A Monthly E-Newsletter for Spotswood Educators
Motivating a Community
In September’s Spot-On, I mentioned that our district will transition to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and Google Classroom (Classroom) within the next 10 months. As we begin that transition, I would like to take a moment to discuss the philosophy behind this transition and share with you the timeline moving forward. Our transition to GAFE can be philosophically connected to these two items:
- Transitioning to a cloud-based operating system, where all files and information are stored externally and not on the computer, will provide all staff members with a way of connecting, collaborating, and sharing resources, whether you are in the classroom, office or another location inside or outside of our school district. Additionally, there will be no need to worry about what version of a file you are using, whether or not an update to your computer is needed, or if our software is compatible with a file you are sharing with another person.
This transition will also assist in making the learning environment more effective for students and teachers. The key words in the last sentence are “more effective”. I believe from my observations and experiences, both formal and informal, that our classrooms and the instruction that occurs in them daily are effective, and you are the reason why they are such. Transitioning to a cloud-based system is designed to assist you, not hinder your instructional abilities. By transitioning to GAFE and Classroom you will be able to connect, share, and collaborate with your colleagues on lesson plans, curricula development, professional development trainings, and other educational experiences through Google Drive and the many apps it provides. You will also be able to use Classroom as a student learning platform that allows information, resources, videos, lessons, etc. to be shared with your classes so that learning and instructional supports for our students extend beyond the classroom walls. Finally, from an educational and efficiency perspective, using both GAFE and Classroom creates an opportunity for us to provide many of the available resources and information we typically offer in a digital format to students, parents, community members, and colleagues anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
- Our educational system is transforming, at the National and State levels, with the full implementation of Common Core and the upcoming use of PARCC as the primary assessment method for our students. For our students to be fully prepared for this we must not only address the minimum standards of technology use set by Common Core and PARCC, but we must make it part of our daily instructional environment. GAFE and Classroom provide the exposure to Common Core and PARCC-like experiences. This exposure helps us assure that our students, when assessed through PARCC, will be judged on their academic knowledge and not on their ability to use technology. But most of all, by integrating technology into our daily instructional environment we model for our students how to use technology for educational and learning purposes.
As we move forward, a timeline is being developed that I will share with you in the November Spot-On. Part of this timeline includes creating a pilot group of teachers to help us with the transition, Google trainings as part of the professional development offerings in our PD Academy, sending out “Tips of the Week” through our Technology Department, developing our own and providing already made informational videos about GAFE and Classroom, modifying our current district policies to address changes to our technology practices, working to assure student and teacher privacy during and after the integration, and gathering feedback from you throughout this process. Additionally, the Technology Department is developing a page on our district website which will list all available resources and information. This page will be accessible from our district website under the Quick Links section for staff and it will be titled, “Going Google”. Finally, we have hired Mr. Eric Sheninger as our Director of Technology Integration and Innovation to work with us on this transition. Mr. Sheninger will provide professional development for GAFE and Classroom, and other professional development trainings that focus on technology integration in our classrooms.
I know transitioning from a system you are comfortable with to something new can be filled with challenges but I am hopeful the transition timeline we are developing, professional development trainings we will be offering, the implementation of a pilot program, and continual feedback from all of you will make all of us more comfortable with the transition. Just remember, the first time we tried anything; riding a bike, getting a new cell phone, or learning to drive, made us uncomfortable but we were all successful.
I look forward to working with you on this transition to GAFE and Classroom.
A First Person Article on Google Classroom in Action
Apps, and Tech Stuff
Educational Articles and Resources for Your Review
September's FACT Meeting Minutes
FACT Meeting September 23, 2014
The rumor that first grade is moving to Appleby is untrue.
First Grade classes are unusually large at Schoenly this year due to late summer enrollment. Adding a new Kindergarten or first grade class will be considered next year on an as needed basis.
Enrichment & Intervention – Teachers are finding it hard to find the time to research and write curriculum for this new program in conjunction with their existing work load. Teachers feel daily preparation for these classes might be a bit overwhelming.
The 2015 – 2016 calendar was introduced for a preliminary committee review. This calendar will be reviewed by numerous committees before it is finalized in January.
Cloud Based System
The district has chosen Google Classroom as our district cloud based system.
Training will be given on this new system at staff in-service days.
Google Classroom is fully compatible with Microsoft Word. Documents can either be converted to Google or remain as a Word document.
New Google email addresses will be assigned to staff when the transition begins.
Email addresses may be given out when a child begins school and remain with them throughout their school career.
Computers will not be supplied to all students in the district. This might limit the use for homework since some students still might not have computer access at home.
We will transition to Google this January. A pilot program will begin in February to see how the program works for our district before it is rolled out districtwide.
Acceptable Use Policy Form may have to be updated.
This system WILL NOT replace Genesis.
Microsoft will still be used by our secretaries and in our business office.
Staff members were concerned that they are getting more work and less pay. This is the last year of our Health Care Benefit kick in. Things should start to level off next year.
Teachers are pleased with their laptops.
At the moment there are printing issues with many of the laptops.
The district has extra DVD players since the laptops do not have CD drives.
Students will never use computers given to teachers through the laptop initiative for the PARCC or any other reason. These computers belong solely to the teacher they were assigned to.
To be more cost efficient, the district is thinking of having common printers rather than individual printers. Details are still being worked out.
If you would like any issues addressed with Dr. Rocco, please notify your building’s FACT representative.