Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Google Apps for Education

I'm interested in thinking about how we can use Google Apps for Education in the elementary setting. It's an interesting dilemma, working in a public school with limited funding, limited infrastructure and even more limited time. Teachers are pressed to cover substantial curriculum and are measured by student achievement. It is hard to carve out of the day time for students to explore options for creating their own computer projects.

I'm most interested in starting by seeing how I can support teachers creating Google forms to quickly survey students. It would be fascinating to be able to survey all of our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders to see which genre of literature they prefer. We could extend this to asking students to select their favorite place and time of day to read. Part of this would be helping students see the value of data, introducing them to the idea that they can collect their own data. It would also generate a sense of our reading community - seeing the variety in all that we read.

I believe in leading by example. As an elementary librarian working within a fixed schedule where the teachers join the students during library time, I actually have the opportunity to survey all of the students on campus. 

However, I need to keep in mind the ultimate advice my master teacher told me long ago: Keep It Simple. Young children cannot type quickly. Watching students navigate Google forms a little bit, it is crucial to keep the questions simple, clear and multiple choice or yes/no. Our 4th/5th graders might be able to move into short answer questions with a little experience, but still they receive no formal typing instruction until middle school.

Here is an interesting tutorial I found for creating Google forms.

One of the points that Nevin, Melton and Loertscher (2011) suggest is to start from a spreadsheet before you create the form. This sets the framework for the data you'll collect. I'm not sure if it's easier for teachers to think of the spreadsheet first, or the questionnaire first.

Nevin, R., Melton, M., and Loertscher, D.V. (2011). Google Apps for Education: Building Knowledge In a Save and Free Environment. Salt Lake City, UT: Hi Willow Research and Publishing.

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