Creating a Technology program with Google Apps for Education
Papatoetoe Intermediate now has its entire graphic design and modelling program available online to students and teachers through Google sites and Google docs. This initiative was originally brought about by HOD Technology and Specialization Kobus Van Schalkwyk to solve some limitations with their existing online school system.
In a move to providing an entirely digital learning environment, Papatoetoe provides each class with 10 Netbook computers. Students are also encouraged to bring their own devices from home if they have them.
For Kobus the problem came with the school's existing online learning management system.
"Currently the classroom teachers use the KnowledgeNET system but this hasn't really been set up for Technology teachers who have to teach all of the students throughout the year rather than just one class."
Kobus decided to create a website for Graphic Design and modelling to see if he could find a solution that would eventually work for the entire Technology department which includes Food, Fabrics and Hard materials.
In 2011 Kobus created the "Technology Graphic Design" website on Google Sites, part of the larger Google Apps for Education service.
Kobus chose Google Apps for Education for a number of reasons:
- Readily available – The education version has administrative features and is free to schools.
- Universal – Students, teachers and parents are familiar with Google products.
- Compatibility – Can be used with all Microsoft programs.
- Online - Reduced software and storage needed as everything can be kept 'in the cloud.'
- Intuitive and easy to use.
How the 'Technology Graphic Design' website works
The site consists of three main sections: a general section for Technology support and two sections for the Year 7 and 8 programs that are broken into modules. Many of these areas use a number of different web applications offered by the Google Apps package.
The general section on the home page includes:
- Assessment Rubrics for Technological Practice, Graphic Design, and Technological Knowledge and Nature of Technology – Google Docs online or downloadable Word document.
- Calendar of the Year 7 and 8 program – Google Calendar.
- Glossary of Technology terms – Google Docs online or downloadable PDF
- Resources page – useful links and videos.
- Tests from previous years.
The Year 7 and 8 Modules sections are the key function of the site however.
For the first module Kobus has delved into the Technological Knowledge strand with a unit and test on Systems. The remaining modules cover Technological practice in a series of steps.
"I have broken down Technological Practice into six or seven modules. A student logs in then clicks on a module with a brief intro. They then download a small presentation, video clip or link which they read through," Kobus explains.
"They then come back to the site and open a 'Google form' which will be a survey or worksheet that they can work through and fill in the answers whether its paragraphs, single word answers, numbers or whatever you set up."
The students then submit the form which is sent to Kobus' Gmail account for marking. While he still has to manually mark paragraphs, Kobus has saved himself valuable time with one word or multi-choice answers by setting up a formula to automatically recognise the correct or incorrect response and give the appropriate marks.
Advantages for student learning and enjoyment
The online modules have directly addressed an ongoing problem for large numbers of Technology students.
"For the last two years I have done a 'student voice' survey and they always say there is too much writing and not enough time for practical hands-on stuff," Kobus says. "So we're trying to get away from that and I have found that I have cut the writing time by about a third because this system makes it so much faster."
Kobus puts this down to increased accessibility- students can complete the modules at home or in free moments- as well as greater student engagement with the medium.
"Working online like this, it's something exciting and new, so you have the student's attention the whole time. We also try to make each module as straightforward as possible and we have the glossary and word puzzles to aid them with the literacy side because we have students with different language backgrounds."