Sunday, 20 May 2012

Week 4 of Google Apps & exciting contacts with Brazil & Taiwan

Week 4 of Google Apps for Education
I can't quite believe it's only been 4 short weeks since we launched GApps for Education at school.  Phew!

Assessment week notwithstanding, this week has been PACKED with learning skills, hangout preps, fab news on new partners through our rainforest questionnaire and lots more besides!

Learning Skills
Our learning skills display
One of the things I was keen to do was to involve children in self and peer assessment as part of this project. After getting pupils' ideas on how we could do this, we used questionnaires relating to our school's existing learning skills framework.  Have to say I'm loving the simplicity, accessibility and power of Google forms, so using this format, pupils gave themselves and their rainforest action teams marks out of four for each of the key aspects of learning.  There's more info about the learning skills here - we use children's own definitions of what these mean.

Google Hangout - Chong Ming Elementary School, Taiwan
Chong Ming Elementary School, Taiwan
After a few filtering hiccoughs, we're all set for our first Google class hangout with the Chong Ming Elementary school in Taiwan.

Pupils there have completed our rainforest survey and we're having a planning session in class tomorrow to get the most from the hangout.  It'll be an early start for Year 4 - the hangout starts at 8:00am Tuesday!

Google Translate and a truly amazing offer from ActionAid Brazil
ActionAid, Brazil
From the outset of this project, I really hoped for links with pupils from a rainforest region of the world.  So this week it was JUST FANTASTIC to see our questionnaire had been completed by Celia, Coordinator for ActionAid Brazil!  Celia's heartfelt responses about the deforestation of Brazil's rainforests and the devasting impact of this on local people in the form of mudslides, flooding and climate change have really moved every single one of us in class - sharing an insight that no amount of  traditional study will lead to.

Brazil - earthobservatory.nasa
Celia also wrote asking that I pass on this message to Year 4: 'living in a country very rich on forests - and suffering from a huge deforestation process, I have only to celebrate initiatives like yours'.

Celia has offered to pass our survey on to teachers and children in the region to complete next month.  This is truly an amazing offer considering the work that this will involve.  Says Celia, 'Our children do not speak or read English and also the majority of teachers in the remote areas of Brazil cannot speak any other language but Portuguese.'

Fortunately, with Google translate, this won't be a problem - I've already received translations from several pupils, completed and sent to me this weekend!  Watch this space!

Google Search - Fab Research Sidebar!
On Tuesday I heard the great news about the new research sidebar available in Google docs.  YES!!!! I thought.  And what SUPERB timing! Children could use these for their key questions. So, all fired up, I demoed how to use the tool, pointing out useful features like the citation button but when the children logged on it wasn't there!  After some tooing and frooing I discovered that we're on scheduled releases in GApps - so I've reset that now to instant release.  I'll need to wait until tomorrow to see whether the tool is also blocked by the LA filters.

Questions & Bloom's Taxonomy (image
In the meantime, we carried on without the tool - lots of children researched the answers to their questions after school and brought in information the next day.  This process brought out some really good learning - like copyright issues & citation of sources/use of images, reliability of sources, pros and cons of using wikipedia.  Pupils have also had lots of opportunities to ask questions, think about their usefulness in the context of their team's aims and how their questions should be framed.  

Letter writing
This has taken a little longer than I expected.  Second drafts were completed on Friday and children have been sending these to me throughout the weekend.  Here's one to the Malaysian Government from our Rainforest Tribe Kidz team who, as their name implies, are trying to help tribespeople affected by deforestation.  And here's another to Coca-Cola about aluminium cans.

Our playground sculpture
The week ended with some more good news - Bev, our Head Teacher had a letter from the Express & Star commending children for their Living History Project.  This was a fantastic art and local history project led by local artist and former pupil, Luke Perry.  As part of learning about their Black Country heritage, children made chain using traditional methods. 

Last year they helped to arc weld the large metal anchor they made in the playground too!  If you're at a school in the Midlands and you want to give children an amazing learning experience that'll stay with them forever, give Luke a call!

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