For the past few months, we have been trying to figure out a way to use Google Apps for Education in our classroom. Our district does not support GAFE but there is some autonomy in the schools. Through a lot of brainstorming with my administration and coordinators, I think we've come up with a way. Soon, the kids will have access to the suite of applications that make education so much more efficient and easy. Soon the kids will have some amazing creation tools in their hands.
In my last school, we had a 1:1 laptop program and we were completely open and using GAFE. It was amazing what the kids could do without using a single sheet of paper. Indeed, we were a paperless classroom for at least three years. Our kids used all of the apps: Docs, Sheets, Slides, YouTube, Blogger and more. We were able to share and collaborate efficiently and the kids got more out of their education than if they did not have access to the apps. This is the environment that I want to bring to the kids at East Naples Middle School.
For other teachers who are in similar situations, where the district does not support GAFE, here is what we are doing. First, we are buying a domain, probably @eckertsgators.com. Then, we will designate it an educational domain with Google, allowing us to use GAFE. I sent home permission slips so that the kids' parents sign off on the use of GAFE and I will assign each of my kids an @eckertsgators.com email address to be used in our Google cloud. Once each of the kiddos is equipped with their e-mail address, they will have access to everything and we can start using all of the apps. For the meantime, we will keep our accounts within our school domain using the privacy settings but later on, we may be able to open them up.
We are an experimental classroom charting the way for our school and district. When we troubleshoot the problems and get things running smoothly, we foresee other teachers bringing their classes into the fold. In our book, Cultivating Genius, I talked about "The Lone Wolf" and "The Second Person". In this instance, I am acting as The Lone Wolf because I am trying something that most others don't want to try. One day soon, I expect to find my Second Person, the one who will buy into the program with me and validate what I am doing. Slowly, we will build critical mass and most of the school will adopt GAFE for classroom use. Maybe even one day, the district will also incorporate GAFE into the educational program here. That's the way things usually work. We have to show that things work before most will try. That's okay. We only need a few of us who will take the chance to create something cool for the kids.
One big difference between my previous school, Hixson Middle School, and my current school is that our kids at East Naples Middle School are not in a 1:1 laptop program. We do have a BYOD program and about 60-70% of the kids have devices. We do have 3-4 classroom computers to use but access may be an issue. My next step will be to write a few technology grants to get more devices into my classroom. We must start small and grow the program. There will be bumps and potholes along the way, but we will get there, learning together.