Into the GAFE

Google-Apps-vs.-Office-365-change-1024x372 One of my summer goals was to become fluent in GAFE, which, as I learned, is pronounced with a long “a” sound.  (Thus it is less of a gaffe…)  I stumbled onto some board training and managed to get one of the last spots in an all day GAFE workshop.  GAFE information is also freely available online; I started going through “GAFE” courses earlier in the summer, but got sidetracked.   My plan is still to become Level 1 GAFE certified before school starts.

One of my first challenges occurred when I set up my Google Classroom site; I needed my IT support to enable some features for me.  The site is easy enough to figure out; however, but it took some playing around before I could figure out how to add adult ESL learners.

GAFE vs ONENOTE vs MOODLE vs EDMODO

So my guiding question was – will accessing Google Apps effectively be able to replace my Moodle site?  Moodle offers everything in one place, but students don’t have access once the course has finished.   Also, I know my Moodle site well; I’m comfortable with the design and layout, but the students often complain about getting lost in the site.  With Google Apps, the learners keep all of their tasks, sites, etc. All files/folders can be shared with the instructor, and copied for records.   And is this fundamentally better than, say, Edmodo?

Now, as you know, I tried using OneNote with my learners last year.  Personally, I love my OneNote, but it was problematic for the students.  I still plan to use OneNote but won’t lead my students down that path again this year, even though it brilliantly displayed e-portfolios.

Google Sites can be set up in much the same manner; I’ve been playing with the creation of a skeleton file for the past few weeks.  I’ve finally got a good Google Sites outline complete, and have uploaded the template so the learners can download it.  I had a brief look at Svetlana Lupasco’s Google site template a few months ago, and also came across Bonnie Jean Nicholas’ PBLA template in the world-wide gallery.

I added a Needs Assessment Google form, embedded the Language Companion and added two Calendar pages (one for Class news, one for Student).  So far, I’m happy with how it looks.

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So, because my Google Classroom site will suit my, and my learners’ needs, I doubt I will open up an Edmodo LMS; that would be more tech than necessary.  After all, it’s not about the tech, right?  It’s what the students can do with it, how the tech can help drive their learning forward.

Thus, for the first time in about 5 years, I’m stepping outside of my Moodle comfort zone, and into the GAFE.

Edmodo- I think It’s Time

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I recently attended an online Edmodo conference (#EdmodoCon16).  It was my second time.  I created an Edmodo account a couple of years ago to see what it was all about; at the time, I was juggling between two learning  management systems – Desire2Learn, and Moodle (packaged and maintained by LearnIT2Teach).  I figured that my learners’ needs could be met with either of the two that were already available to me.

I’ve written about this before; in fact, it was my impetus for starting this blog.  I ended up dropping D2L for LIT2T, and have been adequately satisfied with the results.  For a LINC ESL instructor in Canada, LIT2T sets up a Moodle platform for you, and it comes preloaded with SCORMS and activities per CLB stage.  Plus support, which is invaluable for a LINC instructor just starting out.

The SCORMs are hit and miss; they aren’t HTML5.  That’s about as technical as I can get.  Or, I could tell you, you click on the thing to do the thing, and nothing happens, or you get an error message.  I started using OneNote (regular not for education) with my adult learners in conjunction with the Moodle platform.  Because we have what’s called “Active Directory”, this meant I could access learners’ electronic files for feedback and assessment fairly easily, so long as I was at school when I was doing it.  Some learners opened a OneNote account from their homes, and were successful at being able to access their files, share, etc.  That was before OneDrive changed its amount of space available.

Learners will still be able to access their OneNote accounts while in the school lab; they may even be able to upload to a thumb drive and then work on files at home.  But they won’t be able to use OneDrive as easily as they could before, as the space available does limit what they can put in their e-portfolios.

That was the subject of my last blog.  I take ownership of not being on top of the OneDrive space decrease.  Mea copa.  So while I will still try to use OneNote in class, and personally, I’m not so sure about continuing with LIT2T.

Hence my interest in Edmodo.  The conference participants in 2015 were inspiring, as they were again this year. Indeed, I ended up following about a dozen from last year, and almost the same number this year.  I’ve got some ideas about Professional Development, and using Edmodo’s cool new features for my Adult ESL workplace course.  In particular, I was interested in how Edmodo connects with Google Apps for Education (GAFE – which to me is a bit of an unfortunate acronym, too close to the noun “gaffe” which generally means a mistake or blunder).

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I am also working towards becoming “google certified”, and then eventually “edmodo certified”.   Many of the teachers who demonstrated how they use Edmodo showed brilliantly how well Edmodo plays with others.  Use Edmodo + Padlet, or with any of your classroom Google docs.

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I think that Edmodo offers the flexibility that Moodle can’t, especially since it can link with OneDrive.  I’ve already tried to link Edmodo with my OneDrive education account, but it looks like I will need to connect with my IT department as I’m still having issues…  I’m looking forward to using Edmodo with my group, and plan to write about the experience here.