Living in the Cloud

Living in the cloud makes it easier to manage workflow and stay organised.

In my teaching role I mostly use Google Apps for Education (GAFE) for keeping organised, storing digital resources, communicating and sharing. Google Drive, Gmail and Google Calendar are the apps I use most. I also use Evernote and Diigo often. At school and on the road I use Evernote on my phone for all notes (never pen or paper) ranging from jotting someone’s name to keeping detailed meeting notes. (Here’s a note listing VicPLN 2013 participants and their blogs.) Later, I transfer notes that require further work or follow up to Google Drive or Google Calendar. (That’s led me to consider Google’s new note taking app Google Keep. It’s not as powerful as Evernote yet, but its inbuilt Google Drive integration makes it attractive.)

Thanks to VicPLN’s prompting I’ve recently started using Pocket. (I used to use it when it was called ‘Read It Later’, but stopped after I ran out of room for apps on my smartphone.  I recently bought a new phone with more room for apps, so Pocket is once again proving very useful.) Instead of sticking things I want to read, but not necessarily keep, in Diigo, I now ‘pocket’ it for reading later and decide then whether or not to archive it in Diigo.

I use Chrome bookmarks for storing and accessing the sites I use most. I love the way Chrome makes it easy to add web-apps and sync my bookmarks, passwords and files with whatever web connected device I happen to be using. I spend 99% of my notebook computer time in Chrome. The only applications I regularly run locally are for editing videos.

For bandwidth reasons I store music and videos on portable hard disks, but I store everything else ‘in the cloud’ using Google Drive. I’ve become so used to being able to access all my stuff anywhere, anytime from any device that, apart from music and videos, I no longer save anything locally. I’m working hard to encourage my teaching colleagues and students to do the same.

I think it’s essential that students develop effective workflow and organisational techniques. Digital tools make this easier today than ever been before. I’m encouraging my students and teaching colleagues to store everything in Google Drive, Gmail and Google Calendar so that all their important communication, resources, digital work, tasks, deadlines, and events are accessible anytime from home and school. (We use DropBox as a backup for some files.) A growing number of students are beginning to access their work out of school hours to show their parents or to work on a project, sometimes collaboratively with classmates who are also ‘working’ from home. Some students become very well organised with carefully labelled folders in Google Drive, labels for filtering and categorising email messages, and important events marked in Google Calendar with reminders. When classroom teachers begin doing the same, the habit catches on and becomes part of the daily routine.

Having our communication, resources and digital creations stored in one place with everything easily searchable is incredibly powerful. Even with someone else’s smartphone, you have all your stuff available. And that’s just the beginning of the power you hold in your hand!

Ultranet meets Google Docs at Winters Flat Primary School

Today students in year 5 and 6 at Winters Flat Primary School logged into the Ultranet to view their ICT tasks and were delighted to discover that they now had their own accounts on the school’s new Google Apps for Education domain at wintersflatps.net.  Web 2.0 technologies like the Ultranet and Google Apps work conveniently in a web browser, make collaboration easy and make hunting for that file or email attachment a thing of the past.

Students are already collaborating on creative writing tasks using Google Docs.  Here’s an example of what’s possible.  The video shows the development of a piece of writing by a Canadian primary student using Google Docs.  (If YouTube is blocked at your school, this is worth watching at home.)

Creating a shared Google calendar for school events

In addition to using one or more Google calendars for yourself, it’s easy to create additional calendars to share with others. This is especially useful for school staff who can access and update a shared school calendar anywhere and anytime provided they can find a computer/phone etc with Internet access.

Under ‘My Calendars’ choose ‘Add’, then complete the calendar details as shown below:

1. Enter the name of the school calendar

2. Enter a description for the calendar (optional)

3. Check that the country and time zone are correct

4. Select ‘Make changes AND manage sharing’ or ‘Make changes to events’ from the drop down menu under ‘Permission Settings’

5. Enter the email address of the person you wish to share the calendar with and choose ‘Add Person’ or select the person’s email address if it is recognised as you type.  Do this for each person you wish to share  the calendar with.

6. Choose ‘Create Calendar’

Shared Google Calendar final

Google Apps desktop shortcut for Edumail users

Last year the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) migrated 1.2 million students to Google Apps after having moved 1.5 million students to Gmail in 2008.  Now Victoria’s Deparment of Education and Early Childhood Education (DEECD) has setup a domain for teachers and admin staff using Edumail.

Here’s how to create a desktop shortcut to Google Apps for Edumail users.

1.    Right click on the desktop and choose “New”, then “Shortcut”

2.    Type the location: “www.google.com/a/edumail.vic.gov.au”, then choose “Next”

3.    Type “Google Apps” as the name for the shortcut, then choose “Finish”.