When we launched Gaggle at James Weldon Johnson (JWJ), the timing was not exactly the most opportune. We were right in the middle of benchmark testing, the Thanksgiving break, the winter break, and semester exams. The students were able to dive right in because they were already well acquainted with social media. Now our challenge was finding the time and innovative ways to engage the faculty in using Gaggle, both for social media and as an educational tool. Gaggle allows teachers to use readily available technology to communicate with their students, organize their classes, and maximize instructional time. It also helps students learn how to communicate in a more professional manner while encouraging them to use technology and helping them learn invaluable 21st-century skills for the future.
Many of our faculty members expressed interest in learning more about Gaggle and learning how to make optimal use of its functions. I offered a series of mini-workshops on how to use Gaggle both in and out of the classroom. These workshops were scheduled after school and lasted approximately 30–45 minutes (depending on the participants). Each session focused on one particular area, such as how to use the Mark it Up! function, setting up discussion boards, or assigning and collecting work through the assignment drop box. As an added incentive, I also advocated for the participants to receive professional development credit for their participation.
My goal for the sessions was to demonstrate actual lessons from a variety of subjects and show how Gaggle can be used to enhance and enrich the work for both the teacher and the student. For example, a social studies teacher could set up a chat room and a discussion board designed around the President’s State of the Union address. While the students are watching at home, they can also participate in a chat room discussion while the teacher discusses the President’s speech and the audience’s reaction. The discussion board could also provide a platform for higher level questions for the students to add commentary and create discussions. These virtual communities could also provide ample material for class discussions and other relevant course work. Since JWJ is a BYOD school, Gaggle opens up many more creative and diverse opportunities for our students to work and learn. As the Common Core curriculum is more fully implemented, tools like Gaggle will give us many valuable educational avenues to explore and document what we are doing for our students.