Design Thinking during the Genius Hour process

“How might we use Design Thinking and ICT to increase student engagement and motivation during the inquiry process?”

The CEOM ICON Research Schools Project aims to research powerful approaches to learning and teaching that harness the richness of technology in order to provide opportunities to transform learning. As a participating school we are supported to conduct our own research in our setting. Together with other participating schools, we are invited to produce artifacts to inform the CEOM system towards ICON.

This is a reflection for our school’s progress in 2014.

For our school, our Inquiry question was:

  • How might we use Design Thinking and ICT to increase student engagement and motivation during the inquiry process?

In particular, we wished to apply this question to our Genius Hour program in Years 5 and 6. The Design Thinking process and tools were used for both staff planning when designing learning opportunities for students, as well as mapping the current Genius Hour program against this process.



In Genius Hour, students develop personal questions of their choice and research and present in any method they wish. They are able to work collaboratively or independently towards an action, and is a form of Passion Based Learning that follows a line of inquiry.

Students have already been visibly engaged and motivated during the Genius Hour program. However, as a relatively new program which was introduced last year, the team felt that there were opportunities to strengthen the process of inquiry within Genius Hour as well as consolidate and build upon the use of ICT.

In Years 5 and 6, students are provided with one-to-one access of a Windows 8 ultrabook. In Genius Hour, students use technology to:

  •  Submit proposals: via a Google Doc shared between the relevant teachers and students. Comments can be made as feedback during the proposal and planning stages.
  •  Conduct research: using Google Search on the World Wide Web, as well as World Book Online.
  •  Create products: producing video and pictures, designing websites, or coding games and applications. At times this includes the use of personal technology that students are encouraged to bring.
  •  Share learning: via a Google Presentation, shared between the relevant teachers and students.
  •  Communicate learning: via the Year 5 and 6 blog, where final projects are posted for the wider community. A selection of students also shared their learning via Google Hangouts to reach the parent and wider community.
  •  Collaborate and extend beyond their community: Some students worked with another school (St. Francis of Xavier Primary School in Box Hill) who were also doing Genius Hour using the Google Apps platform.

The aim of our research was to examine ways in which we can use design thinking and consider the use of technology to further strengthen the inquiry process throughout Genius Hour, so as to improve student engagement and motivation.


Measures of success

From a qualitative standpoint, we hoped that if we succeeded we would see an improvement in:

– engagement

  • less off task behaviours.
  • increased ownership of projects.
  • increased quality of projects (depth of questions).
  • increased positive attitudes towards Genius Hour.

– motivation

  • increased perseverance throughout the process.
  • increased impact of projects (in terms of a positive influences unto others).



Through NoTosh resources and support with the work conducted at the CEOM leadership days and team based days, several deliberate actions were introduced to the Genius Hour program:

Immersion / synthesis:

  • Viewed St. Francis of Xavier Primary School’s (Box Hill) Genius Hour presentations on Google Hangouts
  • Generated ideas using “100 ideas in 10 minutes” and evaluated them
  • Categorised questions as “Googleable vs Non-Googleable” using a filter
  • Presented provocations from the Google Science Fair and example of IBM’s Watson Super Computer
  • Developed questions using the Complex Questions Matrix
  • Gave the opportunity to a few students to work with another school on a joint Genius Hour project effort. Students at St. Francis in Box Hill who are also doing Genius Hour were able to work with students from St. Mark’s using the Google Apps platform



  • Communicated progress of projects on the Year 5 and 6 blog
  • Gave opportunities for feedback (kind, specific, useful) in small groups at various stages


Exposition / Presentation:

  • Uploaded all projects to the Year 5 and 6 blog.
  • Shared learning (10 groups) on Google Hangouts to an estimated audience of 300. Participants answered questions from viewers outside of the St. Mark’s Community.

These actions can also be viewed via this Thing Link.

As a third and fourth generation of the Genius Hour program, a lot of improvements have been observed anecdotally:

Quality and depth of projects – When comparing the sets of questions and projects against previous iterations of Genius Hour, students have been far more creative, original and inquisitive in their research. The deliberate teaching of a “Non-Googleable” question to this part has been instrumental, as has been the high bar and expectation for students for their projects to be meaningful.

Perseverance and engagement in students – In this iteration of Genius Hour, the teachers have observed increased determination and perseverance. As a long-term activity, students in the past have become disinterested or “lost” with their projects. There has also been increased enthusiasm and excitement for the times in which students are given specific time to work on their projects at school.

Ownership and collaboration amongst peers – A problem with Genius Hour in the past has been with medium to large sized groups, which can be dominated by a few students, or have timid students reluctant to participate. There has been a lot more shared ownership of the projects, leading to less “bystanding” and more active participation.


As part of our evaluation, we developed a survey to ascertain the attitudes and behaviours towards Genius Hour. 103 responses were collected out of 126 students. Students were asked to what extent they were enjoying Genius Hour this term, and then to respond by explaining their answer:

 gh feedback 1

low responses

medium responses

high responses

“Well this year it is different and so the question is harder to make so did not get to do a topic that I was interested in”

“I like it a little because last year they got to do it on whatever they want they could even make a game”

“I love working with other people but my group members muck around and we never get our work done”

“I’m enjoying the freedom of doing whatever you like but I not enjoying it because I’m falling behind, so to fix that problem you should give us more time.”

“We can use our own creative talents and we can make it our own project. Also we can do it with who ever we like and be fun and creative with it. Plus it is easier to learn what you’re interested in!”

“I like doing Genius Hour because I take more control of my learning and I like doing Genius Hour because it challenges me.”

Students were then asked to rank their agreement on the following statements:

Genius Hour makes me happy Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 2%

Neither Agree or Disagree 20%

Agree 52%

Strongly Agree 25%

Genius Hours inspires me to try something new Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 1%

Neither Agree or Disagree 9%

Agree 57%

Strongly Agree 33%

Genius Hour challenges my thinking Strongly Disagree 1%

Disagree 1%

Neither Agree or Disagree 15%

Agree 52%

Strongly Agree 31%

I feel energised during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 5%

Neither Agree or Disagree 32%

Agree 43%

Strongly Agree 20%

Doing Genius Hour is useful for me Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 3%

Neither Agree or Disagree 25%

Agree 52%

Strongly Agree 19%

I am bored during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 41%

Disagree 44%

Neither Agree or Disagree 13%

Agree 2%

Strongly Agree 2%

Genius Hour is interesting for me Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 0%

Neither Agree or Disagree 14%

Agree 52%

Strongly Agree 34%

I want to do well during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 0%

Neither Agree or Disagree 6%

Agree 36%

Strongly Agree 58%

I care about my work and efforts during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 0%

Neither Agree or Disagree 6%

Agree 41%

Strongly Agree 53%

I am “in the zone” during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 2%

Disagree 3%

Neither Agree or Disagree 41%

Agree 41%

Strongly Agree 14%

I use my time effectively during Genius Hour Strongly Disagree 0%

Disagree 3%

Neither Agree or Disagree 19%

Agree 57%

Strongly Agree 20%

We also collected data from teachers in other year levels on the Open Expo day, as we thought it might be useful to seek from teachers external and independent to the year level:


“There was a wide range of projects that reflected the children’s interests and ability.  The children that I spoke to were able to talk about the reason why they chose their particular area so I was able to see the purpose behind it. I enjoyed looking at the journey, not just the finished product.  I also noticed that for some students the journey will continue.

No matter how big or small the project was, all students were very proud to showcase their work and get feedback from their family, peers and teachers.”

“What an incredible celebration of creativity and imagination! The students appeared excited by their chosen field and proud of their accomplishments. They seemed to be more willing and able, this year, to discuss their work with depth and clarity. I was very impressed by the students’ use of trial and feedback to test and refine their work before showcasing it.”

“I was very impressed with the level of research and how well some students explained their research topic. The students were very engaged and very enthusiastic to show off their designs and outcomes.”

“A brilliant Genius Expo that showed imagination has no limit. It was a privilege to witness the journey (struggles, failures, successes. breakthroughs, frustrations…) and to experience the destinations. Not only was the learning and skills that were gained evident, self esteem of all the participants oozed from their presentation sites regardless of whether they had achieved their goal. Visible learning in action! Strong, focused leadership! And the Google Hang-out…so cool! Hope all of our school got to see it.”

“The time and effort the students put in was evident in the depth of their work. There was a genuine knowledge and passion coming from the kids about their chosen topics. It was very clear the children had control over the development of their projects and it was great to see a wide range of topics and interests investigated. No two projects were the same. I think it agave our 3/4’s something to aspire to, they came back inspired, with open eyes excited to tackle their own inquiry.”

Whilst there have been some positive gains in light of the teacher and student data, we feel there is still room for improvement.

 One of the key principles of Genius Hour is for students to make a meaningful impact on their wider community. Whilst some students appear to have the correct intention and motivations, we feel that on the whole students were not following through with their impact. After designing a graphic to assist students to reflect on their intended impact, it was clear that most students genuinely wanted to have a reach far beyond what they achieved but required assistance to do this.

Moreover, as highlighted by the student survey, they are some negative feelings towards Genius Hour. We feel that this could be a barrier to engagement and motivation if we are not effective in communicating the process or ideas behind Genius Hour for all students.

Design Thinking is a relatively new process and concept for the team but it has certainly made an impact. From a teacher standpoint, it has promoted critical and creative thinking that has improved the quality of the inquiry process.

Further resources

Term 2 Projects

Term 2 Hangout

Term 4 Projects

Term 4 Hangout

What do students at St. Mark’s think about Genius Hour?


What’s your impact?

One of the 10 principles of our approach to Genius Hour which we maintain to be of high importance  is to encourage students to have an impact beyond themselves. We want our students to think about how they could potentially change the world, whether that is on a local, national, or global stage. We are bringing the expectation that they could contribute something meaningful as a global citizen.

10 principles of genius hour

Our 10 principles of Genius Hour

What we found in our first iterations of Genius Hour last year was that this notion was hardly realised. Students unsurprisingly grappled with the foreign concept of undertaking a lengthy process of discovery on a deep level, let alone considering what they were going to do with their new found knowledge in the inquiry. This improved in 2014 as we applied a Design Thinking process to Genius Hour to focus on the development on a deep, complex and “Non-Googleable” question. The introduction of “How might we…” led naturally to tangible actions that could potentially lead to opportunities for sharing beyond a student’s own benefit.

During the proposal stages students considered what the impact beyond themselves would be. However when it came time to undertake the inquiry, students became caught up and often forgot about it and therefore was often too little and too late in the process  for their impact to be realised. Having said this, in our most recent Genius Hour attempt the majority of our students were able to at least make, teach or do something genuine for their school and wider community. Holding an Open Expo for the school community, and sharing projects via the level blog and on Google Hangouts certainly helped in this regard.

We asked our students to map out a self-assessment of their impact using a graphic organiser with the levels of SELF, SCHOOL COMMUNITY, WIDER COMMUNITY, STATE, NATION and WORLD by providing evidence of what they either made, did or taught. Upon completing this task, students reluctantly realised that their intended impact may not have been entirely realised.


In our next attempt of Genius Hour, we feel that it would be appropriate to use this graphic organiser during the ideation stage and development of the inquiry line. Our challenge as educators is to assist students during the inquiry process to connect them to opportunities that allow them to make their desired impacts, particularly those outside of the school community.

Below is a copy of the graphic should you wish to use it (or in PDF). I would be interested in hearing about how other educators are encouraging their students to think beyond their community and actually making their efforts a reality!

What's Your Impact


Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable



Last Thursday’s GEG Melbourne event “Feed Forward” was another huge success.  Google Teacher Academy participants shared their journeys, their moonshots, and their intended journeys for the months to come.

I shared my moonshot and a little bit of thinking that I have been doing about the area of innovation in schools. As I started to explore the problem a little more deeply in an almost re-immersion of the problem, I have been grappling with the reasons why education can be appearing to move so slowly. Maybe some of this issue revolves around the obvious notion that change can be hard to achieve, but I think that challenging the “status-quo” of the system and changing fixed-mindsets is the real problem. Whilst some of us might view ourselves as change agents by standing up in our schools and leading the charge, true educational change requires challenging the thinking of every educator, student, parent and bureaucrat in the system. This might seem a little more challenging and risky then simply standing up in one school community!

I spoke to a few people in the breakout sessions about disruptive ideas in education, and several were excited to find a common ground with others who were also frustrated with the slow pace of innovation in education. If you haven’t yet done so, please fill out this form to share your ideas.

Slides from the presentation are here or below:


EdTech MasterChef Challenge at ACEC14

A paradox exists between adult learning at conferences and student learning in the classroom. On one hand we talk about students taking ownership of their learning and collaborating with others without the teacher “giving” all the information…yet at conferences, the majority of the time we seem to sit submissively and listen to presenters in a didactic style approach.

This was one of the major reasons for bringing the EdTech MasterChef Challenge to the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014. With colleague Narissa Leung, we facilitated the event to offer an alternative style of professional development for educators at the conference.

We were inspired by the EdTech Iron Chef Challenge at the International Society of Technology in Education Conference 2013 in San Antonio. Attending as delegates from the ACCE Study Tour, Narissa and I went into the Iron Chef event excited by the possibilities of a challenge-based style of professional development for teachers at a conference. We weren’t disappointed as we had the opportunity to debate, co-construct, innovate and articulate our approach to using technology in a hypothetical setting. For the first time, we had experienced an alternative style of learning at a conference that truly put meaning to the buzz words “connect, collaborate, crate”. (Did I also mention that our group were also declared joint-winners of the challenge with another group?)

This was another reason for facilitating the EdTech MasterChef Challenge at ACEC14. We didn’t want to lecture to people about the importance of networking with other educators, we wanted them to make their own connections. We didn’t want to show examples of students collaborating, we wanted them to experience it for themselves. We didn’t want to discuss the higher-order thinking skills required for creating meaningful products, we wanted them to use the skills to make something. The organisers of the original event are offering their resources to anyone who wants to host their own challenge, and we adapted the ideas from Iron Chef at ISTE to bring the EdTech MasterChef Challenge to ACEC14.


The Challenge

Attendees who attended Day 1 of the challenge were encouraged to form teams to collaborate with for the duration of the challenge. Whilst most people in the room brought along a friend and subsequently ended up in the same group, it was great to see a mixture of educators from various levels of experience and backgrounds in each group.

Participants were given a set of “ingredients” to use in their challenge to address a problem. The ingredients were selected intentionally to reflect the common obstacles in our everyday education contexts, and were supposed to stimulate thinking about the effective use of ICT and resources to overcome these obstacles.


Teams collaborated on their solution and were encouraged to set aside some time during the conference to meet up physically or digitally to review their progress.

On Day 2 of the challenge, teams presented their solutions back to everyone participating and other interested delegates from ACEC14 in a fast-paced style snapshot of their solution. Guest judges formed a panel and scored each solution and presentation with a rubric.



It was a close battle, but congratulations to Team Epicureans on taking out the win!


All of the final projects submitted can be seen here


The Takeaway

Overall, the feedback from participants was very positive. Most seemed to enjoy the level of thinking required to address their challenge and present their solution with familiar and unfamiliar conference delegates. This was not withstanding obvious difficulties in some groups like time constraints or poor communication between team members; both of which are barriers to students that we as teachers deal with in these contexts in our classroom. However, it was encouraging to see that problem or challenge-based learning which we so often promote in our classrooms can have its place in adult learning at the conference level.

How might we amplify disruptive thinking in education to bring about positive change in our community? – A #GTASYD moonshot.

As part of my moonshot from the 2014 Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, I am seeking ways to highlight disruptive thinking and ideas in education.

How did I arrive at this? A striking difference from previous academies was that a Design Thinking process was employed, as a vehicle to generate a problem for solving and creating sustainable change by educators who attend the academy. Attendees were encouraged to think about an area of interest and a “chunky” problem that they wished to solve. These ideas were to be brought to the academy for further investigation.

It was during the immersion phase prior to the academy and within the very early stages of the 1st day that I started to narrow in to an area of interest….that of system reform, hack schooling, or disruption in education from traditional norms and systems.

My overall sentiment on this issue is that often in schools we are bogged down by the day-to-day structures and internal / external forces and influences that dictate the learning for our students. Coupled together with fixed-mindsets, schools can be hard places to change, and at times,  difficult for re-imagination to take place. Whilst there are pockets of innovation happening around the globe, we can’t really say that education has hit it’s mass tipping point as yet.

This was confirmed during the synthesis phase where fellow attendees at the academy were grouped to think critically about their area of interest by using hexagonal thinking. The aim of the exercise was to think of the factors within the issue and consider where the links and connections exist.

Whilst the hexagons can be placed in an almost infinite number of ways, here is just one way of viewing the problem with all signs pointing to “conformity”. (Humorously, the group decided that the the surrounding factors around conformity were too many, so therefore justified the use of a 7-sided shape).


From this phase, we were encouraged to generate a question for inquiry. This was developed around the following structure: How might we (ACTION) (WHAT) for (WHOM) in order to (CHANGE SOMETHING). The question I have developed is:

  “How might we amplify disruptive thinking in education to bring about positive change in our community”


ACTION: Amplify – Encourage, highlight and celebrate were considered but to amplify means to make louder, increase, magnify, intensify, or heighten. I have chosen this word because I believe there are already great things happening in some schools which we should bring to the forefront for everyone to see, and that if we can create stimulus and aim to change mindsets in “laggard” schools then we might just reach a tipping point in education where we can realise a whole vision for the future of education.

WHAT: Disruptive Thinking – includes ideas, systems, process and models which throw away or “hack” the traditional norms of education and are not encumbered by the status-quo.

WHOM: Education – including all stakeholders. Educators, parents, students, systems / bureaucracy.

CHANGE SOMETHING: Positive change in our communities – This idea is two fold. First, that through disruptive thinking we are made aware of the possibilities for improving schools and ultimately students. Secondly, that the impact is not only on students in the present within their school and community, but for life and therefore making an impact on wider communities.

If this moonshot is to be a reality, I believe that we would see an incremental improvement in the conversations that take place around education reform, and the actions that schools take place around the globe to bring positive change in their communities (10x thinking).

I aim to make this moonshot a reality with a two pronged attack.

Firstly, I wish to make an impact within my own school community. I will need to consider the influencing forces in my school setting and the avenues to hack / rethink to improve opportunities for schooling. Having said this, I think my school setting does “buck the trend” from the status-quo in a lot of ways but there are always opportunities for improvement. Moreover, I hope to use these experiences as learning opportunities for myself and our school which can be shared to the wider community.

Secondly, I wish to examine what is happening locally, nationally and globally in education in regards to disruptive ideas. I aim to curate resources which highlight narratives of rethinking education which is not encumbered by traditional norms or influences. I also aim to share and provoke wider professional networks through teacher PD, conferences, and social learning networks.

Last week at the academy I created a Google Form and sent this out to my PLN. The aim of the form was to immerse myself in the problem again, and find out what other educators around the globe think about this issue. I am also using it to connect with people and to find out whether they are willing to help me curate some of the interesting ideas around disruption.

I have already received a number of responses from Australia and the US. If you are interested in helping this cause, I would love a response on the form below:

Please re-share in your communities!

Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014

This week I will be attending the 26th Australian Computers in Education Conference in Adelaide. I will be looking forward to meeting up with members of the ACCELN network and previous members of the ACCE Study Tour. I am also privileged to be presenting two sessions:

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EdTech MasterChef Challenge: ACEC14 Edition

I will be hosting this with fellow 2013 Study Tour colleage Narissa Leung. Narissa and I attended the Iron Chef challenge at ISTE 2013, which was a major highlight for both of us. Kirsta Moroder from the EpicYEN network at ISTE kindly made their resources available and we are pleased to bring a modified version of this challenge to ACEC14. We have a website for the event hosted at

Dare to dream and discover empowerment – a #GTASYD reflection

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney. I had every expectation that the academy would be 2 days of high-energy thinking, mind-stretching paradigms, and dialogically rich conversations with existing and new-found members in my PLN. In this regard, the academy didn’t disappoint. As other’s have already pointedout, this year’s academy and possibly subsequent academies are taking a new direction in the way that attendees are selected, inducted and sent forth from the academy. Under the guidance and incredible facilitation of (NoToshTom Barrett and Hamish Curry, this year’s intake had the prowess and wisdom of previous Certified Teachers from Sydney 2013 as mentors. Attendees were supported by teams and were stepped through a Design Thinking process as a vehicle of empowering attendees to create sustainable change in school communities.

It goes along way to answering the question, “how do you personalise learning for 50 incredibly passionate teachers?”, let alone those who are already “Google Savy”. For me, the process was very suitable for exploring problems in our school communities and seeking the opportunities for positive improvement. It meant that teachers could tailor the two days towards their own visions for education and make something meaningful of it.

// large part of the academy is to bring to fruition a Moonshot, that is, an incredible idea that could make all the difference yet is seemingly impossible.

In the early stages of immersion, themes were collected of all the topics that educators were interested in developing moonshots . Noting these it was interesting that they included common ideas in our professional practise like changing teacher / student mindsets, assessment, personalisation, leadership, learning spaces, pedagogy, curriculum development, change beyond the classroom, and even the notion of hack schooling or complete system rethink. Of all these interrelated issues, a similarity found in all was that they were about forces of change for the better of education.



 My own moonshot that I have developed from the academy is along the lines of hack schooling, system rethink, and disruptive learning…more on those in another blog post!

For me, the Google Teacher Academy was incredibly energising. The most important part was not the fact it took place in a Google office, or  that we used / discussed Google tools, or even technology for that matter. The most important parts were the connections that were made, the challenging conversations that took place, and the energy and belief that gripped each of us in those rooms that we can make a powerful difference within and beyond our school communities.

At the end of the two days we were asked to develop a six-word memoir that encapsulated our feelings at that point. I believe the memoir I developed (Dare to dream and discover empowerment) is a reminder not only for myself, the community of GCTs but all educators…that we have a responsibility to ourselves and to grow the profession together.

Huge props to not only to Google Education Evangelist Suan for the GCT program, but also Chris Harte who has been an inspirational and provocative mentor for Team <x>.

Google Apps for Education Summit Melbourne (2014)

This week the Google Apps for Education Summit rolls around to Melbourne again. All of my resources and presentations for the sessions that I am running can be found below:

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Session description




Unleashing the potential of Google Forms

Session description




Google Classroom 101

Session description



Demo Slam x3 featuring “Google Sticky Notes, Google Cloud Print, and Chrome Remote Desktop







Why schools are going Ga-Ga for Google

This text was originally published in the June 2014 edition of the Australian Educational Leader and has been modified to suit this post.


The power of the web

Figure 1 - 1024px-Google-Apps

If the web brings the opportunity to flatten our classroom walls and expand our horizons, then nothing has quite had the sledge­hammer-like effect on physical and digital barriers like Google Apps for Education.

Google Apps are a suite of productivity tools designed to help students and teachers work together more efficiently and effec­tively. It is a multi-purpose platform with myriad educational and instructional benefits.

At the core, Google Apps includes Gmail (webmail service), Google Drive (online documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings), Google Calendar (web based appoint­ments and organisation) and Google Sites (website creator); not to mention the many additional services like Hangouts, Blogger, Youtube, or Picasa which can be used with Google Apps with seamless integration.

As cloud-based technologies, they are always readily available, backed up, accessible at any time and place, and available to use on any device.

Unlike Google for Work, the Education suite is not only free but cost effective. Google take on the duties of many traditional tasks which IT administrators normally carry out. It means that technical staff avoid the hassle of maintaining file servers to be online, running security updates, or managing li­censes for applications. As a result, many hardware and software maintenance costs are removed, and over the long term, this will provide schools the opportunity to save for other resources.

Google’s foray into Education is enabling a total rethink in the way that teachers and students use technology for learning. Google Apps is an online solution that bridges the divide between learning at home or at school. It offers the opportunity for collaboration to happen in real time, irrespective of physical or digital location. It makes it easy to share with fellow students, teachers, parents and the wid­er community. Teachers can apply the appropriate security and share settings for resources as they see fit, all via one account and one password. Simplicity and flexibility at its best, it is removing obstacles for students, teachers, and even technical departments.

From primary to tertiary institutions, students and teachers are realising the benefits of the Google Apps for Education platform. Google Apps has been growing fast, if not virally over the last few years. There are currently over 30 million students using the service worldwide, and the number continues to grow each day.

Of course, there are the naysayers who at times do have genuine apprehension about ‘Going Google’. For example, some insti­tutions have concern that their organisational data is not hosted on their site or in their locality. There are issues around privacy and data security within the cloud. Google take this very seri­ously and are governed by a stringent privacy policy. They insist that the data is, and always will be, owned by the users within the organisation.

As with every business, Google has to make a profit to survive as a company. Their largest source of revenue is through adver­tising within their products (like Gmail and Youtube). Advertise­ments have always been turned off by default in Google Apps for Education. However this April, Google announced that adver­tisements will no longer be available within in Google Apps at all, nor would it scan emails for the purposes of collecting data for marketing.

Once schools see through these minor considerations, they are able to harness the richness that Google Apps offer. A high quality service, at a cost-effective price, as an easy to use system, with powerful potential. With guaranteed reliability of 99.9% up­time, Google Apps is scaling at an incredible rate.

Each week on Google’s Official Enterprise Blog, stories are emerging of the continued uptake of Google Apps and the way in which they are changing communication and productivity for the better once organisations have ‘Gone Google’.

From connecting 45,000 schools across 7,000 islands in the Philippines, to equipping 4 million students in São Paulo in Bra­zil, Google Apps is bringing new and exciting opportunities to education.

Locally, three of our top-tier universities (Griffith, Macquarie and Monash) joined the hundreds of tertiary institutions world­wide who have embraced Google Apps.

1.2 million students in New South Wales were migrated to Google Apps in 2010. In doing so, they were able to unify stu­dent email to one system and improve communication across campuses.

Schools and education systems around Australia are also investigating similar paths.

As technology is developing at an ever-increasing rate, it has the potential to make communication easier; and lead us to more powerful collaborative and connected experiences. Equipping this generation of learners with modern tools makes sense. This is why many schools are adopting Google Apps for Education, an extraordinary platform for the 21st Century.


Using Google Apps for Education and formative assessments

Our school has been utilising Google Apps for Education for almost two years.

Whilst there have been many benefits for the school on this platform during this time, one of the key ways in which Google Apps has had an impact on student outcomes is through the use of Google Forms for formative assessments. Google Forms can be used to design surveys or web forms to easily collect, analyse and export data.

Figure 2

Figure 2

For several years, the school has employed the use of pre- and post-assessments in mathematics. Formative assessment is used to accurately ascertain the needs of the students before the de­livery of lessons, provide direction for the student and teacher for the next stages of developmental learning, and determine the progression of each student on their own path of learning. (Figure 2)


Recently, in the Year 5 and 6 levels, the teachers began to de­velop their pre- and post-assessments using Google Forms rather than issuing the assessments on paper. Using an existing scope and sequence of curriculum in child-friendly language, they de­veloped questions to map the next stages of learning for their students in a given area of maths.


The Forms are completed online at a given point. Once results are collated, the responses are marked automatically and the test scores are emailed back to the students and teachers. This in­formation is then used for the students to develop an awareness of their understanding of the particular topic, and the teachers are able to formulate groups or stations in which they can pro­vide lessons, scaffolds and activities for the students to undertake learning.


Figure 3 - lesson

Figure 3

In this mode, students are flexible in their groupings and are able to focus on the given areas of the curriculum that they re­quire. Lessons and resources are also posted online so that stu­dents can revise or progress through concepts at their own pace at school and at home (if required). (Figure 3)


At the end of the topic, students take the same assessment as a post-test of their learning. Once again, the students receive their results and take delight in seeing how much they have developed during the given period of time.

The teachers carefully analyse the pre- and post-assessment data and use it to calculate effect sizes. Consistently, they have seen this teaching method achieve an effect size well above 0.4, easily exceeding the effects of a typical teacher and well into the zone of desired effects of highly effective teaching (Hattie, 2009 & 2010). Average effect sizes for cohorts have been observed be­tween 0.5 and 1.2, and students can also be tracked with an indi­vidual effect size. (Figure 4)

Figure 4

Figure 4


Using Forms as formative assessments has brought a lot of benefits for these students and teachers.

• There has been a large saving of paper and printing.

• Students nor teachers have to mark the assessment.

• Students immediately receive an email with their results.

• Teachers are able to track student responses in the assessment, eliminating manual data entry.

• It has assisted in making the process of learning visible to students.

• Time is saved in processing assessments, so that more time can be used for learning.

• Pre and post data is automatically collected and available for determining the effectiveness of the teaching strategies using effect sizes as a measure.


Further reading

Hattie, J (2009). Visible learning. London: Routledge.

Hattie, J (2010). Visible learning for teachers: maximising impact on learning. Routledge.