I started using Google Apps for Education in September 2011, when I joined NISP, an Apple 1:1 school in Malaysia. My use of IT up to that point had been limited to PowerPoints or KeyNotes for lessons, along with some exploration of using Comic Life for projects, always executed in slow and usually booked-up, out-of-date IT labs.
It took me the first term at NISP to settle in and get my head around Google Docs, using the KnowldgeNet portal favoured by the school at that point to display lesson content. With encouragement from a IT-savvy colleague I decided that, from Term 2, I would try Google Sites; it seemed a more obvious platform as we were starting to use Google Calendars for homework and were already using Docs and Mail with the learners.
It was the first time I had ever built any websites (other than some brief and never used training I did on MS FrontPage in 1999!) and it has, literally, changed the way I think and 'do' teaching. In fact, I feel that in the space of two terms, I changed from being a 'teacher' to a facilitator. I moved away from 'sage on the stage to the guide on the side'.Google Sites has changed my lesson planning from having me, the teacher as the audience 'doing' lessons to them, to each lesson being written with the learners as the audience.
This means emphasis is on planning. But this has always been the crux of my teaching. The difference is that I am freed up in the classroom to facilitate learners as and when they need me. It puts the responsibility into the hands of the learners; it teaches them to manage their time and collaborate to complete projects - skills that are all important in the real world - in an attempt to prepare them for jobs that do not even exist yet.
After two terms my sites had been seen school-wide and the next step was, as a life-long leaner, to learn more. In June 2012, I started on the Google Apps for Education certification course. It is not difficult if you are using the applications on a daily basis and the course gives you plenty more tips and tricks that may not be obvious to a day-to-day user. There are course documents for you try out and it helped me to have a go at some of the new things as I went along.
I managed to take four of the exams in the summer, before I left NISP. I did not however, manage to sit the final two until well into the first terms at NISS - moving jobs, house and countries seemed to get in the way a little bit :) I did pass though, when I finally found the time to sit down and take the outstanding two exams - which was a weight off my mind and one less thing on my ever-expanding to-do list.
The next thing is applying to become a trainer. This is important to me as I have plenty of people, on a daily basis, asking me to help them with Google stuff, as the IT department are not using this stuff in the classroom everyday. The staff all have access to the Ninja Training Site which is training for beginners, but IT can't help them with the little things; they don't know the everyday, in-class stuff that makes life easier or harder to a regular teacher using Google Apps for facilitating learning. My problem is just going to be finding the time to complete the application :) Time. It is just not something I have enough of to do what I need to do.
Google Apps for Education Summit Singapore, which was awesome. It was full-on and over a weekend, so we were all tired by the end of the following week, but is was two days of sharing ideas about what works and what incredible things we can do using Google Apps to help our learners enjoy learning.
It was fab and I have so much new stuff I want to try out - like the animated presentation above. I want to try the flipped classroom, using forms for feedback, and automated responses from emails and forms for the EE on-line course I am writing....
There's that time thing again....