Wanniassa Hills P.S - Students taking technology on!

We tend to give kids a lot of credit for understanding technologies (see the work of Marc Prensky for example). And it’s obvious that they’re comfortable with the types of technologies that they are exposed to and interact with every day. How that translates to meaningful learning in a classroom is variable. There are as many different levels of experience among children as there are children.

So it takes a good facilitator (teacher) to make sure that their students get the most out of any technology their students use in the classroom. But once the right conditions are established, the sky really is the limit.

We talked about Wanniassa Hills Primary School in the first post for this blog. They have a simple, but increasingly effective approach to using technology in the classroom. As the staff develop their knowledge, immersion in the use of tools like Google Apps for Education is limited to classes in years 4-6 (younger children still use technology, but in different ways that we'll explore later).
This year was a first for the students in year 4, but it was also a first for the teachers. Monique and Tina hadn’t really used Google Apps much at all before, and for Monique it was the first time, so she had to learn the basics quickly (we’ll talk about Monique’s approach to learning these new skills in a future post).

Luckily, the basics were all Tina and Monique needed to get started, as their students were engaged and motivated to move the whole class along. After a semester of learning the basics, the year four students now use Google Apps for a range of things, including spelling journals, writing, maths and everything in between.

Students teach themselves

The kids have really taken to the platform, finding new uses for it and teaching themselves new skills every day. During one lesson, Monique asked her students to fill in a Google form to get some feedback on the use of Google Apps. The students asked her about the tool was that she was using so she gave them a quick peek at the Google forms app. The next thing she knew, the students were creating their own forms, many of them quite well constructed and mature for year four students. For example, one form included a mix of multiple choice, short answer and picture questions, including “What is your favourite colour?”, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, and “How do you feel when you see this photo?”.

Students create their own surveys, including a range of questions.
Monique and Tina’s students now regularly create surveys and quizzes for each other (all cleared by the teachers before sharing of course), which adds a lovely layer of communication to their class group.

Learning to interact safely

The year four students also use Google Classroom for discussions. When Monique and Tina learned that their students were ‘chatting’ to each other on online platforms, they saw the potential for harm through these unvetted conversations. They encouraged the students to use the Classroom Stream instead. This gave the students the opportunity to learn how to talk to each other in online spaces (learning some valuable digital Citizenship skills along the way), but in a safe way that allowed the teachers to monitor and step in when needed.

What the students think

While they’re only a semester in, Monique and Tina are experiencing great success with the use of Google Apps so far. Their students are very engaged, they’re learning new skills (and teaching them to their teachers), and they’re actually writing more. Tina says that they are constantly writing: stories, poems and reports that have nothing to do with the class, they just like writing (and sharing). They share their writing in the Classroom stream and with each other, finding a willing audience for their creative efforts. Tina says that there are even students engaging that never have before: one student who is rarely interested in class work posted a useful resource for his classmates; and another student uses the platform to ask the questions that she’s too shy to ask in class.

In term 2, Monique and Tina surveyed their students. Their comments were overwhelmingly positive, and point to some great interactions with Google Apps as they move through primary school and into high school:

“I love sharing thing and reading others post. I love that we can read other posts and we can comment to that post.”

“I like that I can share my work with the student and teachers so I can get feedback so I know what I can work on next time. I also like how I can make docs and be able to easily find and edit them. I also quite like being able to help others when they ask a question or vice versa.”

“I like Google classroom because I can see my work from anywhere and anytime. I also like it so I can catch up on my work if I was sick or just not understanding it. I also like Google classroom because I can show my mum and other family members what I have been working on at school.”

“It is easy to get to assignments and posts and has no ads”

If this is the result after one semester in year four, we can't wait to see what these kids are doing by year 7!