Sunday, April 17, 2011

(Guest Post) A Google Apps Adventure at Bali International School

In my working life I use technology for two primary purposes:

  1. As curriculum coordinator and middle years programme coordinator. This includes managing and facilitating the whole school curriculum for the  writing and implementation process.

  1. The other area for using technology is in my English classes.  I teach Grade 10 English in the IB Middle Years Programme and Grade 11 and 12 English A1 Higher Level in the IB Diploma Programme. In today’s post, I will be focusing primarily on this aspect of applying technology, although I will highlight some of the tools and processes we use for administration, to whet your appetites.
We use Google Sites to organise literally everything: each student has her/his own portfolio of work as a separate site, each site is then linked into the teacher’s site for easy access and quick monitoring.


In my IB Diploma English literature classes, I am constantly reflecting on ways in which we can facilitate a meaningful engagement with the texts in such a way that students are empowered to communicate their understanding of the works. I am acutely aware that students often have a deeper understanding of concepts than that which we permit them to communicate through written and oral work. In addition I find that by thinking aloud with my students when thinking of ways for them to engage with work establishes a learning partnership that infuses a satisfying level of energy into the lessons.


As those of you who are familiar with Google Docs will know, many features are relatively recent. This means that by having a classroom atmosphere that is open to experimentation we automatically build into the process the principle of reflecting and reviewing our learning.


My overview here covers the teaching of the following texts for the IB Diploma English A1 course. Each example has a hyperlink to show you the work that my students are happy to share.

An important focus in my lessons is online safety and online presence. We discuss what kind of work students are comfortable making public and how they would like to see it shared. We also discuss what to do when they receive unsolicited comments or invitations. This cannot be understated.


Teaching IB literature:

Google Presentations: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
I used the idea of tableaux vivants and asked students to create selected, key scenes from the novel. Each scene had to be annotated and the selections had to be justified. Google Presentations allowed students to work collaboratively from wherever they were.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
There are two projects shared here: the Facebook project required the small class to assume identities from the novel. We then recreated the events of the entire novel, live, on Facebook. The most exciting part of this project was watching the interactions happen on the screen projection. We wrote to Facebook to tell them about our project. Unfortunately we received no reply.


The YouTube project is currently underway. Students have re enacted scenes from the novel. Their Google Site is the home page for the project which contains each of the videos and reflection texts in which they explain their choices on Google Docs.


Max Havelaar by Multatuli: two examples
The WordPress project required students to create a period journal reporting on the various aspects of the historical period.

The YouTube project for this text had students creating a short film version of novel focusing on the varied narrative perspectives of the text.


Blindness by Jose Saramago
Students are asked to record Internal Oral Presentation tasks to serve as both a record of their presentations but also as a tool for immediately reflecting on their own work. This example was posted on YouTube. Students used QuickTime, iMovie or Jing to record their presentations.



In the Middle Years Programme we use the following tools:

Google Apps (Drawings, Presentations, Documents and Collections) for the writing process.

Google Docs templates for our unit planning:
Here is an interdisciplinary project we are launching on Monday.


As personal project coordinator, I am responsible for aligning supervisors with students and the overall management of the entire process, which lasts for a year. Each student creates a set of Google Documents that he/she includes in her/his site, which is then embedded into my site for that year-group e.g.  Class of 2014. In this way I can quickly access each student’s work and gain an understanding of where the student is in the process. In addition, I can add support comments to the work that is being done by the supervisor. Should a supervisor experience difficulties, I can easily review the work directly to offer guidance.


External Moderation in the Middle Years Programme
We used to send very expensive DHL packages containing moderation samples of prescribed tasks for each subject for up to eight students per subject. These samples are typically sent all over the world. For the May 2010 moderation session, we created Google Sites for each subject, added the student work to those sites and simply shared the sites with the external moderators. At a stroke, we dramatically reduced our carbon footprint and our expenses!


Whole school curriculum planning:

All of our curriculum is contained within one google site. Within that site, in addition to the written curriculum, there is a page for each subject under which there is a page for each grade level where teachers insert a Google Doc with their course overviews and individual unit plans (the taught curriculum). Once this project is completed, users of our curriculum site will have quick access to both the written curriculum and the taught curriculum. The written curriculum component remains relatively static- including information about standards and benchmarks (aims objectives and assessment criteria) each subject’s philosophy and approach to methodology, this is written on the site. The taught curriculum remains sufficiently dynamic being inserted Google Docs, to allow for teacher creativity and the flexibility required when adapting units to a specific group of students’ interests and needs.



At Bali International School we adopted Google Apps for Education as we are a relatively small school (300 students +-preschool- grade12). All of our teachers are given a MacBook Pro but our students may bring in whichever device they prefer. The campus has very good wireless coverage.

About the author: Werner Paetzold teaches at Bali International School where he is also the Curriculum Coordinator.