Friday, 2 November 2012

Personalizing with Google Drive

As mentioned in previous posts, an important element to personalizing education is giving students control over when, where, how and what they learn. Technology is not essential to facilitate this outcome but can definitely simplify the task.

One tool that is becoming increasingly popular at Greenwood College School is Google Drive. At first glance Google Drive looks like any other folder on your computer but below the surface it behaves very differently as all documents saved to Google Drive are automatically uploaded to The Cloud.

Simply having a folder to automatically back up files is great in itself but the bigger advantage for teachers comes from the fact that any file saved to The Cloud is given a web address. More importantly, if a file’s web address is shared with others, it can be accessed at all times by anyone with the link.

When teachers share using Google Drive, they give students easy access to files without generating a lot of additional work for themselves. For example, teachers always create unit plans for their courses. These unit plans generally consist of a table developed in Microsoft Word that breaks a unit into a daily progression. Using Google Drive, teachers can give this unit plan another purpose. An online version of the outline can become an interactive path for students in their class. The teacher can link handouts, resources and activities to the unit plan, share it with students, and in turn provide an easy to navigate location where students can find all lesson resources. An image of a few lessons from a sample chemistry unit outline can be seen here.

By making the unit outline available online, it is easy for students to catch up when they are away, to return to concepts they did not understand or to work ahead.

Another advantage of this system is that shared assignments and resources are always current. Teachers alter assignments and lesson progressions on a regular basis and when changes are made, Google Drive automatically synchronizes the updated file with the online version of the file. This ensures that students always have access to the most recent document. This method saves teachers time as they do not need to upload or print a new version of a document each time a change is made. Google Drive can share any type of file which allows teachers to develop and share resources using familiar software such as Microsoft Word and SMART Notebook.

At Greenwood College School, teachers teaching the same course use Google Drive to collaborate efficiently. Previously when teachers wanted to share or develop documents they would email them back and forth until a final version was completed. This method would often result in several versions of the same document being created which was confusing. Now, using Google Drive teachers can create a course folder and modify one document from their own computer. Since the document is shared through The Cloud, any updates will be added to all files no matter where they are located.

Google Drive was only released earlier this year, but already it has become an important teaching and collaborating tool for teachers at our school.

Kyle Acres
Learning Technology Adviser

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