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Posts Tagged ‘google apps

When I tell folks about how I use Google Apps as an educator and an administrator, some folks scoff.

The most common misconception is that the Google Docs suite is just a weak replacement for Microsoft Office. It’s not and that is because Office is designed primarily to be a standalone suite and for an individual; Google Docs, Presentations and Spreadsheets are fully online and for groups of people to use synchronously.

Case in point: A team of three talented individuals decided to show off what they could do by animating 450 “slides” in a Google Presentation.

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And in the video below, a game designer talks about how he used Google SketchUp to wireframe complex 3D objects.

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The simplicity is in the tool. The power is in its use.

I just read in the print copy of Digital Life (2 Dec 09) that MOE’s deal with Google Apps is worth S$650,000 a year over two years. Does that sound like a lot? No, not if you do the math.

Based on MOE’s 2008 corporate brochure, Singapore has 29,000 teachers and an annual education budget of S$8 billion. Google Apps for education is barely a drop in the bucket.

MOE’s press release on 22 Sep 09 about adopting Google Apps does not mention explicitly if students will get to use it as well. If students are included as users, how is that drop shared among all teachers and students?

MOE claims that we have a student:teacher ratio of 21:1 (paragraph 11, cough!). Simple arithmatic (29,000 x 21) tells us we have about 609,000 students. Add the number of teachers (29,000) and the total potential users is 638,000. That means that it will cost us a little over S$1 per year per user. That’s value for money… if you like playing the numbers game.

I don’t just play by numbers. How will teachers and their students use Google Apps? Will these Apps be effectively integrated into teaching and learning? While I am watching for answers, I am not waiting. Time will provide some answers, but so will action.

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I am using some of the Google Apps now (Sites, Docs, Spreadsheets, Forms, Presentations, Mail and assorted widgets) without NIE being part of the Google Apps for education picture. I am using it partly as an informal LMS, but mostly as a collaborative learning space.

I think that using it as an LMS provides my teachers-to-be with some level of familiarity. But they also explore the use of the Apps to facilitate collaborative writing, data collecting and processing, planning, designing and learning. I hope that by providing one possible model of using Google Apps, my teacher trainees can then test the ground when they are posted to schools.

I am glad to report that I see some green shoots already. A few of my trainees come up to me after class to tell me that they are setting up their own Google Site wikis or to ask me how to do something or other. I also hope to be involved in the education of in-service teachers next year under a new MOE programme. More details on that if the plan solidifies!

I asked all five of my classes (130 trainee teachers) to participate in a short survey about Google Docs. To date, 114 of them have responded.

I used Google Forms to create the survey. Part of the automatically generated summary is shown below (click image to see it in original size).

2009-10-29-google_apps_surveyHalf of them have never used any part of the Google suite while half have used Google Docs. The half that have some experience can help the half that haven’t!

As expected, nine out of ten have not heard that schools will adopt Google Apps by the end of the year. The announcement was made only in late September.

I am hoping that my attempt at integrating Google Apps will not only ease the transition but also enable them to learn the concepts of EdPsych2 more actively, collaboratively and meaningfully.

For two of my classes, this week marks the end of the ICT course. The other two classes have two more weeks to go as they are in another programme.

If you ask me, I think they should all move at a slower pace so that they have time to let things simmer or sink in. We rush-rush-rush in Singapore. To use something near and dear to the hearts of Singaporeans, the way we do things is like fast food: Quick, but not good in the long run.

But I digress. As usual, the end-of-semester feeling is bittersweet. I normally heave a sigh of relief because facilitating the course is a lot of work. But it is work that I enjoy, so I miss it. I will even miss the unending RSS and email updates that I get from the group blogs and our course wiki.

This semester, however, is more bitter than sweet because I have been asked to teach an inter-semester course (it straddles the vacation break in December). Due to the shortage of folks who can teach EdPsych 2 (EP2) and the larger trainee teacher intake, I have to put on another hat next week. That’s right, one course ends and another begins!

The worst part for me is that since I am taking next semester’s load this year, I won’t be required to teach my favourite ICT course next semester. To add to the bitter taste, I will not be able to follow up with the trainees under my care during practicum.

But I’d rather look at the opportunities rather than the obstacles. I plan on integrating other Web 2.0 tools in EP2. As schools here will adopt Google Apps by the end of the year, I plan on integrating the online suite as much as I can with all five of my classes. I might also set up an online feedback/response system to encourage the wallflowers to bloom.

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In the meantime, I can look back at the educational gaming sessions (opens up a VoiceThread) and their walkabout presentations (hosted on YouTube and more to come) at the MxL. Ah, the good times!

Two days ago, I tweeted MOE’s press release on how all schools here were adopting cloud computing in the form of Google Apps. I thought that was wonderful news.

What do other people think of it? Chris Dawson who is far away in Massachusetts and a fan of Google Apps seemed pleased for us, but he had this concern:

With the relatively high number of homes with computers and broadband access in Singapore, one has to wonder when communication and collaboration via Apps will be encouraged among students.

I too share that concern. The technology should be placed squarely in the hands of learners and the pedagogy in the that of the teachers. (Of course, the teachers should use Google Apps too!)

Students need to explore, create and critique. Teachers need to design, implement and manage. In theory at least.

One barrier will be mindsets. Cloud computing is the return to the mainframe-terminal model of computing. Everything is stored online in the cloud. People will find it hard to let go of their standalone copies of MS Office tools sitting in their hard drives.

Cloud computing allows one to share and collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously. Instead of working in selfishly in silos, we can work more openly beyond what we currently perceive as borders. This is the future of the way our students will work, so I think that the adoption of Google Apps is one step in the right direction.

But let us deal with the mindsets, particularly that of teachers. Let us provide professional development, not just on the technologies but also on the pedagogies that facilitate learning as enabled by the technologies. Just as important: Let us in NIE, the only teacher preparation institute in the country, have Google Apps too!


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