Google Apps for Education – for the whole school

In a previous post, I wrote about the trial that two classes in our school were undertaking, with each class creating Google accounts for their children. That was over 7 months ago, and we have finally been able to push this out across the whole school. The children involved with the trial have been so enthusiastic that we are convinced this is a positive step forward in our ICT journey. We now have children continuing their learning at home, collaborating with friends, emailing teachers and trialling new websites and services.

It is worth mentioning that setting up Google Apps for Education is relatively easy and definitely cheap – around £6 p/a for your domain. Ian Addison has a guide to setting up here.

What we love

Collaboration – for me, what makes Google Apps for Education great. Easy to get a whole class, partners and small groups working together to create documents and presentations.

Commenting: marking has never been so easy. Highlight particular pieces of text, or leave a general comment on the whole piece. When you print the document your comments can remain visible too.

Sharing – the ease with which you and your children can share creations is near enough foolproof. This is done through:

Gmail: initially used just to share docs and presentations, now the children are beginning to branch out. They email me about homework, have contacted authors to ask questions and will be emailing other classes around the UK after Christmas. They are also able to create their own accounts on other sites such as Typing Club and Popplet.

Additionally, the ease with which you can select who you email to by creating groups (guided reading, maths, spellings…anything) means you don’t have to spend ages creating and photocopying resources.

Chrome Web store: This is where we found Typing Club, and have also come across WeVideo and iStorybook. There is plenty of scope for this grow, and a cursory glance will help you to find brilliant photo-editing software, language tools, flash cards…the works. And it’s growing.

Forms: Just a lovely way to create questionnaires in eye-catching ways. Forms also  display the data for you.

Autosave: saves no end of time, keeping any created files in the cloud.

Calendar: this is now used on the school website to try to keep parents informed. We have had positive feedback so far.

What frustrates

Not being able to move images to exactly where you want them in Documents. Not sure why this is, as it is possible in Presentations.

Video playback remains an issue. Whenever we try and embed a video into a site or presentation, it will not play. Whether this is only Chromebook related, I’m not sure.

The Future

8 classes (years 2-6) will have individual log-ins to access Google Apps.

We have had various issues with Chromebooks so have decided against buying them. We are however buying 60 netbooks to facilitate use of Google Apps, which will go alongside the 15 Chromebooks we own, and the 25 that are on loan for the moment.

After Christmas, Years 5 and 6 will be making use of the Sites facility to create topic-themed websites.

Continual review of useful apps that could be used across Key Stages and classes.

Script – this appears to be a new-ish addition to the Apps, and is geared towards creating web-based apps. I have no clue about this, and am not sure if it would be applicable for primary aged children, but it is certainly something I’ll be looking into.

Digital leaders – not just for Google Apps of course, but there are certainly some children who would be perfect for this role as the rest of the school begin to experiment with the different apps.

photo credit: adria.richards via photopin cc

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