Oak Creek Intermediate goes Google

Google Drive is a file share program that allows students and teachers to communicate outside the classroom

awileman@sierrastar.comNovember 12, 2013 

Oak Creek Intermediate is taking one small step for man (Steffan), one giant leap for OCI.

With the help of their new Information Technology expert Steffan John, OCI is introducing a new file sharing program to teachers and students alike.

The new Google Drive program — which is currently up and running — will allow students to share information and data in real-time, as well as automatically save their information and projects as they are being completed.

The introduction of technology like 'Google Drive' is becoming more relevant in today's educational system and should help OCI to bypass troubleshooting problems such as losing files, computer shutdowns and difficulty sharing information.

"Kids can go on the computers and not worry about losing any information," John said.

The file storage program that is Google Drive was introduced by Google on April 24, 2012 and is currently used by big business and four-year collegiate programs all over the world, including the majority of the student body and faculty at California State University, Fresno. The program was designed to allow users cloud storage (wireless/Internet connection to retrieve files), file sharing and collaborative editing as a way to improve teaching and learning capabilities.

Oak Creek has decided to introduce Google technology as a way to stay at the forefront of progressive teaching. Principal White believes this program will help students learn at a faster rate as well as help teachers better understand the new era of interface teaching.

As society becomes more tech-based, new technology is becoming necessary to teach students skills useful and transferable to the real-world workplace.

Since the introduction of technology like iphones, ipads, and social media, future generations of students are becoming more tech savvy and with the Internet, the possibilities are endless for what can be accomplished by students, yet many kids without computers at home are unable to access or learn about these programs that they will likely be using in the future.

"A lot of families don't have computers at home and the parents are disconnected from the school experience (computer experience)...we realized at the Middle School level we can transfer that responsibility to students so that they start to become autonomized for themselves," White said.

Some teachers and districts are having a difficult time adapting to new teaching schemes, but there is an undeniable benefit for the students who are being exposed to these modern forums at extremely young ages.

As a way to help teachers adapt to technology they never knew was available, White has infused a "lesson flipping program" that incorporates old lesson plan information with new technology, to help kids learn important lessons at more personal rate.

"We take an old lesson plan teachers are using and intergrade it into a 21st century lesson, involving computers and digital information," White said.

This learning forum allows teachers to better understand a students strengths and weakness' at a much more successful rate (sometimes outside of class).

According to White, this new way of teaching allows corrections to teaching style and information to better suit the students individual learning style.

"Teachers can see what a student is working on as they work so they can see whether the student is following the guidelines before he/she turns in the assignment," White said. "This way teachers can collaborate with students from home and help students with projects and papers before the child turns it in for the final grade. It is a more student friendly environment and allows the kids to learn without failing."

White hopes the integration of Google Drive and the acquisition of new computers, will help OCI students prepare for the changes coming to the STAR testing program that will be taking place in coming years.

As a part of an overhaul to the Californian Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) tests, California has proposed to transform the requirements of the STAR testing to include in-depth essays and projects to be completed online.

Governor Brown recently signed a bill — despite threats from the federal government to stop funding — that would incorporate a more modern form of tests know as the Measurement of Academic Progress and Performance. These tests were designed by California's Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson as a way to incorporate new language and math tests, to be taken on the computer, while following a set of national curriculum standards known as Common Core.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Torlakson is pushing hard for the new program and believes it will better assess a students ability to learn and teach the information he/she has been taught as well as expose students to technology necessary to work with in today's workplaces.

"I've said from the beginning, California needs tests that measure how ready our students are for the challenges of a changing world," Torlakson said. "We have taken a huge step in that direction by creating an assessment system focused on improving teaching and learning and by sending a clear signal about our commitment to this urgent work."

OCI is piloting the program to see how it works and are anxious to be the first of many to try these new introductory programs.

The introduction of Google Drive to OCI also brings other highly useful programs. Google Drive is the home of other highly used forums like Google Docs, an office suite of productivity applications, that offer collaborative editing on documents, spreadsheets, presentations and powerpoint.

White is encouraged by the new programs and hopes it will help both students and teachers have a more productive experience in and out of class, by allowing access to files anywhere in the world there is an Internet connection, whether they are at home or on the road.

With the introduction of such capable programs comes the responsibility to monitor the information being sent and shared between students. That is why John and Principal White have set up a monitoring system that filters any unwanted or "bad" emails being sent. Any emails sent by students with specific words or phrases are immediately flagged and rerouted to White's office where she can review the information before it is sent out to a potential recipient.

"We kicked off the transition with Steffan doing a presentation about ethics and digital footprints...as a school we felt the responsibility falls on us, we're opening this avenue of communication and its on us, we're hosting it so we filter emails sent outside our network," White said.

In order to be set up on Google Drive each student is required to have a permission slip signed by parents which allows the student to sign up for an email address, something most parents are on-board with.

The school currently has a computer lab with more than 25 computers available to students upon the request for the teacher. Students have access to computers in the classroom as a ratio of 3-to-1 computer to students. White plans to have that down to 1-to-1 within a few years and will integrate new fiber optic connection for faster downloads and more bandwidth.

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