Friday, September 12, 2014

Teacher Tries New Tricks

Gary Strickland from Coleman Independent School District shares his experience implementing Google docs in the science classroom.

Deciding which of the abundance of internet tools introduced for use in the classroom are worthy to try can be overwhelming. Once a tool is chosen there are a number of questions to be answered. Just to get started, teachers have to know if it will work with the available technology, does the level and content match the curriculum, is it easy to use and what it will cost. Many teachers are wading through the process every day in hopes of finding great tools for their classrooms.

Gary Strickland, a physics teacher in Coleman, Texas, is one of those teachers who readily embraces technology in his classroom. Technology was needed In order to implement flipped learning in his science classes. He has gone beyond teacher use of technology and encourages students to try new tools. He understands that once students graduate, businesses and universities value experience with technology including the use of technology to communicate and collaborate. Google docs fill this need in his classes.

Google docs are readily available and already familiar to many people. The variety of documents available in Google docs gives Gary a tool for formative assessment as well as one for student collaboration. Based on availability within his district and recommendations from other teachers in his professional learning network he began experimenting with Google docs. By setting up a google form, a quiz or survey and sharing that with his students, he can discover what students have really learned without calling them out in class. This protects students who are shy and encourages those students who are hesitant to take a chance and give answers that are not driven by their peer group. He can also use question that directly relate to the lesson and inspire students to think along lines that will help them learn in future lessons. Students using Google docs and presentations can collaborate in class and out of class from different locations. The similarity to products found in Microsoft Office allows the focus to be on the content and collaboration rather than the technology.

Even though his district had already adopted Google docs, there were still some challenges to overcome before the tool could be used effectively with students. Some student only had access when at school, so extended hours have been established to meet those needs. Parents are often insecure with instructional methods that are different than traditional teaching methods. Transparency with both parents and administrators regarding methods and instructional techniques helps eliminate conflicts. In the class, time must be taken to teach students how to access and use the documents as well as the proper etiquette for collaboration. Addressing the needs of students, parents and administrators helps smooth the implementation of new technology.

I believe Gary would advise teachers to dive in and try new things. Teachers should plan ahead and be flexible when things go awry, but do not fear new tools or technology. He does emphasize that including parents and administration should be part of your plan. He would also encourage you to get to know the technology team in your school or district.

Gary Strickland’s website is He is also an active participant in the #flipclass professional learning network on Follow him at @SciAggie. On a personal note, he is one of my first invisible friends from #flipclass and I am looking forward to our collaborating on a workshop this fall at the Conference for Advancement of Science Teaching in Dallas, Texas. 

1 comment:

  1. I loved the sound of your yearlong project and I think Kidblog is going to be a great place for the students to keep track of their learning!
    Your interview with Mr. Strickland is great! I think transparency between home and school is so very important -- and vital to the any lesson being successful. I think it is great that Mr. Strickland is so encouraging and accepting of technology in the classroom -- I think having everyone on board, administration and parents is a great first step when starting to implement technology!