Pedagogy with #GAfE – Marking and Feedback in Google Docs

Since introducing Google Apps for Education (GAfE) at my school in September 2013 I have been struck by the way that individuals will begin using the tools in their own way to improve their pedagogy. It shows how great teachers pick and choose the tools that are right for them and their classes.

As with all good edtech, the tool just refines the great pedagogy.

One great example of this is a language teacher who I work with who has developed her marking and feedback using Google documents. She has made critical choices about how to use the tools and has worked hard at training her class to submit their work via Google Drive and respond to her feedback. This demonstrates some key features of how to develop pedagogy with technology.

  • Embedding technology takes the same time and effort as any pedagogical tool
  • Your class need to be trained in how to produce the work your expect
  • Be persistent
  • Don’t expect it to go smoothly (just like any lesson or change in your classroom)

In preparation for their language qualifications the students have to develop a text covering some key topics. This teacher identified the sharing and collaboration of Google docs as a perfect tool to help with drafting, re-drafting and providing feedback. The benefits have been:

  1. saved time
  2. improved the impact of teacher feedback
  3. changes can be reviewed and tracked
  4. better student outcomes!

Not my interpretation but the feedback of the teacher. It has not been a smooth ride, managing your Google Drive and that of the students is a necessity, something that can be dealt with by using Google Classroom. This teacher understands how Google Classroom works but having spent time developing her class to use a system of sharing their work with her and then she would organise it in her folders, she did not want to change. We have discussed trialling Google Classroom for the same task in the summer term when there is a little more time to develop new strategies.

I have taken a piece of work completed by one of her students and used to show the evolution of the document to try and demonstrate the power of feedback via a Google document over the traditional piece of paper that can be lost by the student or ignored as they write their second draft without the teacher’s invaluable feedback. I hope the video gives a good idea of the development of the piece of work thanks to great pedagogy from a great teacher.

As with all good edtech, the tool just refines the great pedagogy.


Ben Rouse


Going Google at my School: Y2 – Autumn 2014 Review

Having implemented Google Apps for Education (GAfE) over a year ago it was time to get some feedback. The new academic year has seen a boost in the number of people logging into their school Google account so now the majority are logging in I want to know what they think about the experience.

Staff and Student Feedback

I sent out two Google forms, one to students and one to staff that were similar but some of the questions were adjusted. You can see a copy of the questions via the links below. The survey links were sent out by email twice each.

Student Survey (188 responses out of 1800 students)

Staff Survey (40 responses out of 140 staff)

Both the students and staff were asked to assess the impact they felt GAfE had had on learning. Here is their response:


1 - very negative 5 - very positive
1 – very negative
5 – very positive


1 - very negative 5 - very positive
1 – very negative
5 – very positive

The written feedback provides the most interesting data and there are a few themes that come through in everyone’s comments. These are:

  • Lack of clarity on technology’s role in education
  • A need for consistent use with clear vision from leadership
  • Training for students and staff (i.e. time)
  • Infrastructure issues have limited access
  • Lack of single sign on

Here is my favourite item of staff feedback

“I am still in the Google mis’Ap(p)s stage of conscious incompetency… I’m afraid to say I’m tempted to assume a partial Canutian stance, such that despite realising that the tide has turned (irrevocably) I find myself, nonetheless, wondering whether death by drowning might be preferable.”

And favourite student contribution

“Chromebooks look like they have potential to be a everyday learning tool.”

We had better find a way to get some!

Best Practice


Google Drive/Classroom

  • MfL – Marking and feedback on coursework
    • Presented to MfL faculty
  • PE Faculty – Written work in theory lessons and adoption of Google Classroom. The faculty have also included the use of Google Apps in their quality of standards review.
  • A-level Chemistry – Feedback sheet
  • Y12 Maths use of Google Classroom to enhance peer support and independence.
  • Admin are using forms for a vast amount of communication and data collection with parents and for options/applications.
  • Assistant Head lead successful training session on Child protection with other LMT members using a collaborative document
  • Drama are using Google Drive to share and collaborate
  • Computing use Google Classroom in every lesson to share course material, assign homework and resources. One teacher has reported an increase in homework being submitted on time for her Y11 group.
  • Law have implemented PLCs with Y12 and 13 students having seen a similar approach from Business Studies.
  • SEND are transferring information about students to Folders and sharing so they all have access to up to date information.

Google Sites

  • Data site is in progress.
  • Sites have now been created for every house based on one head of house’s site as a template.
  • ICT BTEC are using Google Sites to create their portfolios.

If you are an avid reader you may notice that Learning Portfolio sites for Y7are not listed. Currently they have not had the impact and exposure I would have liked so they are proving less effective but I continue to try and worm with Heads of Faculty and Teachers to see if they can be useful.

Professional Development

Next Steps

Going forward I have created a timeline, shared with key stakeholders in the school. These include…

  • ICT Director
  • Head of School
  • Line Manager

The timeline provides some next steps under a number of areas of technology for learning and I am recording progress against each one monthly. The key areas for development still revolve around

  1. Culture
  2. Training
  3. Leadership

I have also purchased a copy of Stratosphere by Michael Fullan as people I trust say it is a must read in my position.

Maybe a review on this blog will be necessary.



Going Google: Year 2 of #GAfE

In my review of our first year I identified the following areas for development:

  • Focus on Google Drive and collaboration more exclusively
  • Discourage staff from starting with Google Sites
  • Demand more time to train staff and publish a schedule
  • Create a core team of staff to support me and the digital leaders
  • Move perception away from technology being separate to pedagogy

We are a massive three days into the year so ideal time to see if I actually remembered to incorporate any of this into what we are doing at school now…

Focused Training

Combining the first and third point, I launched a new training schedule to staff on the first day, which has been well received so far. I have been particularly pleased as a number of support staff have approached me about attending. I have found that the support staff can be your trojan horse in embedding the use of Google Apps for Education (GAfE). One of the best examples of this is that the PA to our head is moving meeting minutes to Google docs. By exposing the leadership team and governors to its merits you have fewer barriers to leading the change across the school.

The training schedule references our teaching and learning themes for the year to try to embed technology within learning rather than being perceived as something separate.

While preparing for the first day of school in front of the entire staff I received some great advice from one of our assistant headteachers. She suggested that I only demonstrate simple tools as anything too ‘flashy’ would only suggest to some people that they have already missed the technology for learning boat. So I stuck to these…

  • Timer – typing “set timer to 2 minutes” into the omnibox in chrome.
  • Search tools – selecting the reading level of the results of a search

This had the right effect, a number of reluctant staff are ready to try a bit more technology out in their classes and are interested in attedning the training.

Google Classroom

During the last academic year I became aware that a number of staff had begun to create sites but had not completed them or used them for learning. Sites proved to be a time-consuming distraction for teachers and the successful sites were the ones created by our student digital leaders. We are however using sites for the new year 7 student’s learning portfolio where they will display their project work from each subject. The reduced focus on sites has proved to be for the best as we now have Google Classroom, which provides a way for teachers to share resources and deadlines with their class, including a discussion forum too.

The model that seems to be developing is that the students can utilise sites to collate their work, teachers use Classroom to distribute work and manage assignment workflow, with Google Drive providing the basis for collaboration.

Change is the only constant

If you are embarking on a similar journey be prepared for regular changes to the tools. There is a new Google Drive interface which you can choose to use at the moment, and it will be pushed to everyone soon enough. Google forms have new customisable themes and the sharing interface in docs changed today.

Some staff approach technology with algorithms: Click here then there and that comes up. By adopting Google you are challenging your staff to be more adaptable. Not a bad thing, but remember to be patient and calm!

Gmail versus Outlook

We have used outlook at our school for years (as most have) and we are moving closer to a strategy for incorporating Gmail. I look forward to sharing our solution as this seems to be a familiar battleground for schools adopting GAfE.


Ben Rouse






Google Classroom – an overview

Google have taken on board feedback from teachers about using Google Apps and have created a tool to tidy up sharing with your classes and administering assignments and marking online.

Here are a selection of posts, videos and links that provide you with everything you need to know to use Classroom effectively in your schools.

Setup for GAfE Admins:

Google’s full help guide can be found here but I have found Ziggy Dzeigman and Michael Fricano II to be most helpful via the Google Classroom community on Google+

Resources for Training and Supporting Teachers to get started.

This is a pretty comprehensive video that guides you through creating classes and adding assignments.


Training Materials

Appsevent’s Sarah Wood has created a six part blog to guide you through Classroom.

Carolyn Wendell was part of the Google Classroom team and she shared some training materials to help deliver training to teachers.

Kasey Bell has contributed a number of resources to a Pinterest board on Google Classroom

This could be the only printing you need to do all year!

What it doesn’t do…yet

All users have to be on the same domain. ( and would not currently work but this seems to be something Google are looking into)

Adding groups via their email address (I have not been able to add students in one go using but hopefully this will be resolved soon.

Grading is only summative but formative grading can be applied in other ways. I tried to summarise this in a video but I think it might be a bit too swift. The idea is that is tracks an assignment transferring from teacher to students and vice versa.

Comparisons to other LMS (Learning Management Systems)

Google Apps for Education is free so that gives it a significant advantage to start with even if you haven’t realised that the tools provide a fabric for learning better than other technology available to schools. However, to make the process of using GAfE seamless there are a range of free and paid for additions you can add to Google Apps to make it work even better. On the initial announcement of Google Classroom questions were asked about whether it was the end for these tools. The developers and users of these tools have been quick to dispell this idea. Here are a couple of posts to help you get an idea of the arguments.

Andrew Stillman explains his view for Classroom and Doctopus etc. here.

Hapara’s Teacherdashboard is an impressive management system for Google Drive. Here is their own take on Google Classroom.

As I get the chance to work with my colleagues I hope to feedback on the impact of using Google Classroom in our school and add it to the “Going Google at my school” series.



Ben Rouse


Funding #edtech in State Schools (How do I…)

What are we missing by having GAfE but restricted access to devices?

Having taken my school “Google” in September 2013 I feel my focus will need to start moving to our access to devices. Currently we have six computer rooms which are used 90% of the time for timetabled computing/ICT lessons. Teachers scrabble to book any free periods in these rooms but often you find that only one or two of your classes will coincide with an available slot so the use of GAfE in class is very limited. This reduces the potential for:

  • Collaborative, in class, group work. Click here for an example
  • Class feedback on a document.
  • Peer review under the supervision of the teacher.
  • Training students in the required workflow.
  • Using blogs and sites for flipped instruction or providing students with differentiated tasks.

Introducing Devices

I believe there are great learning and teaching benefits to having easily accessible devices, especially as we have GAfE. It will be my job to pursued my colleagues, the parents and students of this. Outside of the learning and teaching other benefits can be reducing the amount of paper etc. but if this is the driver for devices you are probably doing it wrong.

I see two main factors to consider as I begin to plan the best solution for our school (other schools in other contexts may take different approaches).

  1. How do we want learning and teaching to develop?
  2. How do we fund the change?

Case Studies

I have read two case studies of schools that appear to have made the transition to 1:1 devices successfully.

IPACA in UK – read about it here

Hillsborough Middle School in US – read about it here

There is a significant common theme to both of these schools, and that is clear leadership. The school leadership has committed to embracing technology for learning and have driven this with appropriate support for teachers to make the change necessary to get the best out of the tools. Therefore, I have a ‘simple’ task ahead of me… Get the backing of our leadership to move the school towards technology underpinning the learning in our school.

Interestingly I have recently found a case study of a 1:1 device initiative that was not a success.


This is something I will be developing with my school leadership and our new academy ICT director over the coming months and as I get closer to a clear strategy I will let you know.


Ben Rouse



Going Google at my school: Year 1 Review

Since choosing the leave behind any Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and facilitate learning via Google Apps for Education I have been writing about some of the challenges and initiatives to embed technology in the learning of our students.

Here are the posts

Going Google at my school posts September 2013 – July 2014


  • Student digital leaders are very motivated
  • Technical team have got behind the Google Apps for Education and supported change to Gmail for students
  • Usage statistics are consistent at around 60-70% of users every week.
  • Google Documents overtook Uploads to Google Drive by February

Areas for improvement:

  • Focus on Google Drive and collaboration more exclusively
  • Discourage staff from starting with Google Sites
  • Demand more time to train staff and publish a schedule
  • Create a core team of staff to support me and the digital leaders
  • Move perception away from technology being separate to pedagogy

Next year:

  • Building capacity for staff to support me with
    • Digital Leaders
    • Learning Portfolios
    • Administration
    • Training
  • Schedule of Training with badges to earn from each session
  • Focus on
    • Learning Portfolios for Year 7
    • Classroom/Google Drive pedagogy
  • Embedding technology for learning throughout learning and teaching strategy

The other challenge will be to secure investment in infrastructure and look at potential models for introducing devices to support learning. This ultimately needs to be accompanied by a review of how we teach and how we want to develop our students. In relation to this have a read of this post about technology and learning.

There are a lot of “top tips” posts and posters knocking about. Kasey Bell produces the best ones and here is one for anyone nurturing teachers to the power of technology in learning.

Thanks to Kasey Bell for creating and sharing this great poster.


Ben Rouse



Going Google at my School: Part 7 – Student Portfolios

Like all good events, had I completed a self assessment survey before and after the Google Teacher Academy (GTAUK13) I attended in December 2013 I would have given myself a 8/10 on the way in and 3/10 on the way out such was the astonishing creative use of technology to enhance learning amongst my cohort.


Stephanie Ladbroke was a team leader at the GTAUK13 having been a Google Certified Teacher (GCT) for a few years. Stephanie lead a session where she shared the technology her class had used for projects. The particular project that has stuck with me is a rainforest project her primary class carried out. The project culminated with a local company changing the packaging they used. The technology used is a footnote as all it did was enable exceptional learning. This is what the role of technology in education should be.

I mention this because it is the moment I realised that at secondary school, we had to do more to make sure that if we inherit students from classes like Stephanie’s we built on the amazing work they have done in primary school. I am implementing e-portfolios for next year to try and make sure we do this.

What is an e-portfolio

An online electronic collection of evidence of achievement and learning

The portfolio of work for our students will be maintained via a Google Site owned by each student and viewable to teachers. I chose to use Google sites as it is within our suite of tools as part of our Google Apps for Education (GAfE) account. Work created in Google Drive can be easily inserted into a page, hence leading more teaching staff to choose for their students to utilise the Google tools available and enhance collaboration.

Learning portfolios are not a new concept, but with the availability of devices, internet access and the ease with which sites can be created and maintained by people with no coding ability, collecting evidence of learning electronically seems a sensible choice, could save a lot of paper too! For a state secondary school in the UK the portfolio is meant to be student-led and we want it to be something they are proud of that can be used throughout their time at secondary school and even beyond for employment.

For the students to be motivated I feel we need teaching staff to refer to it regularly and plan their curriculum and schemes of work with the portfolios in mind. To this end I was able to meet with the heads of faculty to discuss the portfolio and ask for them to feedback to me on what they wanted the students to use it for in their subject. With the vast array of pressures on middle leaders I was pleasantly surprised with the level of support and interest though I wish I could have started the conversation earlier to allow them more time to digest and think of how it could work for them. It will be important to open regular dialogue with staff as the first year of portfolios goes on.

The portfolios are being rolled out with our new students in year 7 (11-12 year olds) and each subject has been asked to allocate at least one project in the year which the students will be expected to add to their portfolio and hence the teaching staff will need to focus on the students using Google tools to complete the project.

Rather than have the students create a site from scratch the feedback from faculties allowed me to create a template on which the students can build.

Advice to schools beginning this process:

Engage with staff and students as early as possible and create a group who can ensure the portfolio is supported by the leadership of the school and that it has a clear purpose for your school that is relevant to learning and the vision of the school. Try to get a range of staff to support the initiative, ideally ones with skills sets different to your own.  

The Template

For every different context a different set up could work. As a secondary school the consensus was for the subjects along the top. Other options that were discussed were to have main headings that related to achievements, leadership and life/employability skills. Below is the final template layout. The wider skills that we as teachers aim to develop but don’t get measured on are in the centre.

The front page design is a Google Drawing with links from each part to pages on the site.
The front page design is a Google Drawing with links from each part to pages on the site.

In discussion with the faculties some requested that their pages be pre-populated with project information ready for the students. Others saw a opportunity to collect some useful information from the students, such as our Languages faculty who had a Google form in their page to find out the language skills of the students joining us in September. We were able to do this by introducing the students to their sites on induction day.

Advice to schools beginning this process:

I did all the editing myself, in hindsight I should have used our digital leaders and other staff by adding them as collaborators on the Google Site I used for the template. If you are able to get one member of staff from each faculty to edit their page of the learning portfolio or even one student per page that would save time and make it a more collaborative effort as possibly increase the buy in from a wider section of the school population.

Creating the sites

Once the template is complete, each student needs a copy to call their own. My initial plan was to get them to create a site from the template, which is not too complicated but would need some clear instructions in the session. Luckily I know Oli Trussel, a UK maths teacher who is great at using Google scripts. He created a couple of scripts for me that allowed me to create and share the sites with the students via a Google Sheets. This meant that the students had a site waiting for them. By using an add-on in the same Google sheet I was able to email the link to their site to each student allowing me to introduce them to their email as well as their site.

Once created the students could get to their site by going to Sites once logged in but I chose to use the add-on Yet Another Mail Merge which allows you to write a draft email in your Gmail referencing columns in a Google Sheet. This meant I could send an email to every student with their site address in. This was how they would get to their site, which introduced them to their email at the same time.

Advice to schools beginning this process:

Drop me a line if you would like a copy of the Google sheet Oli and I worked on to create the Google sites for the students. With more time I am sure something more elegant could be created but if you want to create a large number of sites in relatively little time this will do it.

Induction Day

In the UK it is traditional to have a day in the summer term towards the end of the academic year where the students joining the school in September attend for a day to meet their form class and get used to the school. In previous years we use the day for them to spend time with tutors and attend a few lessons in different subjects. I approached the assistant head who is responsibly for the transition of students from primary to secondary so we could introduce the students to their portfolios on induction day.

Induction day was yesterday! The students were issued with their logins and passwords on paper and were then scheduled for one hour in the computer room where they were lead through the process below:

  1. Login to network (we operate a Microsoft network at our school)
  2. Login to the learning portal (our name for their Google login page)
  3. Open an email (first school email for most of them, though a lot have a personal one…)
  4. Go to Site and complete MfL survey
  5. Add a page “My Primary Learning” and write about their best primary learning experiences
  6. Share the site with form tutors and heads of house

I have colour coded our progress from the day. I was generally pleased as almost all students logged in (apart from a couple who got in to our school on appeal and their names weren’t in my list when I created the sites) , must follow those up! I personally ran two sessions and colleagues ran the other six. Informal feedback is positive but at this early stage I can draw no conclusions on the impact.

Measuring the Impact

There are a variety of ways in which I would like to monitor the impact of the learning portfolios, but I need to stay focussed on the purpose

  • Gather information about our new students that can better inform our teaching and development of the students.
  • Portfolio is valued by staff and students as a learning tool
  • Increases the use of the Google Apps tools amongst staff and students

The last one seems a little cynical but I strongly believe the tools can enhance pedagogy and learning if used consistently well across out school so I do not mind using the portfolios as a vehicle to help staff engage with the Google Apps tools.

The range of measures will be

  • Usage statistics for Google Apps and particularly the learning portfolio sites
  • Feedback from teachers, students and parents across the next academic year
    • Staff will be asked about usage, barriers, training needs and to share best practice
    • Students will be asked about usage and whether they value it via a number of Likert scale questions.
    • Parents will be asked if their child has shown it to them and to rate the quality of the work.
  • Evidence of teachers adjusting their teaching based on information in the learning portfolios
  • Report grades compared to previous cohorts (though only relevant if other measures are positive)

I would greatly value input from any education academics on the research aspect and measuring the impact. Indeed if anyone would like to add to the research related to learning portfolios I would be happy to work with them using our initiative as a case study.

Advice to schools beginning this process:

While research can inform decisions it also relies on you having a free year to get through the information and you may still be no further forward in your decision making. Case studies that match your circumstances would be a more efficient way to gather evidence for decision makers if you need to convince them of the worth of learning portfolios.

At the Google teacher academy I was fortunate to meet with a number of teachers who have e-portfolios working well in their schools.

However, I defer to one of my heroes, Grace Hopper who said:

“It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission”

This philosophy has served me well so far!

I am sure I will be able to update our progress next academic year in a blog post or if I get the opportunity to present it might be something worth sharing.


Ben Rouse