fluco toolbox

Fluco Toolbox: G Suite Training

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever been working within the G Suite tools, and suddenly realized you didn’t know how to do something or find a particular tool? Google has put together a Google Chrome extension that solves just that!

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: G Suite Training

First, the basics:

Name: G Suite Training
URL: http://tinyurl.com/j87jnjo
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: This Google extension provides training and interactive walk-throughs while you work within G Suite. At any time while in the G Suite tools, there will be a button with a question mark and Google colors around the outside. Users can search the database for answers to any question they may have about using G Suite.

Sometimes it’s good to have a tutorial or database full of answers to our questions right within our grasp. Google has created the G Suite Training extension to assist new and old users with the G Suite programs. Once the extension is installed, a simple refresh of any Google apps currently open will activate the extension. You’ll now see a button that looks like this in the upper right corner of all apps:

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Clicking on this button will pull up a new box. The content in this box will vary, depending on the G Suite app you are using, but it will show a search bar and suggestions to help guide you. The image below shows suggestions for using Gmail:

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Within the current suggestions, I can watch a video on an overview of Gmail, or I can select “Composing, Editing, and Sending Email” to see further help topics in that category. The best part is that there are interactive lessons in each section. If I was new to the G Suite world and needed to go through an overview of Gmail, I can press the red play button on that topic. A lesson will begin. It will show me the text and read it to me, and then use my screen to guide me through Gmail. As it guides me, I am asked to click and interact with the screen. I can choose to end the lesson at any time by clicking anywhere on the screen.

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Video – G Suite Training: This video is a quick look at the G Suite Training extension.



Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.

Traditional PD is the PITS!

If you remember that lovable cartoon from the 80’s called Rainbow Brite, you’re more than familiar with a place called The Pits. Rainbow and friends live in Rainbow Land, but there’s a part of the land that’s dark, gloomy, and void of color. This place, aptly called The Pits, is where nemesis Murky Dismal and his henchman Lurky live. Their goal is to steal Rainbow’s color belt and the color from Rainbow Land as well.

This is what was on my mind as I read through the first chapter in The Art of Coaching. I found myself nodding along and highlighting quite a few points (yes, I started marking in my books finally!). I also started sharing these points on Facebook and Twitter with colleagues, and it started some interesting discussions with them. I really could discuss the downfalls of PD for quite some time, and it was nice to take a look at yet another perspective on the topic.

The thing is, if we know traditional PD is so bad, then why in the world are we still doing it? Why are we letting ourselves muck through the junk that it provides, knowing that it does the teachers and students no real good? The teachers who really latch on to the PD topic will continue to research and learn the tool or method. Those teachers will make a difference because they are spending countless hours to learn outside of the PD session/s and work toward fluency. However, those teachers are very few in number, so the difference isn’t widely felt.

Sometimes those in charge decide that there will be one initial PD session at the beginning of the year, and then one or two more follow ups at a later time. We think this is better, but it’s really not because those teachers are still only skimming the surface, and not delving deeper. They will only go deeper if they do so on their own, or if they have the support of a coach to guide them throughout the year.

I believe this is part of the reason that George Couros mentioned in his book that districts should choose 3 tools that they are going to focus on. This gives districts and schools the chance to have their ITRTs or other coaches really work on those tools with staff so that they are able to do more than just manipulate the tool.

It is great to introduce more tools to educators so that they know what is out there. However, I think I am going to start making it clear at those sessions that unless the educator is consistently learning the ins and outs of the tool, whether alone or with ITRT help, it will not be very beneficial to them. It might be hard to hear, but it is the truth. You can’t learn everything there is to know about a tool or method from a simple session, whether it’s an hour or three.

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One PD session isn’t enough to know everything.

Knowing all of this about traditional PD, what do we do about it? For me, it’s changing the way I work with teachers and how I coach them. I need to work more closely with them and have them select a tool that they would like to work on I know I will have my Fluco Toolbox posts, which will help teachers discover what is out there. They are meant to be “fly-by” posts to introduce a tool, but they are not meant to teach about the tool itself. However, if a teacher sees something they like featured on the toolbox, then I can help them delve deeper into the tool, or they can do so on their own.

Beyond that, there’s got to be a way to get administration to see that traditional PD is not the way to go. Sure, you can do your opening days PD sessions, but unless you do something all year long on those particular topics, your teachers are just wasting their time. First of all, they don’t want to be there because they’d rather be setting up their rooms and preparing first lessons. Second of all, they are taking in so much information at once that they don’t have any time to really process it all. Third, the sessions are one size fits all.

My suggestion would be to pick the tools/methods that will be focused on for the year. Then do the opening days PD sessions, unless a different method can be devised. However, then your coaches need to work consistently throughout the year on those tools/methods with teachers. Otherwise, it’s worthless and a waste of teachers’ time. It’s also a good idea to stick with certain tools for more than just a year instead of constantly changing things on teachers. That’s really frustrating.  I am only speaking of the edtech tools though, and not the literacy or math skills stuff… that’s a whole other ball game.

I’m definitely into this book so far though and can’t wait to see what other ideas it produces!

#IMMOOC: Less is More

This particular blog encompasses Chapters 10. It gave me a lot to think about, and some of it seems to contradict other things I’ve heard before. However, all kinds of viewpoints are helpful when figuring out one’s own way.

Districts often push for new initiatives and new tools. Often these ideas are added onto other things, or something else is dropped for the latest and greatest thing. Using tools doesn’t often last more than a year or so in many cases. It’s an ever changing game, and teachers are left feeling overwhelmed. As a district, we need to select our top 3 tools that we plan to use, and then the others can fall in around. These would be the 3 tools that every teacher should know and have access to use, as well as be trained on. It would then be on the ITRT to help train teachers in these areas.

At the same time, teachers should not be tied to only the three selected tools (or whatever each district selects). I often hear from teachers that they have no idea what’s really out there, so they don’t know what to request when it comes to professional development. I have developed a way to give teachers a taste of what’s out there through my new Fluco Toolbox series. This is meant to give brief overviews of new tools that teachers may or may not have heard of. They certainly are not expected to use these tools, but if they see something they like in the brief overview, then by all means, explore and use as seen fit.

When I think of my own district and the 3 possible tools that are being pushed, I think of:

  • G-Suite (including Google Classroom)
  • Chromebooks

I don’t really have a 3rd right now. I would have said Promethean boards/Classflow, but our high school does not yet have these tools. If we were to exclude the high school, then yes, it would certainly be my third choice. Thinking of this, I should probably consider offering a lot of professional development around these tools, but doing more than just the drive by overview. Overviews are great….until you’ve heard them multiple times. Then they just suck.

I loved Couros’ reference to Bernajean Porter’s levels of use with educational technology. For those unfamiliar they are:

  • literate: I can manipulate the device
  • adaptive: I can do traditional paper and pencil things with the device
  • transformative: I’m doing things that weren’t possible before

In some ways, it also reminds me of SAMR, but is a lot simpler in terms of the up and down. To me it seems like everyone needs to move beyond the literate and into adaptive/transformative. Not everything we do can be transformative, as there are times we need to do adaptive tasks, but we should be able to switch back and forth between the two comfortably, knowing when each is suitable.

Based on my reading this time, it seems like Fluco Toolbox will be the least invasive way to introduce new tools to teachers so that they know what is out there. They can read, review, and if they want to do more with it, great. They certainly won’t be expected to get it in their classrooms or to use it if they don’t want to do so.

In my own world, I need to focus on developing training on GSuite and Chromebooks that goes beyond the overview drive by introductions. This will take some time to work through, as I would need to figure out how to approach it, but I’m certain I can find some sources to get me started.

Needless to say, I’ve already made some notes to myself on my Note Board app, so I’m excited to see where my research will take me!