This is the year of Google integration for me. I created a new Gmail account for school, and have a contact group for each class with the email addresses of every kid in the class. Sometimes, I email them their daily assignment (to help them build the practice of checking email regularly). Other times, they pick up a project file or instructions from a folder on a server. My goal for the introductory classes is to get students familiar with the sorts of things they’ll need to do as an adult computer user in a business or academic computing situation, and also to teach them good etiquette and style. One of my classes learned about “reply all” in an amusing way yesterday. I’d rather have them make these mistakes now than in college.
I keep my gradebooks on Google Spreadsheets. I’m having students write papers in Google Docs and add me as a collaborator so that I can give them feedback while they work, and then I paste in a rubric and grade them when they’re done. I’ll also have kids email me their smaller assignments. (Or, as I did earlier this week, email each other and cc me.) The full Google setup makes it easy for me to work in two classrooms, because I’m not tied to any specific machine for any of my teacher work. I don’t require kids to use Gmail, but they do have to create a Google account to get into Google Docs. This would have been a little more difficult in my previous school, because the general level of computer and email literacy was lower. This seems to be tied to having computers at home (or not). I have three 9th grade classes this year. In my sample size of 100 incoming students at Galileo, I estimate over 90% already had email.
Another thing that’s way different for me, versus last year, is that I actually have papers to read! I didn’t really think about this when I was assigning them, but now that I’m reading 30 of these two-pagers I am feeling a lot of empathy for all those English teachers I used to pity when I taught math. If this was taking place with physical paper, I don’t think I could do it. I certainly couldn’t read and comment on multiple revisions in a week. As it is, I’m happy to save a few trees, and save myself from carrying so much paper, but the real win is getting feedback to kids quickly and precisely. Now, back to that grading…