Time-saving Technology

One of the things that can hold teachers back from trying new technologies is time. As reasons go, it’s not a bad one. Teachers are extremely busy at even the best of times, and it can be hard to make time to learn new technology skills in a world where technology seems to be changing so fast.

At the same time, there is some fairly compelling evidence mounting that students need to develop skills in technology use, and that one of the best places for that to happen is in the classroom. So teachers find themselves having to learn new skills and find ways to use technology. But how do they know which are the right tools to pick for our learning? How do they decide which ones to learn about and use? There are many different tools out there. In this post, we’ll look at Google Apps.

Is learning how to use Google Apps for Education a good time investment?
There are a few things about Google Apps for Education that make it a good platform to engage with and learn more about. It’s an intuitive system with familiar-looking interface that most people will understand quickly and easily. It’s also continuously being adapted and refined, which means that there are rarely big, sweeping changes to have to deal with. So if you’re going to put some time and effort into learning a technology system, Google Apps for Education is a good place to start.

The other, more compelling reason is that it will actually save you time in the long run. Here are a couple of stories from ACT teachers that demonstrate just that.

Saving time on diagnostic assessment
Tracey is a year 5/6 teacher at Wanniassa School. When she took on a new group of students at the beginning of the year, she had to do some diagnostic testing (as we all do) to get an understanding of where their abilities were.

In the past, after the students had completed their assessment tasks, she and her partner would need to mark the tests and then enter the data into their tracking system. This would involve one teacher reading out the results, and the other entering them into a spreadsheet. This could take up to seven hours on a good day.
Now, using Google tools and add-ons, Tracey and her teaching partner take about 20 minutes to set up a form, enter the relevant data into it, and then it is automatically exported into a sheet. If they want to, they can then sort, filter and analyse the data. But they’ve gone a step further and asked Flubaroo to do that for them. All they have to do is give Flubaroo some parameters to work with, and it will automatically sort and filter their data for them. Tracey can then add conditional formatting to the sheet, and it will add handy colour codes so that they can get an instant visual representation of their students’ understanding.

ICT = Work/life Balance?
Nicole and Renee, from Macgregor Primary School, have also found Google Apps to be very useful for assessment and data collection. With the help of their colleague Donna, they have also embraced the use of Sheets for data collection, analysis and tracking.  Nicole says “it’s just a part of our process now”. They use rubrics (and the Goobric app) extensively and it helps them make sense of the data, but also make the assessment data visible to students (we’ll talk about how they do that in a future post).

It also makes their reporting easier. Nicole and Renee work very closely together and are constantly collaborating on data collection and assessment. They enter results and observation notes into forms throughout the year that they can refer to come reporting time. Instead of taking reams of paper and piles of books home, they have all of the information at their fingertips, which can also makes writing reports a much more streamlined process.

Of course, all of this stuff takes some setting up. But Nicole says that this pays off in the long term. Taking the time to learn about the tools and set them up properly, with the help of experts, colleagues, a few YouTube tutorials (and even their students sometimes) has made so many things much easier. Nicole says she feels like she has a good work/life balance now, which is perhaps something that all teachers would like to have?

The message here is that there is some work involved, but the work is worth it in the long term. Find something that works for you, or looks like it will, and spend the time and effort making it work.