Untangling the World of Books, Technology, and Instruction

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Game Changer: GAFE

Recently, I introduced Google Apps for Education to my fourth grade students.  Before I share my adventure, let me just say that I am NOT advocating that any resource  takes the place of a passionate educator.  Great teachers are THE game changers.

Now that we have that out of the way.....

Opening the world of Google to 125 ten year old's is a daunting task.  There are some things I will definitely do differently next time around including more emphasis on email structure and etiquette. (The subject line is not where the email message goes and "Sup?" is not an appropriate message.)  There were a couple of days where I was rubbing my throbbing forehead and asking myself what Pandora's box had I unleashed on the world.  However, that quickly changed once everyone got logged in, logged out, and logged in again.

The teachers I work with were excited to share project templates once we got going, and it was a perfect way to guide students in saving a copy of a shared document for spring projects.  I love sharing great resources with students to help them get things done efficiently and intelligently. Some students really ran with the idea that they could work on projects from home on tablets and computers.  I've taught GAFE before and had students super excited to collaborate with partners from home and across the building during study hall, etc. But, I was in for a surprise.

One of my struggles this year in a new district has been not knowing little faces, names and stories.  Relationships are key when you are asking a student to dive into research AND ditch the worksheet, especially in fourth grade. I was feeling like I was missing a lot of opportunities and not giving myself much of a break. And for those of you who know me, you know that is pretty much the way I roll.  

One of the students' first tasks was to email their teacher or me after they got logged in and oriented in Gmail.  I received a deluge of emails the first few classes.  I answered them all in hopes of modeling good email etiquette, and I really wanted them to know their emails mattered to me.  The emails tapered off as we moved onto Drive and their class projects.  However, I continue to receive emails from students asking questions about how to find things in GAFE accounts, what we did in class, and websites we have used this year. I am completely open to communicating with students when they need answers.

What I didn't expect was the chance to connect with kiddos I don't get a chance to work with every class.  Those were the opportunities I was fussing over, and the answer popped into my Inbox. Those were the students who continued to ask questions and share their excitement for GAFE. I had a chance to tell students in writing I was proud of a decision they made during class,  thank them for helping a friend in a respectful way during a project, and gently remind them that wise choices are a good thing.  In short, I had another way to let students know what they do matters.  Game Changer.

1 comment:

  1. Cynthia,
    Would you mind dropping me a line? (michael.sauers@nebraska.gov) I'd like to invite you to present about this on NCompass Live. (http://nlc.nebraska.gov/NCompassLive/)