Embracing Collaboration with Google Apps: From the Halls of Kettle Moraine School District

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Google’s technology tools are being used more and more in school districts across the nation, and for Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine School District, it’s no secret why. We’ve “gone Google,” and we’re excited about it.

And let me set the record straight with a disclaimer: Google did not ask us to write this. We’re doing it of our own volition.

Google Apps for Education are a set of tools that give users access to (among other things) professional email, online storage, collaborative documents and presentations, all in a cloud-based system. KMSD staff, students and administrators use Google Apps daily and have quickly learned how these tools can open doors to new collective, instructional and organizational opportunities.

When it comes to what elements of Google Apps are being used for what purposes, the results vary. For example, take our teachers’ weekly collaborative meetings about common practice and strategies. Teachers use Google Docs to record meeting notes that are shared with their team as well as their building administrators to help keep communication open and create an enforceable plan of action. Teachers also use Google Forms to send formative assessment surveys out to students for goal setting reports, and for quick grouping of collaborative groups.

But it’s not just about the teachers. Students can use Google Apps to access shared resources quickly and engage in learning with their teacher, one another and outside experts beyond classrooms walls. With these tools, teachers can truly personalize instruction and help students live the district’s vision of learning without boundaries.

Let’s take a look at three KMSD educators, and see how Google Apps have impacted their professional lives.

Jesse VanderBand: “Google Apps encourage classroom collaboration”

Jesse VanderBand, a KMSD art educator, uses Google Classroom to organize and streamline the sharing of information in his classes.

“I am able to share project concepts, screencasts, video tutorials and other resources with students,” VanderBand said. “My favorite part of Classroom is that students also have the same sharing capabilities I have, and I frequently prompt them to share their ideas, find their own tutorials and references, and assess their own work through Google Forms.”

VanderBand said he has seen Google Apps make a huge impact on the ideas coming from students and their ability to collaborate beyond the classroom. Students work collaboratively on projects through Google Docs and Google Presentations. Since collaboration is simultaneous in Google Apps, students can work together anytime, anywhere. Oftentimes, students will join forces for a research project or science lab by using the same document, creating efficiencies and teamwork.

Andrea Kornowski: “Google Apps support dynamic innovation and relationship-building”

Teachers like Andrea Kornowski--a high school science educator--uses Google tools for instruction, but also in a more unique way: to build relationships with students. In fact, Kornowski was highlighted by Google for her distinct approach to using these tools.

Kornowski believes using Google Forms would be an easy and impactful way to connect with her students on a personal level--in turn, helping them open up to her about academics so she could help them learn in the ways she knew would work for them. Kornowski created a form in Google that allowed students to submit responses to simple questions about their life in and outside of school, and those responses were easily organized, stored and housed in a searchable, filterable spreadsheet for Kornowski to access.

Kornowski said she has learned that students perceived a barrier between themselves and the teacher. Students did not believe they could engage her in the way they are engaging now. Using Google Apps has changed this.

“We’ve been able to take a step through ... that wall and break that barrier,” Kornowski said.

Holly Myhre: “Google Apps are here to stay”

Our district is now quickly growing its own team of Google Education Trainers who are dedicated to providing quality professional development for teachers, and expanding knowledge and use of these tools.

“To date, Kettle Moraine has seven Google Education Trainers who provide certified Google Apps for Education training to KMSD staff,” said Holly Myhre, director of instructional technology. “However, they do not stop there. Our trainers have and will continue to present at conferences including the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education (SLATE), The Chromebook Institute and The Midwest Google Summit.”

Because we have Google Education Trainers, KM students and staff will have the opportunity to test new products and get early access to products that will supplement, strengthen and deepen learning in the classroom.

Nothing can replace the value of a teacher in a classroom and technology is only a tool that helps us achieve personalization and efficiency for students and staff. KMSD will continue to embrace technology tools like Google Apps to enhance collaboration and create more efficient practices.

NOTE: This article is part of EdSurge's Fifty States Initiative (representing the state of Wisconsin). 

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