Monday, November 30, 2015

Winter Challenge for Google Classroom

Last year several  of my Nebraska educator friends put together a #12daystwitter challenge (click the link to find out what they're up to this year!) meant to encourage fellow educators to explore the connective and collaborative power of Twitter.

Inspired by the fun and collaborative nature of this challenge, a fellow Titan Hill teacher, Laurie Kammrad, and I wanted to find a way for our 2nd through 5th grade students to participate as well. However, Twitter didn't seem the right medium. Although we have several teachers using Twitter within their classrooms, we wanted a way for all students to be able to participate on a more personal level and our students are (technically) to young to have Twitter accounts of their own.

We'd just begun utilizing Google Classroom and thought this would be a perfect way to allow our students to continue to explore this new tool, to connect with other students in and outside their own classrooms and to actually practice some of the digital citizenship skills we'd been discussing.

And so the "12 Days of Google Classroom Challenge" was born!

So how did it work?

The first thing I did was to draft an email to our staff to share about the idea Laurie and I had created, sharing the Google Classroom codes with the teachers. At the time, I hadn't previously required all of my students to join my Library Google Classroom (this has since changed). I set up a Google Classroom for each grade level (2nd through 5th).

Google Classroom Sample E-mail sent to 4th grade teachers:

The next thing I did was to create graphics for each question. To do this, I used one of my absolute favorite tools, Canva. I wanted to create some visuals to go along with the questions, similar to what was being done with the #12daystwitter challenge. In drafting the challenge questions, we went for a variety: some questions that allowed for individual responses and some that would stir up a debate. Ultimately, the goal was for students to share their ideas and respond to their classmates!

Sample graphics:

The final piece was to put the questions into Google Classroom and allow the students to respond using the commenting feature available within Classroom. At the time, I used the "Announcement" feature to post the questions and images.

Starting on December 1, I began to post the questions. Just like the #12daystwitter challenge, I posted them Monday through Friday (no weekend posts) for 12 school days. Students would access Google Classroom and post their response in the comments and reply back to others when they could. If they missed a day, it was no big deal. They could easily catch up when the opportunity presented itself!

Example Google Classroom announcement post:


So how'd it go?

It was absolutely incredible to watch the students' response flow in . . . and to take advantage of the teachable moments!

The participating teachers and I were able to have some fantastic conversations with our students about a multitude of topics. On the educational side, we discussed things such as formulating appropriate responses to the prompts, editing their responses before publishing (hooray writing skills in action!), using the "reply" feature to enhance and continue conversations (besides responses of "Me too!"), and practicing good digital citizenship (this was a huge one for them to explore in a safe environment)!

More importantly, this gave our students a chance to exchange ideas with other students beyond their classroom walls and practice all the skills we'd been addressing in an authentic way.

What's in store for this year?

This year, the Titan Hill students will be given the opportunity to participate, although I've decided to rename it the "Winter Google Classroom Challenge." I wanted my teachers to have a little more flexibility to extend this activity throughout the winter season if they chose. 

I'm also excited about some of the Google Classroom updates that have happened since last year and the potential implications for the challenge this year: 
  • This year, there's a new Question feature that I think will work wonderfully for this challenge! 
  • There's also the "Draft" feature which will allow me to get everything set up beforehand and have all the questions ready for me to post quickly! 
  • I'm also excited that since last year, Google Classroom added the ability to add fellow educators, which means I can add the question prompts and images for any teacher wanting to have their students participate within their regular Google Classrooms (as opposed to a school-wide Classrooms). Any time I can do some of the "behind-the-scenes" work for my teachers is a win.
  • I'm extremely excited to take this Winter Google Classroom Challenge across school districts. We have recently launched several cross-district (which happen to be cross-state) Google Classrooms. I'm excited for our students to be able to interact with students outside of our school and to see what conversations are sparked with the responses!
So can your students participate too?

Absolutely! Here's a link to this year's Winter Challenge for Google Classroom. Feel free to use and share with your own students! Happy winter!