Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How Google Made Me a Better Teacher

Today is July 1st. School has been out a couple of weeks. One thing I do during the summer is reflect on the year that just ended in hopes of learning what went well and what didn't. This past year was a big one as I was involved in a pilot program at my school. Team Flight consisted of five teachers and about one hundred and fifty students. We used technology as an integral tool in our classes. 

This time last year we were training. We were learning about Vision and Google and blogging and all the different ways we could implement the technology. We were studying up on terms like PBL and Flipped Classroom. Honestly, my head was spinning. I was starting my nineteenth year of teaching and I felt like a first year teacher again. 

As I look back, one question I want to address is this: 

What part of technology made the biggest difference to you? That's easy...Google. 

Ahh, Google...where do I begin? We used Google everyday in English class. The ability to be on the same document with a student, in real time, while they are composing or revising gave me the opportunity to conference with students during writing time. I also conferenced with them at home, on the weekend, whenever I could. My students shared documents with each other. They provided valuable feedback and gave each other an authentic audience that made their writing better. 

I've been an English teacher forever, and one complaint I hear from teachers is, "How do I get them to go back and revise?" This year with Google, it wasn't an issue. 

I asked the students how technology changed them as writers. Here's an answer: 

Google forms made it possible for me to collect information. My favorite story about Google forms is about Sarah. We had just started blogging and the focus of her blog was reading. She wanted to make book recommendations and get book recommendations. Look what she made...on her own, with no instruction from me...

Here is the live form...

She figured out how to create a Google form and asked for input from her blog readers. That shows creativity and initiative. Sarah started a community of readers using Google. 

Organization is another aspect of Google that impressed me. The students created folders and found ways to organize their documents so they could be found easily and quickly. Sixth graders typically need so much help with organization, and many reported feeling organized because they learned to use Google and create folders. 

It turns out, I'm not the only one who feels like this. Tara Smith another teacher blogger, teaches sixth grade. She blogs for Two Writing Teachers and wrote an amazing post called Google Docs + Writing Workshop = Happy Writing Teacher (And Happy Writing Students) . She writes in detail about the success of Google Docs in her classroom. The 37 comments documents teachers (from around the country) discussing ways they are using it in their classrooms. 

I, myself, used Google Docs and Google Hangouts to participate in an online workshop called TeacherPoets sponsored and led by author and Teacher's College Staff Developer Chris Lehman

Google is a tool being utilized by students, teachers and schools around the country. It's changed me as a teacher. It changed my students. I'm excited to continue my learning! 


  1. As your colleague on the the pilot program, my students and I loved Google and all its uses! Students used it to collaborate and peer revise and edit their writing. They had a built in audience because they knew they would share their writing with their peers. They didn't need to remember to bring a flash drive to school or save it because Google docs are live, in real time. They could download Chrome at home for free and access their work anytime. Free! The students' privacy is protected because we're in a safe "bubble" and information isn't shared with a Goggle for Education.

    I attended ActivLoudoun in June and one session was Classflow. It will help students and teachers access lessons and resources very easily.

    I can't wait until Google Classroom comes out this September. The students will love it!

    1. As the science teacher in the ERMS one to one pilot program, I would like to add that using Google in my classroom this past year has notably increased the level of collaboration and self-directed learning among my students. All lab reports were completed through Google Docs. Students quickly learned how to make copies of the lab report outlines that I prepared. They would “share” results with lab partners and add information, data, and graphs in real time. A huge benefit for students was the ability to use links that I provided on their Google Docs lab report outlines to sites that I thought might be beneficial as they completed their lab reports. Rather than relying on me, students were able to experience the satisfaction in retrieving information on their own. An interesting twist, from a teacher’s perspective, is that when I provided “comments” to a student’s lab report, I often received responses such as, “Thank you, I will add more data,” or, “Ok. I’ll include graphs. Let me know if that is good. Thanx .” After 19 years of teaching, I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to have students express gratitude for receiving constructive feedback. Students seemed to drop their defensive guards when communicating via computer in the form of a “comment” rather than having their hand written reports marked with corrections.

      I concluded every single one of my classes this year ended with an Exit Ticket that was completed through a Google Form. This five to ten minute wrap up was crucial to adding closure to our day’s objective. Students would answer the questions that I provided on a Google Form, and I would pull the responses up on the Promethean Board in the “summary” format. I like using the summary format because it displays class results in the form of graphs, which offers students a wonderful opportunity to interpret and analyze meaningful graphs. This activity was a critical part of student learning because the feedback was immediate and allowed students to address misconceptions and errors before leaving the classroom.

      I have only provided the tip of the iceberg of how using Google in my classroom has been transforming. I haven’t even touched on how we used Google Presentation to allow students to take on the role of instructor or how I could communicate with students at any time and any place. Through the use of Google in the classroom, my students grabbed the opportunity to be active learners in a collaborative setting. It was an amazing year, and I can’t wait to build on this experience next year!


Please share your thoughts. I love comments!