GTA Reflection - Thoughts about Google Apps for Education from a Google Certified Teacher

Part of our final assignment as Google Certified Teachers is to prepare a final reflection.  The end of the school year seems a fitting time to do this, and I would have written this sooner, but I've been busily involved with organizing and running a week's worth of professional development for our teachers followed by an awesome trip to Denver for ISTE 2010.

Earlier this year, I found out about the Google Teacher Academy through a post on the Official Google blog.  Although saddened to learn that I missed the Chicago GTA in 2008 (I was still teaching Chemistry in the classroom), I was encouraged and extremely appreciative that my school would support a trip to our nation's capital as part of my own professional growth.

Prior to the trip east, I remember hearing so much about how intense the experience would be.  I remember looking at the agenda and saying to myself, "I already know a lot of this stuff.  How intense can this be?"  And then I remember the feeling I had after 10+ hours learning, conversing, multi-tasking, and absorbing all things Google.  Thankfully, I had an opportunity to walk throughout the National Mall, and I took time to reflect on all that I learned and all that I would start working on when I returned to Evanston.

I didn't waste much time, as upon my return, I worked with several teachers and began working with them to integrate Google Apps into parts of their curriculum.  I developed a presentation and shared our experiences with others at the Illinois Computer Educators conference in February.  I continued giving Google Apps workshops to teachers, administrators, as well as worked with groups of incoming ninth graders earlier this summer.  Next year, I suspect the momentum will continue as more teachers are beginning to use Sites for their class webpages, and as word spreads on how beneficial the collaborative nature of the application suite can be for student work.

One minor disappointment was my attempt to use Google Wave as a discussion/web conference replacement in my online Chemistry courses.  I really liked the idea of having live text editing, as well as the playback feature since not all of my students are able to attend live conferences.  As opposed to a web recording where they would have to watch the entire 1+ hour of footage, the Google Wave playback feature allowed them to view the "conversation" as it unfolded in a matter of minutes.  I tried to supplement the lack of voice conferencing capabilities (I tried using Ribbit and other available apps) with Skype, but that required my students to create yet another set of login credentials.  In the end, I went back to Adobe Connect as I felt that I was trying too hard to use Google Wave when it just wasn't helping in the end.  Perhaps, the new live text features of Google Docs will be a suitable solution for my needs.

With the Google Wave experiment aside, my experience with Google Apps has been extremely positive.  I am a huge proponent of using the collaborative features of Docs, the ease of use in facilitating discussions through Groups, and the simple, yet effective creation of websites through Sites.  Without the GTA experience, I'd probably be a bit apprehensive about using Google Apps, and I would not have had the vibrant and enthusiastic network of Google Certified Teachers to fall back upon when I come across any problems or questions.  Thanks to all GCT's and lead learners for your support.

GCT '09 DC


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