"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
After training and working as a teacher in Lancashire I decided to move home to the north east of England last summer. I took up a new post at a school in County Durham where I am teaching religion and philosophy. Over the last few months I have started the process, with the support of the leadership team, of moving the school towards using Google for Education. If you are a frequent visitor to this site or listen to the EduFuturists podcast, you will know that Google for Education is a passion of mine and a set of tools that we believe can help transform schools and learning.
One important Google tool for the classroom is Google Classroom. As the 'mission control' for your classroom, Google Classroom allows teachers to communicate with students, set work, provide feedback, share resources and so much more - all while it automatically populates a mark sheet, reminds students of deadlines and interacts with parents. Before the Christmas break, I was asked to lead an hour training session for all staff to introduce them to Google Classroom. If you use Google Classroom, you will know that you can't just use Google Classroom in isolation from the rest of the G Suite tools. In order to get the most from it, you need to know your way around Drive, Docs, Calendar etc. However, all staff at my school are used to using a local drive, Microsoft office and outlook. It was very difficult not just to say "Look at all of these amazing features, let's start using it all!" Although I'm sure I alluded to that during the training.
We have decided to begin the journey by asking staff and students to use Google Classroom for Year 11 GCSE revision. This seems like the natural first step to take as it gets staff used to creating Google Classrooms and sharing resources with students (merely scratching the surface). Also, we do not currently have one-to-one devices or a BYOD policy, so our students will only be able to access their Google Classrooms outside of school (unless in a computer room). My hope is that in implementing these small steps, we will discover the valuable features of G Suite, encouraging us to master these, seek further training, and create Google Classrooms for other year groups.
I think it is best to start with these simple steps and try to nurture an organic interest from staff. I plan to encourage this by offering short weekly CPD breakfast sessions, putting together a staff 'Google Team' and I have created a staff CPD Google Classroom to share resources and give staff a feel for what it can offer. I think that rejecting the tools staff are currently using, no matter how much more efficient G Suite can be, will only cause discontent and an attitude that the G Suite is only a 'fad'. Therefore, for the time being, we are still encouraging the use of existing tools, but nonetheless showing how versatile and efficient G Suite can be. By continuing to showcase how G Suite can improve outcomes and reduce workload through CPD and the Staff Google Team, we will hopefully encourage grassroots enthusiasm. A new way of doing things will only work in the long term if people can see the benefits and want to do it.
In the coming weeks, my aim is to create a long term vision for using Google for Education at the school with the help of the leadership and the Staff Google Team. I truly believe that when it is used well by all staff and students, we will begin to see outcomes improving, workload reducing and our budgets maximised. We are also in the process of making links with a local school who have been commended by Ofsted for their use of G Suite.
At my previous school, I was part of a team that tried to progress the use of Google for Education. I began this new journey with my new school having learned a lot of lessons from that process. I am also inspired by change leaders who have pioneered similar projects, such as Scott Hayden at Basingstoke College of Technology, Steven Hope at Leeds City College and Andrew Strachan at St. Thomas More Blaydon (if you click on their name it will take you to their interview on the EduFuturists podcast).
Please comment on this blog offering any advice and wisdom about the process. I would greatly appreciate it. I will provide regular updates in the coming weeks and months.