Gaggle is here! With those words we launched a new educational tool for our faculty and students to use here at James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School.
JWJ is a dedicated magnet school for gifted and academically advanced students. We have consistently earned an “A” grade from the state of Florida and we are a “Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School.” With our reputation on the line, so to speak, our first task was to find out as much as we could about Gaggle.
The first thing we learned was that Gaggle offered a filtered email opportunity for our students. But upon further research we learned that students and teachers have access to a safe, controlled environment that also offers:
• Assignment Drop Boxes to assign, collect, assess, and return assignments.
• Digital Lockers to store and share files.
• Gaggle Tube to search for videos and add them to assignments, blog posts, etc.
• Social Walls can be used to keep up with what’s happening with your students, colleagues, after-school events or groups, etc.
• Blog areas where students and teachers can create multiple blogs with different themes and share them with others.
• Message Boards are nice to create class discussions and encourage participation.
• Chat Rooms can enliven class discussion in a whole new dimension.
• Instant Messenger allows communication with students or colleagues.
• Calendars can be set up, managed, and shared.
• My Classes integrates all the great Gaggle tools into every class.
• Training Videos are available online anytime.
All of these are filtered, secure, and compliant with Federal Student Privacy Regulations.
On September 20th we had our first meeting with Andrea Keith, Director of Client Engagement with Gaggle. She gave the Gaggle administrative team an up-close look at how Gaggle works and the many things that can be done. Gaggle has worked with the district to help us use the same type of portal page that our faculty, staff, and students are used to. They even allowed us to add our own school logo or image file at the top of the Gaggle page and they have several color schemes that can be used to make the Gaggle online screens seem more unique to our school.
After setting up the pages, we had our first mini-introductory training session. I was able to show the faculty and staff the Social Wall that I had set up, complete with pictures of my new puppies, and my new friend, our Instructional Coach, Mary Browning. We looked at many of the other tools available and immediately the faculty was starting to think out loud about the possibilities of using these with the students. We talked about how some of these tools could be used as a way of starting to flip the classroom and extending the lessons beyond the four walls.
Our principal, Sharwanda Peek, sums it up this way: “Technology is not only transforming the way teachers provide instruction, it is also greatly impacting the way students learn. Gaggle will open the doors of communication with the teacher and the student in a safe and filtered environment.”
By Richard Fair, Teacher, Computer Science and Gaggle School Administrator, at the James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School.