Try Google Classroom: A new tool for formative feedback

In education we love a fad! I’m the same! We can’t wait to try out the ‘next big thing’ and rush off and tell other teachers about it. This is perhaps even truer in the use of technology. Just take a look at the electronic white board that’s sitting in just about every classroom in the country being used as a projector.

With this in mind I’m determined to try and take a sceptical perspective on new ideas is education. However, here I want to really emphasise the potential of Google Classroom as a new tool in education that everyone should at least have a go at.

If you don’t know what Google Classroom is…

At its most basic level Google Classroom is a private webpage for your class, where you can share information and resources with your students. Sharing announcements, worksheets and videos. It is specifically designed for teachers and is very simple to use. A great tutorial can be found HERE.

However, if you want to get the full out of Google Classroom then it can be a fantastic environment for collaborative learning.

Formative Feedback?

What I really want to take a look at is how Google Classroom can enhance formative feedback.

Since the work of Black and Wiliam on Assessment for Learning, AfL has become the big buzz word in education. This has materialised in various ways. The latest incarnation of this seems to be the OFSTED push on marking.

I think that this emphasis on marking is a move in the right direction. However, realistically the traditional model of getting students to complete some work, providing feedback and then hoping they adopt that feedback  in their next piece of work, just isn’t up to scratch.

Even if DIRTy (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) feedback is given, at the end of the day this isn’t ideal as, it is coming after the students have completed their work.

So how does Google Classroom offer a solution?

What Google Classroom allows you to do is provide on-going feedback. Through creating a document which you share with students in your classroom individually you can provide feedback while they are completing this assignment. The benefit of this is that the feedback I am given is being immediately used by the students and I can see if this feedback is being implemented.

Recently I have done this with a Year 12 group. After setting up a Google Doc shared through Google Classroom students were set an exam question. As they completed this task I was able to enter their work and write comments in the same way comments can be written on word documents.

Through doing this I was able to give students personalised feedback on the content and structure of their essays. This led to their best essays by far this year and some great feedback from my students.

What else can Google Classroom do?

Rather than giving a comprehensive account of what Google Classroom can do I wanted to give you an insight into how I’ve been using it. Nonetheless, it can do a lot more.

For starters you’ve got the discussion board. There is obviously lots of ways this can be used. For my fellow History teachers the way I’m interested in using it is as a discussion board for readings students have completed to get them discuss their opinions.

Another interesting feature is that documents can be shared collaboratively. With this, students can all work on a document together. Again there are lots of ways to use this. One possible option here is to create a Wiki were students can work collaboratively to produce a summery on a topic.

A word of warning!

None of this has an impact immediately. It takes some time for this practice to become embedded so don’t give up. Set up your own Google Classroom and try out some different ideas.

Let me know what you come up with!

Further Reading:

https://historytech.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/7-ways-you-to-use-google-classroom/

http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/01/teachers-guide-on-use-of-google-sites.html

http://ditchthattextbook.com/2014/08/21/12-great-ways-to-start-using-google-classroom-now/

http://www.engadget.com/2014/05/06/google-classroom-preview/

https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6020279?hl=en&ref_topic=6020277

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Making the Holocaust personal [part 1] – Aims and Objectives

As I began to teach Hitler’s rise to power and the Second World War with my Year 9 classes, my student’s interest seemed to immediately be on the Holocaust. As I now embark on teaching the Holocaust to my students I wish to ensure that I am able to do justice to such profound events. Therefore over a series of posts I will record here the process I am undertaking in planning a delivering these lessons.

What are we teaching the Holocaust for?

In teaching, the one word which I believe is more important than any other is ‘why’. When we select a topic we must ask ‘why are we teaching this topic?’ When we chose the content to teach as part of that topic we must ask ‘why are we teaching this content?’ When we select an activity to deliver this content we must ask ‘why are we teaching with this activity?’

In teaching the Holocaust these questions are perhaps even more important. As such an emotive topic, carrying so many connotation it is important that we are motivated to teach the Holocaust for the right reasons.

Interestingly in the work done by the IOE into the current teaching of the Holocaust it was discovered that the aim of ‘learning the lessons of the Holocaust’ was more popular among History teachers than aims which focus on understanding the Holocaust as an historical event.

For me the focus on learning lessons from the Holocaust seems an abstract idea. Of course it is possible for us to draw parallels with the past and contemporary issue but if this is our only objective then we can be doing the study of history a disservice.

Therefore what I aim to do is to understand the Holocaust as an historical event. Giving my students an insight into the development of an historical situation and its impact. In the case of teaching the Holocaust I therefore aim to give my students an insight into how and why the Holocaust developed and what impact this had on the lives of Jews.

How do I hope to achieve these aims?

As well as thinking carefully about our motives in teaching topics I strongly believe in the use of second-order concepts. The use of second-order concepts has become widespread and I hope that an explanation for their need is not required here. What I do wish to outline here is my choice of change and continuity as the second-order concept through which I will organise students thinking.

Change and continuity goes to the heart of what I want to achieve in my teaching of the Holocaust. Through a focus on changes and continuities to Jewish life over the Holocaust I hope that my students will be able to gain an insight into the changing nature of the Holocaust and the diversity of experiences.

Keeping diversity in mind I feel it is essential to emphasise that the Holocaust was a personal event, experienced by individuals. An event which stands out powerfully in my own educational experiences was a talk by a Holocaust survivor. From this very personal account I became hugely engaged and was able to see how his experiences developed and impacted his life. Thus, I intend to use personal accounts from Holocaust survivors to investigate how individuals’ lives were affected. A particularly useful resource for gathering personal accounts, which I will be using in designing these lessons, is a book edited by Lyn Smith, Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust.

However, I also want to provide students with a clear narrative to build their understanding around. For this I will be using Schindler’s List. As history teachers I feel we have become very good at using films for teaching about the past. But there is often a danger that films can become a secondary source like a text book which students learn from without any interpretation. Instead what I want to do here is to study the film critically through comparison with primary accounts.

In order to ensure that this narrative and these personal accounts are given the relevance they deserve I also intend to place these events in their wider historical context. Looking specifically at the events of the war as it develops and different cases to understand what motivated individual’s actions, such as Jewish resistance and the case of Battalion 101.

Next steps…

Here I hope that I have given you an insight into my rational for the teaching of the Holocaust. My next step is to plan a series of lessons to achieve the aims I have set out here, which will form the basis for a coming post. I look forward to hearing any thoughts and insights that anyone can offer.

Hello world!

Welcome to Historioblography.

This is a website about history and history teaching, written by me Mr. Worker.

The idea behind this site has developed from the work I am currently undertaking as part of my MA in Education at The University of Nottingham. This work has endeavoured to build on academic research and on my own knowledge as a history teacher. Through this I am attempting to develop a model for the use of technology in history teaching.

Therefore with this aim in mind I hope to engage with the wider teaching community, sharing my ideas and reflecting on others’, as well as offering a platform for me to model historical methods for my students.

I hope that in reading my posts others can discover the value I have found in reading work developed by other historian writing. Thank you!