Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Classroom collaboration

It's amazing to think that just a little over ten years ago, the Internet was a technological toddler with only the most basic of networks, a limited number of users and an offering of information that today we would call mediocre. Following its expansion into popular use in the 1990s, the Internet has had a dramatic and positive impact on culture and commerce worldwide. Education, in particular, has benefited as people have discovered the strengths and uses of the Internet as it continues to grow and develop. A vast array of information now available to anyone with a connected computer and can be searched, added to, and developed collaboratively.

Laurie Wales, a Google Certified Teacher from the Catholic Schools Office in Newcastle Australia is well versed in the value that online tools can deliver in the classroom. In a presentation at the recent Victorian Information Technology Teachers Association Conference, Laurie discussed how "adopting a collaborative approach alongside an inquiry learning process allows educators to re-balance their roles as both leader/director and facilitator."

Laurie's well-received workshop, titled "Connect - Construct - Collaborate," included an overview of a wide range of Google applications available for educators. In her workshop, Laurie demonstrated how Google Sites can be used to create an e-portfolio allowing students to record, archive, and share their work with peers, parents, class, school, and the world – and showcased how developing projects using Google applications has the potential to bring teachers and students together by making them part of a "global community."

Google Docs, a set of free online collaborative tools for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, is also very popular in classrooms around the globe. Fendalton School in Christchurch, New Zealand uses Google Docs extensively to help staff collaborate on team meeting agendas, track meeting minutes, and manage their budgets. Fendalton School uses Google Docs in the classroom to help children as young as seven get organized and receive immediate peer feedback on class presentations through online forms.

Blogs are also used extensively across the school, allowing students to discuss key events and helping parents break through the typical "What did you do at school today?" silence. Fendalton School's new web site, FOS Live, is driven through Google docs and pulls in RSS feeds from class blogs to share learning as it happens in classrooms.

This has the potential to reduce traditional barriers between home and the school. In the video below, Fendalton School's Rob Clarke describes some of the uses of Google tools by Fendalton teachers and students.

If you're interested in learning more about using Google Apps in the classroom, you can find a number of online resources, including class plans, here. Or visit the Google for Educators Discussion Group to engage with other educators and share information about Google in education.

Andrew MitchellGoogle Apps Online Operations Senior Strategist
[NFGB] Link - from Official Google Enterprise Blog
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