Monday, 14 March 2016

Adventures of GAFE in Grade One

March has been a busy month for trying new things. I love this time of year in Grade One, as they are ready to take on more challenges and we can begin jumping into the unknown together. Coding has been something we started venturing into earlier this month, see my post here for more. Just last week, I took another big leap and jumped into the Google Drive/Google Classroom world with my Grade Ones. Since our school board has accounts for each of our students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, I figured now was the best time to start introducing something they could potentially be using for the next 12 years!

Lucky for us, our classroom was given 4 Chromebooks for temporary use. Before introducing them into the classroom, I sat down and figured out my plan in how we'd use them. I assigned 5 students for each Chromebook and then signed them in using their GAFE (Google Apps for Education) accounts. Thankfully, their profile gets saved on the Chromebook, so it becomes easy to log in and get started, since all they need is their password. I set up a few bookmarks in Chrome so we could easily get to our Class Blog, their individual blogs, Raz-Kids, Dreambox and our School Board's Library Learning Commons (which provides direct links to TumbleBooks and PebbleGo to name a few). Once their accounts were ready, I introduced the Chromebooks to the class and had the students use them during our Reading and Writing workshops.

This wasn't enough for me. Knowing that we had access to GAFE, I wanted more for my students. I wanted them to experience as much as they could handle. Even though they are young, they are capable! At EdcampWR, GAFE had come up multiple times, but all the teachers using it were either junior, intermediate or secondary. I wanted primary to be included. I chatted with Heidi Hobson (our Technology Support Teacher for our school board) and asked her about primary students using GAFE. She offered to help me brainstorm ideas on how to get my class started. After chatting for an hour or so one day, we introduced my students to Google Drive.

We began by explaining what Google Drive is all about, we referred to it as a "Sky Desk". Where all the files you work on get put into your desk that's essentially in the sky, so you can access it from anywhere. The students loved the analogy and quickly wanted to log on and see their very own sky desk. That day we showed them how to sign into Google Classroom and start working on a Google Draw assignment. In order to make this work, I borrowed 6 other Chromebooks, so I had access to 10 in total. I put my students in partners and let one sign in and test it out, while the other helped. When it was time to switch partners, they easily signed into their new account and got started with very little help from the adults in the room. 6 and 7 year olds are very capable. :)

Our goal is to introduce them to Google Slides to create an 'All About Me' slideshow with pictures and words. To get them there, they need to be familiar with the tools that Google offers. With practice and play with Google Draw, they can start creating lines and shapes, begin to fill in colours and just overall work with a Chromebook in a new way. I send home an instruction sheet on how to log onto their "sky desk" at home so some may choose to practice this over the March break.

Currently these are simple ways to introduce GAFE into our classroom. I want to be cautious that I'm not just choosing the tool and then trying to fit it into the lesson or curriculum. I want my students to be able to choose from a variety of tools. In order for them to have a variety of choice and use something appropriately, there needs to be some specific teaching to allow students to gain the knowledge and independence when working with it. Providing these simple activities gives my students just that. Where they go next to showcase their learning will be the real adventure. Please note, that this works in my classroom because I allow students to have choice when creating something. During Reader's and Writer's Workshop or Wonder Wednesday, I provide the students with choice to show us their learning. (This is also a work in progress, but something that lends itself nicely from the FDK model of inquiry and play they have been familiar with for 2 years.) I have some students who will choose to create a booklet or poster than use an iPad or Chromebook. Technology isn't everything in our class, we just try and incorporate it in when it makes sense to the person using it.

I'm excited to see where this journey takes us and see how possible it is to have young students using GAFE in meaningful and purposeful ways. Thanks for joining me in this journey, if you have any suggestions, I'm always willing to listen!

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