Join Me in the Cloud: Guest Post by @alice_bilbrey – @TeachToLead #TTLNetwork #TTLSummit #TMILearns

Guest post by Alice Bilbrey

I’ve been a long-time user of Google Docs and Google Classroom as a part of my teaching practice, so I was thrilled when I received the go-ahead from TMI to open up a Google Classroom for my AP English Language and Composition course. I explained to my juniors that a benefit would be that they would no longer have to wait for a mutually convenient Flex Time to have a writing conference for reviewing their in-progress drafts. Rather, they could “meet me in the cloud” – day or night – to get feedback on their writing in real time or to look at later.

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There are many things I admire about TMI students. One of them is their dedication to all of their commitments – and oh, how dedicated they are! A sports event is just as important as a Habitat build and an English paper and an Elf & hot chocolate movie night. They are busy! So, asking for a moment of Flex Time to review an essay when they also need extra help from Mr. Kamau and to sign up for Model UN and to be at Corps formation is HARD. I get it!

Google Classroom has been a great solution. Students have taken advantage of electronic feedback over breaks and on weekends as they have wanted to – it’s never been required because I am on board with Fr. Scott’s message of balance. Google Classroom is an example of how technology can make life more balanced. Conversations in the cloud about writing, being able to continue discussions after the bell has rung, collaborating with classmates and teachers outside the classroom walls…aren’t these skills that transfer to life in the real world?

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Mrs. Jill Cross, our Dean of Curriculum and Instruction has been observing our class and commented, “The purposeful technology integration I have seen happening in this setting has both excited and impressed me. The use of the Classroom platform, the ongoing feedback via this tool, and the class discussions generated within this space have accelerated student learning. Google Classroom has not only allowed support and scaffolding for student learning, it has also been a vehicle for encouraging balance in our students.”

One of my AP English Language and Composition students offered this feedback after Thanksgiving break: “Because of Google Classroom I can meet with my teacher no matter where she goes. All I needed to do was send her an email and she could respond with comments on the dubious areas of my essay. It turned my essay into a masterpiece!”

I am excited to start using Google Classroom in my other junior classes very soon. Meeting in the cloud doesn’t take the place of the amazing face-to-face interactions our TMI community has with each other. It enhances it. Because, of course, we belong to each other!

Alice Bilbrey is a high school English teacher who is fiercely committed to quality instruction for students and is passionately engaged in work related to school reform. Alice has 3 Understanding by Design units published on Trinity University’s Digital Commons and is a School Reform Initiative (SRI) affiliate and trained facilitator. She loves working with the faculty and students at TMI Episcopal in San Antonio, TX where she currently teaches English III and English III AP. In her free time, Alice enjoys taking cello lessons.

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