Using Google Docs as part of teaching

I’m out of my classroom this morning for a literacy workshop. I’m not sure who the relief teacher will be but that’s ok – all my work is already online waiting for my students.

When my students arrive they turn the computers on and open up their assigned browser (long story!). Their home page is the class work blog. They read through the schedule for the day and then usually go on to play one of their favourite maths activities.


Today they will do the same but I won’t be there to see them through the first 1-1/2 hours. They can still do their work though and the relief teacher won’t have to do anything except manage the class.

I use google docs to plan my week. Then I publish it as a web page – this puts it into a format that is easily shared with my class (and others).


I hyperlink other work so that as I am demonstrating things for the class it’s easy to find them. The lessons are done the same way – I type up instructions – format them – and then publish as webpages – this makes it easy to hyperlink them in the class blog as well.

This is a shot from today’s maths:


I also set up maths activities (aka games) for the week and have them linked from one page:


When I come back into the class later in the morning the work is ready to go – I have this week’s spelling words linked as well as our reading activity for the day:


I’ve become a fan of google docs and find it frustrating when I have to use Word or even Open Office. One of the great things is I can still edit as I go – these are all living documents. Sometimes when several students ask me a question I then go back and write the answer up as part of the instructions. I do this quite openly in front of the students – it’s part of their teaching and learning as well as mine.

I’m happy to share the actual links with people so please let me know if you want to see the working documents.

Inspirational Teachers

It’s not the technology in our classrooms it’s the passion and vision we have. This via Justine (Rt:@NZChrissy RT:@Shareski Via @ujdmc)

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori 27 Hōngongoi – 2 Here-turi-kōkā 2009

Māori Language Week 27 July – 2 August 2009

In my class this week we’re going to be celebrating Te Wiki o te Reo Māori.

We’ve been learning Rona and The Moon as part of our fortnightly Team Kapa Haka. We’re going to base our reading around the story and our poetry this week around the song.

I’m going to share these two videos too:
Pa Mai

E te Ariki
E te Ariki
Whakarongo mai ra ki a matou
E te Ariki
Titiro mai ra ki a matou
Tenei matou
O tamariki
E whakapono ana matou
Ki a koe Aue! Aue!
Te Matua te Tamaiti
Wairua tapu e

I’ve linked the titles to the Youtube videos as I note that the embedded doesn’t translate into Facebook – where my posts are cross-posted.

Adding another one – a fantastic version of Purea Nei.

I’ve seen the name around but had never been to the site until I read a review in the NZ Interface magazine.

I discovered that you can create all sorts of interactive flash activities for free to use in the classroom. I watched a video or two about how to use the site and decided to try out a couple of the activities. The most successful (and popular) was the arcade game generator. It was so easy to use. All you need is some questions and answers to put into the generator. You can then just click on play and up comes the screen with options for 5 games. My kids went wild playing the games – and they were all fraction questions.

Watch them in action – they’re quite noisy but listen to the excitement and fun they are having. One of them said today that the best thing about this week was that she now knew her fractions.

(Note that I had both my laptops in use by the students to compensate for 3 computers out of action.)

Computer meltdown? No problems!

This week we started back at school. I had rearranged the groups slightly and made sure that all computers were working and online during the holidays. My planning was complete and I had a full-on week of activities planned.

Then Monday occurred and along with it 4 computers out of service! One was my original classroom computer that was looping (registry problem) and the other three were the xtenda box computers (three virtual computers running off one box).

It took till Wednesday for the xtenda technician to arrive at school – he spent about 20 mins doing something (I was teaching at the time) then just said, “not my problem, not xtenda, computer is the problem” and left. After reporting this to the DP I then contacted our usual tech who picked the computer box up on Thursday morning and then Thursday afternoon sent me a text telling me my PC had come back to life again (dust on ram or something). He was back today to get it all up and running.

The really interesting thing was that the kids took all this in their stride. I explained that we couldn’t do all that was planned – we’d do some of it – and that we’d do some other stuff instead.

No moans or groans. They just accepted that sometimes the computers break and that we just get on with it. Pretty mature attitude for 7 and 8 year olds.

Re-jigging the classroom.

I’ve been in at school today doing some tweaking in my classroom. I’ve changed my two side groups around and sorted out the cables a bit better. I start next term with 30 students. Four of these go to another class from 9:30-12:30 each day but that still leaves me with 26 students and traffic concerns. I think this is the best way to work. (I hope this is the best way to work!)

Here are some shots of the finished look.

Firstly a widescreen version:

widescreen classroom

The main pod of computers and radial groups – not much has changed here:


The revamped side groups:


Side groups from a different angle:


Close up of the ethernet cables for the side groups:


And another close up angle:


Here’s the inevitable tangle of cables under the central pod:

central cable tangle

I purchased a rubberised cable protector yesterday – here it is in action.

cable organiser

And finally a short video tour of the classroom.

Keeping up with my blog reading

I suffer from the problem of not enough time to keep up with my RSS feeds – today I opened up Google Reader to discover 600+ items to read.

Luckily I sort into folders and some I’m quite happy to mark as read and be done with them.

Others I skim through quite quickly.

But the gems I click on the little double arrow to read in their original blog format.

These posts I savour – some I comment on – some I tuck away for further digestion during holidays.

Here are some blogs/posts that have come to my attention today:

Joe McClung posts about a student who was away from school – but didn’t spend all their time relaxing.

At the teacher’s desk is a collaborative blog – well worth the read.

My boss also blogs and this post about Art Costa caught my eye – specifically the initial comments about thinking:

1. Learning to think

2. Thinking to learn

3. Thinking about our thinking

4. Thinking together

5. Thinking long term and short term

Tom Barrett always has things worth reading. He creates some very useful presentations that are just that – useful/helpful/practical.

This particular post talks about using Wordle

and Voicethread

in the classroom. As I use both of these already (in a limited way) I’m interested in these slideshows.

Andrew has posted about the “crazy ones” – I love this – I have one of the limited edition apple “think different” watches – what’s so different about it? It runs backwards!


(This isn’t my actual watch – but this is what my actual watch looks like!)

5 year old visitors

One of the other teachers at school brought her students (5 year olds) to visit in our class. As there are only 6 students in her class at the moment we put one in each of the 6 class groups.

I had found some online maths activities for them to do together.

It was fascinating to watch my kids in action. I could tell which ones are used to working with younger children by the way they talked to them and helped them without taking over.

I shot a short video – I wanted to gauge noise level and also how connected everyone was to the task.

(I need to figure out angles in my classroom so I can fix a camera to a tripod and shoot a maths or reading/language lesson.)

Kids can totally blow you away …

Yesterday we used a blog to facilitate our SODA (start of day activity based on Tony Ryan’s Thinkers Keys). The students worked in their groups to come up with their ideas. Then they commented on the post to record their ideas.

Picture 2

All the groups worked well and came up with fantastic ideas. I have developed a sheet that sets out exactly how to do their commenting.

Picture 3

Then I showed them the process I went through to moderate their comments (and incidentally demonstrated why I wanted the particular layout in the comments) and published their ideas.

Then last night when I was doing some more work I happened to notice that there was a comment awaiting approval. When I checked it out I was totally blown away.

Picture 1

While we have been learning about critiquing (voicethread) I’ve not talked at all about commenting like this in blog posts. This was totally student initiated – and Drew is a 7 year old, Year 3 girl.

It’s so inspiring when you see your students starting to respond independently like this.

eLearning + Classroom2.0

After reading some blog posts and wiki information about ‘inspired’ classrooms I decided that I wanted to try moving my computers away from the wall and into the middle of the classroom and base each group around one computer – instead of rotating students/groups around the classroom they could rotate their activity and have a specific computer they would use.

Great idea but big problem – only 4 computers. I still moved the computers and decided to try bringing 2 laptops to school and have 2 groups using them.

That kind of worked except 4-5 people round one laptop isn’t idea as the screen size is too small.

Then I went on the scrounge. A neighbouring teacher had a computer that was unused. Another computer had been left anonymously in the teachers PD room. Problem solved. Except for the problem of cables and where exactly to put the computers.

In the end I sacrificed 2 student desks (one unused) for the computers and got them set up. I discovered one of the computers was running Win98 but amazingly the digistore objects and other activities are working ok (so far!).

Cabling was the next hurdle. I have a small box that allows one input and 4 outputs – 3 of the computers are actually one computer with an extenda/expanda (I can never remember the name) system on it so they only take one output; the other 3 went to the 3 other computers; however I often need to use the ethernet cable to connect online – especially if I want to skype – so I brought in two very long ethernet cables from home (3-storey house!) and have one duct-taped down and the other loose that I can use (unplug another connection to plug mine in) for my teacher laptop. I also spent several hours working out which other cable was the longest for another of the computers.

I also decided to have 6 groups with computers instead of 5. I have 4 students who go out to a part-time class from 9:30 – 12:30 which leaves me with 25 students – 5×5; but if I reduce the size of the groups (5×4 and 1×5) then access to the computers within the groups will be easier.

So far so good. Here’s a little slide show I put together in PhotoPeach about my Classroom2.0.

Classroom2.0 on PhotoPeach