Sunday, July 28, 2013

How Google is Strengthening our Learning Community

School is about to start and even though I haven't seen a whole lot of people over the summer, I really feel connected to my school community.  I have been in contact more with new teachers than ever.  Parents have been able to stay informed more than ever, and I owe this all to Google.  Here are the awesome tools that I am using to strengthen my ties with my entire learning community.


Blogger has been the very best service to keep everyone informed with detailed information.  I use my Principal's Page to communicate weekly information to my parents and the community, and I push it out through my Twitter and Facebook accounts.  This year, I am replacing my normal staff email with a staff blog so I can encourage more dialogue through the comment feature.  I also have teachers that will be implementing blogs to improve parent communication

Reasons to Use Blogger

  • Comments - Strengthening your community means encouraging dialogue.  This will do that for you.
  • Gadgets - Gadgets are the coolest thing ever because they connect parents and the community to their personal social media preference of staying informed.
    • Follow by Email - Parents can receive your posts by email each time you publish them.
    • Share - Parents can share your posts by Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
    • Translation Feature - This dropdown feature is AWESOME for your non-English speaking parents.
  • Embed Hyperlinks & Videos - You can't do that on a paper newsletter.
  • Blog Archive - This feature keeps your posts in order for easy reference when looking for a past announcement.
  • Popular Post - This feature keeps the top read posts at the top of your feed.
  • Multiple Authors - Instead of multiple people sending multiple emails that eventually get lost, overlooked or never read, why not have the same multiple people author one blog so your readers only have to look to one source for all of the information that they will ever need. 
Blogger has been a huge life-saver for me this year, and it has really made parents and the community feel like they are a vital part of our learning community.


I use my YouTube channel to flip my communication to parents and staff.  This past year I have flipped many things like: 

  • Parent pick-up procedures 
  • Our discipline management system
  • Promoting our Summer Learning Connection program
  • Showing staff how to set up a Blogger and Twitter account
This Google tool has cut down the amount of time I have to spend communicating to the learning community, but it has massively increased the effectiveness of my communication.  I plan to use this tool a whole lot more this year.


Google Docs

Google Docs are an awesome way to collaborate with minimal conversation.  Using Google spreadsheets and word docs in our learning teams and with our administrative team has increased our collective efficacy because more people are in the know about exactly what is happening.  From placing staff in specific teams to creating tools to monitor student performance, multiple people can look at the same document, edit the same document, and comment on the same document in real-time.  This is the smartest thing that teams and campuses can do to focus on learning and maximize collaboration.

Google Forms

What a great way to gather information from people!  If you want to get everyone to sign up for an event, create a google form, send it out through your blog and your social media outlet, and let a Google Doc spreadsheet collect the information for you.  The data entry is done for you by the people that complete your form and then you can export the form into a MS Excel spreadsheet.  From there, you can mail merge for labels, sort by column or do anything else that will help you strengthen your learning community.  I have used Google Forms for the following:
  • Staff Favorite Drinks from Sonic (#Homerun)
  • Parent Sign-Up for Summer Learning Connection
  • Staff Sign-Up for Twitter and Blogger Training
It's so easy, even a caveman can do it. 

Why Google?

Why not?  Google has taken the middle man out of communication, the student.  Let's face it.  When we send a piece of paper home with a child, there are many factors that determine if the paper will reach the parent's hands.  If I believe that it is important enough to copy and send home, I want to guarantee that parents will receive it.  Sure, some parents don't have access to technology, but that's not a good enough reason to not utilize this valuable tool.

For staff communication, Google removes the barriers of miscommunication and misunderstanding that teachers face when they read an email from the principal.  Email cuts out the paper concern, but doesn't remedy the factor of clarity.  Each Google tool has a specific purpose to eliminate ambiguity from communication.  The only question becomes this. Which tool do we use to remove which barrier to clear communication?  You learn that by actually using this tools regularly over time.

So what are you waiting for?  Take a chance. Get started.  The worst that can happen is that your community will know a little more than they knew already.  If you truly believe in your learning community, you should also believe that your moral responsibility is to do whatever it takes to build the strongest learning community possible.  That is why you should strengthen your learning community with Google.

1 comment:

  1. I would add google calenders to the list of valuable google apps. I use shared calendars for all of our shared space bookings and embed a google calendar into our website for parents!
    This year I am also experimenting with a google form to record behaviour incidents.