After an extended Christmas break, thanks to the Polar Vortex which descended upon Chicago, our faculty began their training on Google Docs and Google Drive. In the fall we spent an afternoon with Gmail and Google Calendars, but this was different – this had some true excitement.
When we did our training session for Gmail and Google Calendars, the teachers were sent to three computer labs in groups of 30+ where they were a member of the tech department gave a scripted presentation. The script was very specific to things the faculty and staff would need to know in order to communicate through these Google Apps. The department chairpersons met in a separate location to discuss the impact of the 1:1 on their departments, and they were given small group training on Gmail if needed.
Due to the amount of material that needed to be covered, it was very beneficial to utilize scripted material which walked the faculty and staff through Gmail in a very specific order. This ensured that when we finished the 1 hour session, all the material would be covered, and everyone had received the same information, no matter what room they were in. There was no separation of “students” based on previous knowledge or technology expertise. This allowed for the more experienced students to assist their neighbor who may have fallen behind or become lost during the presentation.
We were using a script that had been set for 45 minutes, there was very little room to answer any questions – and for that matter, very little time for teachers to ask questions. While it was important to give this information to them in a clear and concise manner, it was even more important that they all understood the material, and there was no way to that with this configuration. Some of our less “tech savvy” teachers definitely felt lost, or left behind with this instructional method. I find it interesting that although teachers who feel lost in a lecture, don’t understand why their own students lose interest or struggle when they present in the same way.
The next Professional Development session covered Google Docs and Google Drive. After seeing the limitations and struggles our staff experienced in the Gmail sessions, I decided to make the next session more hands on. Using my own material and other training material created by Google, I set out to create 12 lessons that could take our users from beginner to knowledgeable. The teachers were given a survey (thanks Google Forms) which allowed me to see what level they were at with Google Docs and Google Drive. This allowed me to break them into 3 groups (beginner, middle, advanced), and those groups could be placed in 3 separate locations. By placing the groups in 3 separate locations, most people in the room were working on the same lesson at the same time. This allowed for instructional announcements if multiple people were struggling with a certain topic, and they could get some questions answered by the person sitting next to them. Imagine that, collaboration with Google – what a concept.
The main change for this professional development was in my expectations. I was no longer expecting to see all the material covered in a 1 hour session. Instead, I was expecting to see 3-4 lessons completed by everyone that afternoon, and more importantly I wanted to give my “students” the opportunity to explore on their own. They could also ask questions so I could meet them where they were – not where I was in a scripted presentation. All teachers were given the expectation to complete Lessons 1-8 by the end of March. Although I would like to see them completed at a faster pace, the faculty is under a lot of pressure to prepare for the 1:1 iPad initiative which begins in August. Keeping a balance between what needs to be accomplished, and pushing the teachers over the edge is like walking on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon.
Through the sharing of Google Docs, comments written in these docs, and emails; the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. They loved the ability to work at their own pace, and the fact their questions were answered while they worked. The training on Google Drive and Google Docs truly opened their eyes to the possibilities these new tools would offer them in the classroom. During the following week I had multiple teachers come to me seeking more information about implementing these new tools in the classroom. I am so excited to see how far our faculty has come – not only with the technology, but with their positive (yet tentative) outlook on next year.