Our GAFE pilot – one of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings,
when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
and then I don’t feel so bad.
~My Favorite Things, The Sound of Music

[Please reread that and sing along in your head.] My all-time favorite movie. I’m pretty sure I watched it every day for several years between the ages of 5 and 10. In real life some days are just ‘one of those days.’ When I’m feeling frustrated, I simply remember the exciting things that are happening in our school because of our teacher-initiated GAFE pilot.

I've gone Google

On a day that I need a little happiness in my life, here are some of my favorite things:

  • Our 6th grade English students are participating in Literature Circles. Megan & David are using Doctopus to push down meeting templates to the groups (created w/ Doctopus). The students rotate jobs each meeting and complete the meeting notes in preparation for class. Megan was telling me today how the students are using comments within the notes – giving each other encouragement & feedback, reminding each other to complete their portion, and even setting up phone dates to read the book outloud when a group member left hers at home. WOW! And the excitement Megan had when talking about the fact that the students are actually enjoying READING was contagious! They’ve been asked to share more details of what they’re doing in an upcoming department meeting 🙂
  • While I was observing Megan’s class during their first day of literature circles a couple weeks ago, the students realized they weren’t able to add to the vocabulary tabbles in the Doc because they were using iPads. After identifying the problem, one student created a Google Sheet, shared it with his group and told the class what he’d done. Megan and I were both impressed at how quickly a SIXTH grader had solved his own problem. His English teacher mom wants to start doing whatever Megan’s doing because her son is engaged and excited to read.
  • Megan also rocked it with a Google Slide collaboration. She created a template slide deck and made a copy for each of the middle school advisories. She organized them into folders by grade and then gave everyone with the link editing priviledges. Students and teachers worked together to add people from around the globe who exemplify the IB Learner Profile. Megan was then able to import the slides from each advisory into one big merged presentation. 400 students and teachers collaborated to create this final presentation. 🙂
  • Collin (HS Humanities) used a shared Google Sheet for a recent banking simulation. I had the pleasure of observing his lesson…I want to just go hang out in his class everyday! I learned a ton about economics from his short lecture/discussion. Students then participated in a banking simulation – pairs chose to either be the accountant or the lendor for their bank. Collin gave 5 of the ‘banks’ a starting sum of $100,000. Lendors then had to make as many loans & deposits as possible with other banks. Accountants kept track of their bank’s transactions using a Google Sheet that Collin created (it automatically kept 20% of the deposit in the bank so students could loan out the other 80%). After the simulation the class discussed how $500,000 became over $2 million and the concept/idea of money…your money in the bank isn’t really real!
  • Our 6th and 7th graders have been using Khan Academy to learn math in a self-directed environment. Rose has been using Google Forms as formative assessment and to collect data on student progress/goals. She was worried that students were becoming focused on getting the right answer and forgetting how important being able to show their work & arguement is. She wanted a way for students to take pictures of their processes and share them with her and their classmates. During our discussion we went through lots of ideas – Instagram, Snapchat (ha!), WordPress, Blogger…we wanted to meet students where they were but also protect their privacy and show them the importance of school vs personal online space. We felt pretty silly when we realized we already had a tool that she could use – Edmodo. She created a new group for all classes – Grade 7 Problem Solvers. Using the app on their phones/tablets, students can take pictures of their work and publish it to the group. Rose (and the rest of the students) can comment and leave reactions to the posts. I’m pumped to follow-up with her and see how this is working!
  • The IB MYP Personal Project always seems to be a huge headache. It’s worth it but it has been difficult to get kids motivated and keep both students & staff supervisors accountable. Our new Personal Project Coordinator (part of our GAFE pilot) asked me to work with him to transfer our PP paperwork to Google Drive. I’ve done some experimenting with it and I’m hoping that it will be live next year. Since this is a work in progress, I’d love feedback on the documents!
  • I made a rookie mistake with Google Forms. But I’ve learned from it so I’m willing to accept it! Our middle school students take Classroom Climate Surveys twice a year for each of their teachers. Typically these have been done on paper and teachers have hundreds of surveys to wade through. This year our MS principal wanted to move an online survey. We tried Office 365 first (since we do pay for a subscription) but it wasn’t powerful enough (can’t make copies, etc). Instead I created a Google Form and made everyone with the link collaborators. I then went into each of the grade level meetings and worked with the teachers to make a copy of the form and use their own copy for their students (edit & add questions, give students the link, turn the survey on & off, view responses, view summary of responses, etc). It was incredibly smooth for some teachers. For others it was way too steep of a learning curve. After having to change my ‘template’ multiple times, I finally realized I should have actually created a template in the gallery. Now I have one! Next time it will run much smoother…inshallah 😉

I’m PROUD to work with these educators who demanded a GAFE pilot and are now running with it. I love observing their classes and hearing about the ideas they (and their students) are coming up with. Even on frustrating days, I love what I do.

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