Friday, May 18, 2012

Google Apps and Grade Four Students

A Collaborative Class Presentation on Landforms
By:Russell Downs

With the induction of the JIS Google platform, I have been eager to provide our upper elementary students with meaningful and productive exposure activities using Google Docs tools. The grade four year-end unit of inquiry is entitled LANDFORMS. In general, the students learn about the Earth’s many landforms and how they change over time. After reviewing the unit, our grade four team agreed that the G-docs integration option that I proposed was relevant to our learners and could meet both the curriculum and technology expectations. In addition, the team enthusiastically agreed that we wanted this fist time activity to be a little more than just creating a Google document and sharing it with a peer and or their teacher. With a bit more discussion we came up with the following project.

Project Overview
In relationship to technology standards and grade level expectations, our objective was to have all of our grade four students use the JIS Google (Web 2.0) environment to communicate, work collaboratively, support individual learning, and contribute to the learning of others. In addition, by incorporating Google Earth, we felt that we had a wonderful opportunity to use a virtual model and simulation tool to explore a complex system such as planet Earth.

Each grade four class was asked to create one Google Doc Presentation (GDP) on Landforms, which will recognize and describe planet Earth’s unique visible features. Each student will be responsible for at least one individual slide and will partner-up with a classmate on a second slide.

Each slide must contain the following..
      Slide Title: Landform type and student name.
      3D or a unique perspective image retrieved from Google Earth of a well-known landmark representing the landform type.
      A synthesized paragraph of information derived from relevant research on both the specific type of landform and landmark being represented. The landmark information should include name, location, and key facts.
      Creatively developed with theme, balance, and transition.

1.   In the beginning of the school year, all grade four students had changed their Gmail “language” setting to English. I had assumed that this would change the language setting for all of the tools found within the JIS Google platform. However, that is not the case; the language setting may also need to be changed for other individual tools such as Documents, Sites, and Groups.
2.   Collaborative editing in with Google Docs Presentation would not work with the browsers we had installed – both Firefox and Explorer were not up-to-date with the latest releases.
·      Win XP machines will not work.
·      Win 97: IE9 and FF11
·      MacBook (Leopard & Lion): Firefox 11
3.   When exploring collaborative editing with the kids, we found that we were having big problems with so many student-editors trying to edit on one slide at the same time. Real-time editing with so many people was most effective when the students were working on their individual page(s) within the presentation, practically seamless. After reflecting on the first classes related issue, I prepped the next classes presentation with 20+ slides and had assigned slide numbers to the student’s before I had shared it with them. This approach worked very well, all 20+ students editing simultaneously throughout the presentation.
  1. It didn’t take long for me to realize that using the G-Docs collaborative tools was going to be an extremely positive experience but one that should not be initiated without revisiting our JIS Student: Technology User Agreement with the student’s.

In the end, this was a relevant, fun, and productive activity for our students. Their pride of accomplishment was obvious as one of the classes just recently presented their work to parents during their quarterly student-parent work share gathering.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article Russell, thanks for posting it. I especially liked your point about the need for advanced planning with technology in mind. Teachers need to know the limitations (as well as the benefits) of their medium and adjust the assignments accordingly. I am sure the kidos had a great time learning about Landforms!