Using Google in My School

We have been using Google Apps for Education in our school for about four years now, but it’s a bit of a story about why we started using it and how we are where we are now.
To start with, the school budget was a major influence. We had invested heavily in new hardware. To help get best value, OpenOffice for Kids was installed on the devices for pupils and who weren’t the slightest bit bothered that they were using an alternative to Office and it meant that could have it at home for free as well.
The only problem we had was with staff. They wanted and liked Office and school paid for it on an individual basis. I don’t think I used Office for 3/4 years. Incidentally, my son, Luke did his entire Law degree using OpenOffice. He couldn’t see the point of paying for Office when OpenOffice did everything he needed it for. He had Google Docs provided by his university but he didn’t use that either.
Through my own use of GMail and then Google Docs I subscribed $10 to get a Google Apps for Education domain and started using it with my Y4 class. At the time, blogging was our thing and the pupils had their own individual blogs which were wonderfully creative and generated great digital literacy skills. The initial impact of each pupil having a Google account was a dramatic reduction in own time blogging and a dramatic surge in the use of the collaborative tools that using Google enables. Other classes continued using OpenOffice and for the teachers, Office was installed on the machines.
As time went by, Using Google in our school popped up here and there in different classes and different settings.
One big step forward was through the work of our Y5 teacher who used Google Docs in a live writing session in an observed lesson and our Headteacher, who had never seen it before, was seriously impressed (so much so she subsequently agreed to spend £6500 on Chromebooks).
One more reason for the development of our whole school use of Google was through one of our fab HTLA’s, whose role includes covering PPA and often, because of her enthusiasm and skills, does ICT in quite a few classes with iPads and Chromebooks. She soon had Y1 and Y2, amongst others, delving into the world of sharing and collaborating through their use of Google Docs.
As well as the curriculum development we also had our Y3 class. A couple of years ago it was job shared by three teachers. Might sound tricky but it worked really well. End of year reports were tricky. Done on Office, stored on a pen drive – everyday presented constant danger of losing or overwriting reports.
Last year we tried to do things differently. The class was now being taught by two teachers. I suggested to them Google Docs just before Report Writing time. By the end of two 15 minute training sessions the two teachers had fallen in love with Google solution to solve the shared report writing dilemma. One has a gmail account but never really touched docs. The other, not techy in the slightest. They both raved about how easy it was. A side benefit was that in previous years, the HT would wait until each set of class reports were finished, checked, proof read, printed and then end of year comments added in the end of summer term scramble. Because the Y3’s reports had been shared, Headteacher comments could be added as and when, making this side of the a Headteachers much easier and very much more efficient.
I did my reports in the same way. One teacher said that she wouldn’t be using it because in the Google version text boxes don’t have borders (they may do but I just didn’t look).
We had a bit of an issue with Y6 writing moderation at the end of last year and in particular with digital writing. Not easily accessible to the moderator. So this year our Y6 teachers, who were our Y3 teachers last year, have now got the pupils to organise their Google Drives in subject areas and have one folder called “finished work” which is shared and then QR coded and stuck to their “Big Write” book. Bingo! They want to stick the QR codes on the class photographs which are stuck on the wall outside the classroom. Not often have I seen a completely no techy teacher excited about techy stuff.
Pupils in my class and in our school love Google. The ideas about extending the school day sort of already happens with Google because often our pupils spend their own time doing shared presentations. We now have homework set up using Google Forms and the feedback from pupils and parents has been very, very positive.
Our school now has got to the stage of pupils and staff using our Google Apps for Education facilities often. Out Teaching Assistants have a Chromebook each. We have 30 Chromebooks and 30 iPads that are timetabled for use across the school. Google works for us and it is free (well, apart from the $10 annual domain fee).