This fall, I purchased the domain www.mrsgoerend.com from Google for $10 a year. Along with this now being the home for my classroom blog, I also obtained 50 user names for Google Calendar and Google Docs. These user names could also be linked to email addresses, but since my students are all under the age of 13 and I didn't want to open the can of worms of them having email addresses (which some parents might not be too excited about), I decided to turn that feature off.
It's been slow going this year with some limited class time and access to the computer lab because of testing, but each student in both of my sections has a user name (student___, fill in a number in the blank) and a password which he or she created using Password Bird. I went with student# as a user name for the ease of use for future classes.
We've spent the most time with the calendar so far. I share a calendar for my math and writing class with both sections because I teach those subjects to both sixth grade sections in our school. I share a reading and spelling calendar with my homeroom section because I teach those subjects to them. I update the calendar as I plan (usually a week ahead). It really doesn't take that much time to update. Last week I showed the students how to log in and really utilize the calendar. I'm excited to see that some students are also using the calendar for their personal activities! Hooray for organization through technology!
On the calendar, I post a short summary of the day's activity for the subject along with page numbers that students can refer to in their textbook. For math, I create most of my own worksheets, to go along with my standards-based grading system (which I will discuss in a future post), so I'm able to link the Google Doc of the worksheet to the math lesson's description. I found that posting a link on the calendar worked better than sharing the document with all 40 of my students' user names. Google Docs has a glitch right now with a maximum amount of contributors to a document, so sharing a document by a link gets around that problem.
Even though a few of my students don't have internet access at home, I've seen minor victories with this system. I've had two students who were sick on different occasions return to school the next day with their math homework completed because they downloaded it from the link on the calendar! The day I spent 30 minutes explaining how the calendar works and how students can access it at home, many students were VERY excited about it and kept saying, "This is so cool!" and "Have you tried this?" or even began adding their own activities to the calendar.
I plan to update more on how the Google Docs side of it works with my writing class once we dive into some more writing assignments. I can't wait to see its use with peer revising and editing and the sharing feature! I will also update more on the Google Calendar as new discoveries arise!