It feels like it was just yesterday that I introduced Google Apps for Education to my students. In reality, it has been about a year and a half since I started integrating GAFE in my classroom. Needless to say, it has been a huge success - for my students and for myself.
Part of the fun for me revolves around documenting and sharing our learning so that others can benefit from our experiences. I recently took some time to reflect on what I consider to be the major benefits of using GAFE with students, particularly primary students. Here are my top 5:
There is nothing more exciting than taking a step back in your classroom to watch and listen to your students as they work on a given task/assignment. It is one thing to have a group of students engaged in a task but it is another to see that they are empowered. What started with engagement has moved to empowerment. The students have moved from being interested in what they are doing to using GAFE to express their interests. I first noticed this last year and thought that maybe it was an anomaly but the same thing is happening with my students this year. They have discovered that the tools allow them to express themselves in ways that they weren't aware of before using GAFE. They have quickly learned how to leverage the technology to create, collaborate, and express themselves and are doing so often. Feeling empowered is a game changer and my students are experiencing what it is like to be intrinsically motivated and to act on that motivation.
3. Builds Capacity around Technological Literacy & Digital Citizenship
My students don't do a lot of work in isolation, they generally want to work with their classmates. When working in their GAFE accounts, on what I would deem an "individual" task, I will see them calling each other over to take a look at what they are working on and I will hear them asking for suggestions, providing ideas to each other, and I will even see them editing each others work. Then I start to hear "I'm going to share this with you so you can work together when you are at home". I have seen all my students doing this - from the shy introverts to the loud extroverts. This is when things go to the next level, their time at home. They will work on slides or documents together! I asked a few of my students about working together - why they want to work with others and why they invite others to work with them. Their response was that "it is fun...you get better ideas when others help....and...sometimes people helping know more about how to do something than I do". Wow. There are times when a student or two will be off in a corner working away on solving a problem on their own, but generally GAFE brings them together to work on tasks that I have assigned and tasks that they have initiated on their own.
5. Promotes Creativity & Innovation
So, what do you think? Do you use GAFE in your classroom? I would love to hear your thoughts/questions. Fee free to leave a comment here, on Google +, Twitter, or email!