Classroom serves as a platform for teachers to create and organise assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently and easily communicate with their classes. Works alongside Google’s popular suite of productivity and storage applications.
  4. Set up a working group to test and feedback on the effectiveness of Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom. This is currently in its early stages of testing – more details will follow on how and why to get involved.

New Ideas for Everyday Teaching

Nat Moody

Role

  1. To form a working party to experiment with new ideas, and then share their experience with colleagues and the wider teaching community. The group will draw on various resources e.g. T&L library, colleagues to get new ideas, and use them within lesson where appropriate once every term.
  2. Following the trial of the new ideas, members of staff will be asked to write a review (in which they should provide some context of the lesson and group) which can be shared via the T&L blog, Bring and Buys, resource board and possibly through Heads of Subject.

Higher-Level Thinking and Challenge 

Fiona Pinkerton

Role

Development and research of new strategies to encourage students’ higher-level thinking, and to challenge them in the classroom. To provide resources, ideas and support for Beaumont teachers to allow them to implement new strategies in the classroom and in lesson planning, with the main aim being to support students in gaining a better understanding of how they learn.

Aims for 2015-2016

  1. Meet with a group of teachers, across a range of subjects, to introduce ideas and feedback from students so far, with the aim for Beaumont teachers to then trial their preferred ideas in the classroom. Meeting: 5/10/15 in Lab 42.
  2. During the course of the year I will email those teachers who attended the above meeting with resources, new things to trial out and to check in and see how things are going.
  3. During the year there will be a following two meetings in the Spring term and Two in the summer term. This will provide an opportunity for the group to discuss and share successes and failures.
  4. There will also be opportunities during the year for the group to observe one another; this will allow teachers to see how strategies are implemented differently in different classrooms.
  5. I hope that collectively during the course of the year we will collate resources and ideas, and make improvements to these strategies in order to share them with the rest of the staff.

What students are saying so far

“When Miss Pinkerton showed us some of these learning methods it helped me to understand what is going on. It is not all in the teachers’ hands. It’s given me a sense of control over my own learning.” Niamh (Year 12 Chemist St Michaels Garston)

“Using the hexagons helped me to understand how to link the ideas together. It enabled me to answer the harder question and get full marks.” Will Mattin  (Year 10 Chemist Beaumont)

“The hardest questions in the exams are the ones that seem to have nothing to do with what we have learnt. When Miss used the cause and effect map to break down what I needed to put in my answer, I started to make the links and finally understood what the question wanted me to answer.” Amy Cowan (Year 9 Beaumont)


Smarter Marking and Assessment

Fiona Rosler

Role

To examine and apply various time-saving marking strategies to try and reduce workload of marking, whilst still providing enough feedback for students to progress.

Aims for 2015-2016

  1. Trial various marking and assessment strategies with my own classes to examine any advantages or disadvantages.
  2. Look at examples of marking from other departments to examine what works best for specific subjects. Departments will be contacted about this in the coming weeks.
  3. Provide ideas and advice at the November INSET to help staff to find a system that will work for them and which fits around their schedule.
  4. Collect feedback and opinions from a variety of staff and subjects to help advance these ideas throughout the year.

Developing Numeracy Skills

Fiona Rosler

Aims for 2015-2016

For all students to be able to understand and work with numbers in any subject. They should recognise when it is necessary or appropriate to use their numeracy skills and be able to apply these skills in various contexts outside of the Maths classroom.

This will be achieved by:

  1. Working initially with the Science, Geography and PE departments. Heads of Department have already been contacted.
  2. Looking at areas on SOWs which already involve numeracy and examining how/when these topics are taught – are they consistent with maths lessons?
  3. Attending department meetings for these subjects to discuss teaching methods and consistency with methods and keywords.
  4. Running Maths Week activities as last year.

To get involved, please speak to the member of the team responsible for each focus.

Bring and Buy – 4

BandB1The first Beaumont Teaching and Learning Bring and Buy of the year took place last Monday during lunchtime. Fiona Rosler organised the event and asked staff to send some of their tried-and-tested resources. Everyone who visited the Bring and Buy made a shopping list of resources to test out, and placed their Beaumont Buck next to their favourite resource. The resources available ranged from PE to Languages, from Art to Science and all subjects in between, and covered revision, differentiation, marking strategies and much more.

Congratulations to Helen Skelton who received the most Beaumont Bucks for her revision activities resource.

To see all of the resources from the Bring and Buy, either follow this link to Dropbox or visit our Bring and Buy resources page. You could also read more about our Bring and Buy format here.

Thank you to everyone who contributed, and look out for our next Bring and Buy in the Spring term.