This post is second in the series discussing the Chromebook trial we are conducting at the college where I teach. If you missed the first post in the series, you can access it here: http://squishedlearning.com/classroom-chromebook-trial-week-1/
The week started well with all of the classes that I used the devices with enjoying them and posting positive comments. Student commented on them being quicker than their usual laptops to start up and shut down, and that they found it easy to access lesson content and participate in lessons. Full details of the student feedback will be provided at the end the trial.
Staff Training – feedback task
On Wednesday, a colleague and I held a staff training session to show off the Chromebooks and showcase some of the features of the Google Apps for education account we have at the college. The session started with the head of department gathering feedback from the group regarding future changes, which they did through group collaboration on a presentation. I had set the Chromebooks to open with the test account’s Google Drive open in the first tab and the colleges VLE (Blackboard) open in the second. Each group were allocated a slide in the presentation and used this to enter their feedback. It took very little time for the groups to login to the Chromebooks and start participating on the task. This proved beneficial as it highlighted how quick they would be in lessons for student to access tasks. A number of staff enjoyed the task, while others questioned how it would be used in lessons and whether there was any pedagogical benefit to it. Some started accessing others slides and deleting/hijacking their content. At the end of the feedback session, each group had contributed and the head of department typed feedback as opposed to the flipchart sheets of handwritten feedback from a usual session. Staff comments about the task were a mixture of positive and negative. One of the main concerns was the fact that students could go on each others slide and post abusive comments or delete work. To this, it was suggested that it is a question of classroom management. A teacher would not allow a student to destroy or write on another student’s written work. Therefore, they would not allow it on the Chromebooks. In addition to this, it was highlighted that a teacher could use the document history to see what a student did and when during the document, and this could be used as evidence if a student had been inappropriate during a ask, even if they had deleted it hours ago.
Staff Training – labelling task
The second task was a labelling task using a Google presentation. Each group had a different group of slides of the presentation. One of the slides contained a picture of an engine with parts of the engine numbered and blank labels next to the picture The students (groups of staff) had to type the name of each engine part into the blank labels and move them into the correct position on the picture. The second and third slides were similar. However, the second slide only had a numbered picture and the third slide had a numbered table where they could enter the engine part names. This was so the staff could see a couple of ways of conducting the same task. The activity was again received with mixed thoughts. All of the staff engaged the task quickly and completed it successfully. A number of staff members said that they did not see the benefit of using a Google presentation to complete a task that could be done on paper. However, as all of the students were doing the task on one shared presentation, some staff suggested that students could peer assess others work, look at others slides for help or have multiple people working on the same task at the same time, which would not be so easily done on paper.
Staff Training – electronic assignments
The next activity used one of the assignments that one of the courses had to completed. This was converted to a Google document to show how Google Apps could be used as an electronic portfolio. The staff were shown how a student could completed the assignment wherever they had access to a web browser and the tutor could mark the document and add comments at any time. It was also highlighted that when the tutor made comments the student was emailed immediately. A number of tutors present were interested by the idea of not only being able to mark their students work at any time from any web browser, but they also like the idea that they could log in and check how far each student is within an assignment before it is finished. The paper savings that could be made were also mentioned. At present, a number of tutors require their students to complete an assignment, print it out and hand it to the tutor. The tutor then marks it, return it to the student, who then makes change, and the process begins again. If the tutors used Google Drive, some saw huge saving in paper.
Staff Training – linking folders the the virtual learning environment
The final demonstration was using Google Drive with the college’s virtual learning environment (VLE) Blackboard. At present, almost all of the staff are creating MS Office documents, creating content folders in the VLE and uploading them individually or in bulk. The main disadvantage to this is that if a document needs to be changed, it must be deleted from the VLE, edited in the tutors My Documents and then re-uploaded to the VLE. In addition to this, if tutors are constantly acquiring new resources, they will continually be uploading and updating documents on the VLE. It was demonstrated that they could store all of their work documents in folders in Google Drive and using the share setting, link these folders to the VLE. This meant that once they had added a link on the VLE to their folder on Google Drive, they would not have to worry about the VLE again and simply add document to their Google Drive folder. Also, if they used the Google Drive sync, they could have a folder on their computer, just like their My Documents folder and work within this folder as they would normally. Folder within it could be linked to the VLE and whenever a tutor added resources to them, they would instantly be available via the link on the VLE. For some of the staff this demonstration was a bit too quick and they asked for some one-to-one training on how it worked, but for others you could see the light bulbs going off as they saw applications for this to help their teaching and productivity.
The session was successful as an initial introduction to Chromebooks and Google Apps, and a number of the staff asked to have Google Apps accounts set up for them. However, the highlight was that at the end, there were numerous groups of staff engaged in discussions about how it could be used, if it should be used and why it should be used. If we could have hoped for anything to come from this session, the staff discussing it, even heatedly, would have been at the top of the list.