EDUC 573: Week 6–Google Anyone?

I am becoming more tech-savvy as time goes on.  For me, the best way to tackle anything new is to jump in fearlessly with both feet, get really wet and figure it out as I go.  Building the plane as I fly it, so to speak.  Not without purpose or meaning, but without having to know all of the ins-and-outs before I am willing to get started.

I’m far enough into my teaching career that I learned long ago that I didn’t have all the answers.   And honestly, I didn’t even try to fake it very long because kids are smart.  They know when you don’t know, and how much more freeing is it when we admit that?  When we learn together and not pressure ourselves to know everything.  I LOVE that it’s known that in our room, everyone is a teacher and a learner.  I think I’ve said before (even here!) that it’s our room, not my room.

Well, then, it didn’t take long on this new tech journey to figure out that I may have times when I don’t really know what’s going to come next, or what to do about it when something goes wrong.  But I’m ok with that.  Like I said in the beginning, for me the best learning is in-the-moment-getting-really-messy learning.  I have to see it and talk about it and try it for it to make sense.  And even with technology this works.  Nothing has broken beyond repair yet, and no one has died as I’ve tried new things.  And we’ve even had a little fun.

So I mentioned that this week was about all things Google.  Well, it was about other things, too, but Google’s the thing I’m having the hardest time dealing with.

Let me explain…

We also read an article this past week by “Orchestrating the Media Collage” (Ohler, 2009).  In it, he talked about how the definition of literacy is changing, and that “being able to read and write multiple forms of media and integrate them into a meaningful whole is the new hallmark of literacy.”  He had many great points about how important writing is to the thinking process (and as much as you know I love writing, you know I totally agreed with that!), and about how quickly people (educators) these days abandon the tried-and-true for the brand new, not necessarily thinking about the consequences.  He noted that one of the most important things we need to be able to do is to know just what tool to use and when; I agree with this statement related to all things education, not just technology.  Having a toolbox full of sharp tools is crucial to any teacher, and knowing just when to pull out which tool for which job is even more important.

And so here’s my Google connection…

This week we also played around with Google Apps for Educators.  Here’s where I will boldly tell you that I am not a fan of Google Docs (I know–gasp!).  As I wrote in my discussion board post this week:

Ok, so I want to like Google Docs.  I really do.  But I’m just not sold yet.

I have been dabbling for a little while, but until this week I hadn’t really looked in earnest at the how/why/what, etc. of how Docs could work in the classroom.  I have participated in Google Docs collaboration as an adult (mainly in staff meetings and as a means of rewriting our school’s mission statement with a small group of teachers), but haven’t seen any examples of how to use it with my students in a way that makes sense to me.  In many of the videos and such I’ve seen online, the scenarios involve high school or middle school, which is obviously a very different world than I live in.  Every kid in my school has a Google account (given to them by the district), so they have access to their own Google Drive.  I know that could be a place to store our work rather than fussing with the server we usually use, but even the logistics of getting that all initially set up makes my head hurt.  Here’s another bit of brutal honesty about Google Docs–I’m a font snob and the way they look is so unappealing!  As a visual learner (and just being me in general), aesthetics and look matter to me and not having the same options as in Word or Pages is a major reason why I haven’t yet jumped in with both feet.  I like the idea of collaborative writing–and writing is a passion of mine, too, so connecting it with tech could be a great marriage–but am not sure how yet to incorporate this.

So obviously I’m on the fence.  I want to commit, but haven’t yet seen enough that Google Docs does differently that what I’m already doing in other places or with other things.  Can you help convince me?  I’d love more elementary examples of real, meaningful work that can incorporate Google Docs or forms.

I got some suggestions for what to do from both classmates and my PLN on Twitter, but I’m still having the hardest time understanding how and when it makes more sense to use this  than what I’m already doing. I cannot seem to wrap my head around this whole “collaboration” thing with Google.  Maybe the hard part for me is that we are always collaborating in our learning, but I don’t see why we’d do it online when we could just talk to each other, or share a pen.  My students very rarely do projects at home (which is one place/time that I know is mentioned when talking about benefits), but maybe what’s also good is that whatever the file is that is being created can be accessed by everyone whenever they need it?  Like if someone is gone and they’re the one who has all the “stuff”–the rest of the group can still function?  Is that it? Even in that scenario, though, I can easily see how we could figure out a way around it using what we currently have in place.

Another classmate suggested that perhaps in the beginning I use my Google Drive more as an archive for my students, uploading documents and other things that they may need to see or reference for an assignment.  Someone else mentioned how there is the capability to add other fonts to use in your Docs, which is encouraging to me.

But I’m still not convinced that right now is the right time for me to make the jump into this part of the Google world.  I don’t want to be too quick to abandon my tried-and-true for the brand-new, just because I hear that I’m “supposed to.”  I guess for now I will continue to dabble, perhaps by trying another Google App that makes more sense to me.  I am thinking about installing Google Reader, and am also working a little with Google Sites because of this class I’m taking; I can see benefits with both of these apps really easily.  Perhaps after a little more time spent swimming around in the shallow end of this pool, I’ll be ready to jump in deep and give Docs a try.

What advice to you have for this Google newbie?  Which is your favorite Google app to use with your students?  Why do you love it?  I’d love to hear from anyone who’s willing to share, but especially from elementary teachers who are farther on this journey than me and loving it.  Share your thoughts in a comment below! 🙂

2 thoughts on “EDUC 573: Week 6–Google Anyone?

  1. Once/if you get deeper into Google sites, it’ll payoff to have YOUR docs on Drive so you can embed/link to them so easily together.

    As far as for students, do you write comments on their typed work? Being able to type comments on the same copy they’re also working on was helpful for some of my students (HS, I know…)

    Have you ever had that moment where a few kids are collaborating on a project/presentation and everyone else is waiting for one kid to finish one chunk so someone else can work? Facilitating collaboration isn’t really the point to me, because like you say, they can talk in REAL LIFE. I like that they can all work synchronously and no one has to wait and fall off task.

  2. Pingback: EDUC 573: Week 7–WebQuests, BYOD and Educational Equity | 20somethingkidsand1kookyteacher

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