Sunday, February 22, 2015

Google Drive in Third Grade

My school district has recently introduced Google Apps for Education. I've used google docs myself for awhile now, mostly to share with teachers I meet through my twitter account.  I've never used it with students.  This year I moved from second grade to third grade.  This required a move to an intermediate grade 3-5 school, which has a computer lab.  I was excited to be able to explore ways we could create, share and communicate using technology!

In our district each student has been assigned a username and password for Google Drive.  The username is very long and includes our school district name - Comsewogue - which I imagined would be a challenge.  I created an index card for each student that included their username and password.  These cards are held in a small basket which we bring to the computer lab.  Their first assignment was to just sign in to their account.  For most of the class this took nearly the entire 40 minute period.  It took several students a couple lab periods to sign on to their account.  After a month or so some students have their information memorized and most can sign-in fairly quickly.

For our first experience I thought would share a document with them and teach them how to chat using the commenting feature.  We were going to begin a new read aloud chapter book soon, so I thought instead of doing the introduction and predictions in the typical fashion we would do it through a google document.  Students were so excited!  The first problem happened when I failed to mark comment only on the document.  So even after modeling how to comment correctly, students began to type on the document, delete items and even make bizarre comments.  It was actually hilarious to watch on my screen in real time.  It was a great teachable moment for both myself and students.  The following day I showed them how we could look at the history and see what got changed and who was responsible.  The nice thing was that only their user number appears, not their actual name - so no one was embarrassed.

Next, I introduced Google Draw.  I showed students the different functions and just let them do a free draw before assigning any particular projects.  I think of Google Draw like I would a poster, or a page in their learning log.  It has both drawing and text features, so I could see endless possibilities.

In math we had been working on multiplication so I decided to introduce Google Presentation and have each student write a multiplication story problem using 2 slides.  The first slide was for the story problem and the second slide was for the answer to the problem.  Presentation has many similar functions as Draw so students were able to transfer their understanding easily.   I taught them how to use the research tool to find clip art to go with their story.  I thought learning how to share documents would be a challenge, but most students had no difficulty.  To make it easy for sharing I shared a document with a list of everyone's account numbers, including mine.  You can view our completed slide show with our Multiplication Stories here on our class blog.

For the next project students worked in pairs to create a Circle Thinking Map for the main character, Albie, in our read aloud, Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.  They used Google Draw and learned how to draw objects and move them to the back to create layers.  When they were finished we printed them out to hang up in the classroom.

Most of my students don't have a lot of experience with technology beyond using their parents' smart phone and playing video games.  Some have access to ipads and computers at home, but many families do not have computers or Internet access beyond their smart phone.  These students come from a primary building that is restricted to 2-3 desk top computers, so I knew there would be a wide range of computing abilities depending on experiences at home. Other than the difficulties with signing on my students caught on very quickly.  In fact, computer "experts" emerged quickly and instead of waving their hands in the air and waiting for me, they started helping each other out.  Most naturally figured out things like how to use the tabs in Chrome to toggle between documents.  Using the computer was very motivating and those students that often need lots of redirection in class were very engaged in the assignments.  Of course the biggest challenge is that I was only able to sign our class up for 3 periods a week in the computer lab. (We have over 17 classrooms, so I am lucky that I got 3 periods.)  Just like any other classwork there are those students who lag behind and need extra time to complete work.  This is an easy fix in my classroom, but challenging nearly impossible in a computer lab setting.  I tried creating a "catch up" day, but that means that these slower working students often don't get to do all the assignments.  While they catch up, the rest of the class is trying something else. I want every minute of our computer lab time to be productive for all my students, so I am still working this out.  Of course I know what you might be thinking!  Students can use Google Drive at home and finish their work.  In a perfect world this might be ideal.  However, most of those students that need extra time also need extra help.  And like I mentioned earlier, my students don't all have access to the Internet at home.

There are so many wonderful tools for students to share, create and communicate using technology.  Google Drive is just one option for my students.  I would love to hear how you have used Google Drive with your class, especially if you are an elementary student.