Google Apps: On Scalable Web 2.0

Colleagues often tell me that what makes me a credible and helpful technology mentor is the sheer number of hours I spend in the classroom. Although teachers can be a cynical lot, I tend to agree that when corporate technology experts step into schools to trial something new, they often miss the mark simply because they fail to understand what it is like teaching a six-period day. Teachers can and will baulk at new technology because it means extra work. The challenge is in convincing them that the work will pay off, both for them professionally and for their students’ learning. My relative success is in making sure of this payoff for myself before I suggest something to colleagues.

Web 2.0 is a classic case-in-point. There are incredible gains to be made when incorporating some – or a full range – of web-based tools, services and applications into the curriculum. As a teacher, I cope with this well. I find it easy to set up a class list of Wikispaces accounts, manage threaded discussions, share media and facilitate collaborative reading and writing.

The problem is that what one teacher does in one classroom is all-too-often difficult to replicate and scale up across other classes, year groups or whole schools. Keeping track of user names and passwords for Blogger pages or Gliffy accounts is time-consuming – even the most able technology-minded teacher tears hair out when students lose (or can’t/won’t remember) basic details. Other teachers who struggle with the technology may simply avoid it altogether or pay lip service.

My reflection on Web 2.0 is that it needs to be taken in slow, measurable and scalable steps. Scalability is the main reason why I’ve decided to go with Google Apps Education Edition – which gives administrative control to domain owners to create email and apps accounts for an entire education institution. This gives us a starting point for all students in the school to be able to log in and access some of the best Web 2.0 collaborative tools available. Most importantly, we create and control the accounts – which provides security and a consistent experience. When teachers are ready to try online collaboration, the accounts are ready and students know how to use them.

For anyone who doesn’t know about Google Apps Education Edition, you might find the following video of interest:

About Michael

Cellist, singer/songwriter, school teacher, nerd, recent scooter enthusiast and failed philosopher.
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2 Responses to Google Apps: On Scalable Web 2.0

  1. You are absolutely right Michael in your approach to assisting teachers at your school in their adoption of Web 2.0 tools.

    Modeling, slow but steady (scaled) steps is the most effective way to encourage others to have a go! I have also found that using Web 2.0 tools for practical solutions to staff communication issues;-(our Briefing notes for each week, our staff meetings & staff PD are all done on wikis- every staff member needs to use the wikis to obtain essential information relevant to their days/work at school, we have also used blogs for staff PD).These activities help to establish a meaningful context for learning.

    When teachers can see the benefits of using these tools, (& they see the benefits by using the tools- not simply by being told about them), then the rate of adoption grows. But…it does take time…& must be done without rushing….in a supportive, modeled environment.

    • Michael says:

      Funny you should mention staff communications. I’m moving our teachers across to using Google Docs to compile daily notices (currently it’s a single Word document sitting on a network drive which can only be opened by one person at a time!)

      Thanks for the pointers and encouragement 🙂


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