Thursday, June 7, 2012
Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Dorothy Burt, a professional development leader at Pt England School in Auckland, New Zealand. Dorothy has been a Google Certified Teacher since 2008.
Here at Pt England School in Auckland, New Zealand our motto is “Strive to succeed.” But in our low socioeconomic area – an impoverished suburb surrounded by affluence – there’s an unspoken belief that success can be associated with your ability to get out of this part of town. 90% of our 600 students are of Maori or Pasifika descent, who are often found in the lowest achieving cohort. Raising student achievement levels for this demographic is a government priority – and a continued focus for the principal, management team, teachers and parent community at Pt England school. Recognizing our students’ natural flair for technology and expressing themselves through digital platforms, we began a journey to get our students excited about learning and improve their achievement levels through collaborative e-learning. We haven’t looked back since.
We migrated to Google Apps for Education in 2008. After training our teaching staff, we quickly began to see the advantages of working collaboratively. Our migration coincided with several neighbouring schools joining together to form the Manaiakalani Cluster – a group that works toward raising student achievement in literacy. Using Google Apps and other tools, we sought to create confident and informed digital citizens. While we quickly noticed increased student engagement, teachers felt that there was still a missing piece. Enter the Teacher Dashboard, an add-on from the Google Apps Marketplace that allowed teachers to get a bird’s-eye view of classroom activity across Docs, Sites, Gmail, Blogger and Picasa. Using Google Sites, the Manaiakalani Cluster manages the student learning environment internally, making the feedback exchange quick and easy.
The research from test scores collated in 2011 showed significant progress in literacy. Surveys, video observations and interviews with students now demonstrate a group of young learners who are highly engaged in learning.
They have a renewed sense of pride because their test scores improved, and – more importantly to them – people all around the world were reading their blog posts and complementing their success. The teachers also feel a renewed sense of engagement with their classrooms since they can centrally track and monitor student progress via the Teacher Dashboard.
Using Google tools has provided our students with equal access to learning opportunities and opened the door for them to be excited about the learning process and share their progress with the world. As a result, these students know that they don’t need to leave their town to be successful; the world now comes to them and shows them that they are.