Tuesday, January 24, 2012

GTA Action Plan: Photo Contest in Picasa Web Albums

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="288" caption="After the Rain - Jana Lohrova"]After the Rain[/caption]

This past summer I was fortunate to attend the Google Teacher Academy where I spent two days meeting many amazing educators while receiving training in Google tools and being inspired by the collective creativity in the room.

Action Plan:


PROBLEM:


Our school only uses GAFE(Google Apps For Education) for faculty, not students, and they don't want to take on student accounts for various reasons, but there is a need for using all the collaborative features.

SOLUTION:


I am going to create and implement a plan to get all ISP Upper School students (about 260) to create their own Google Accounts and then share them with the school so that teachers can utilize the power of Google products with students.  DETAILS:  I will communicate the requirement to students and assist students in creating Google Accounts.  I will facilitate the collection of student email addresses via our website and then push them to PowerSchool and Moodle so that teachers have access to them.  I will launch a photo contest to coincide with our Week Without Walls student trips (using PicasaWebAlbums) that will encourage students to actually get their accounts created so they can participate in the contest while simultaneously engaging them learning to use the collaborative features of PicasaWebAlbums.  Lastly, I will create instructions for teachers explaining the best way to gather account information from students and then share documents with them as well as lead a number of after school Cyber Cafes on Using Google Docs in the Classroom.

Reflection:


[caption id="attachment_362" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Everyone Enjoying Paris to the Fullest - Lucie Soudkova"]Everyone Enjoying Paris to the Fullest - Lucie Soudkova[/caption]

For the most part, my action plan was successful.  That is not to say there weren't some hiccups along the way. In a nutshell, I met my goal of getting all of our students set up with a Google Account and all of those accounts recorded into our various systems.  The photo contest was really a bonus and a fun way to go about getting all students to sign up for an account.

All of our students have google accounts.  These accounts are used as their "professional" or "school" accounts and are connected to any other accounts they create for school purposes such as Youtube, Turnitin.com etc.

We recorded each student's google account info in our Learning Management System (Moodle) and Student Information System (PowerSchool).  Now, when a new student enrolls in our Upper School we ask them to create a google account, then use that info to populate our systems such as those listed above and Edublogs.

Using the Photo Contest as a catalyst for getting all students to create their accounts worked well…for account creation.  Students wanted to contribute photos and view each others' photos of our Week Without Walls.  Most students created their accounts by the deadline and I only had to chase down a few of them.  From the outside, the photo contest ran smoothly, although I did encounter some unexpected issues with using Picasa for this event.

I used Google Sites to create a portal for the Photo Contest, and used PicasaWebAlbums as a way to share albums to students so that they could submit photos to various categories.  You can view the portal here.

The issues with PicasaWebAlbums mainly had to do with sharing and specifically me sharing with too many students in a short period of time.  I needed to share 4 albums to 300 people so that they could have the ability to upload to the albums.  This was too much for Picasa; it seems Google thought I was spamming if I shared with too many people too often.  I was finally able to share everything necessary in small batches over about 10 days, which was a big problem since I wanted to share everything out before students went on their trips.  I'm not sure if Google has changed any of this, but I know with the advent of Google Plus they've been making some changes to Picasa Web Albums.  Maybe this is easier to do now - I'm not sure, but I definitely would look into the sharing features and limitations before I tried another photo contest using Picasa.

My biggest personal learnings were associated with both Google Sites and Picasa Web Albums.  I had not created a Google Site prior to this, and so this project really had me digging deep into the menus to see just what Sites could do.  The visual nature of a photo contest lent itself to embedding of media, slideshows and instructions.  I'm pretty confident with Sites now and feel that I can create sites pretty quickly and easily.  I think Google Sites are fabulous for people don't have advanced web design skills but who need to create a site for an event, a class, or for hosting any sort of information.

Final Thought:


My action plan was centered around the idea that we wanted a way to utilize the power of Google Apps without hosting our student accounts on our domains.  While I like having our student accounts off the domain, giving students complete ownership, this set up does have drawbacks.  It just isn't as smooth to share things with students as it would be if they were organized in the teacher contacts and possible in groups.  However, I do think that having students off domain is possible, and should not be considered a barrier to effectively using the collaborative power of Google Apps if a teacher is in a situation where the school does not or will not put students on Google Apps.  I'd love to hear about other schools that are having success with this same sort of set-up.