Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Google Tools for ESPs

 Today is Education Support Professionals Day and I want to give a shout out to the awesome ESPs that I worked with during our Election Day Inservice.  My school district is a Google Apps for Education district and teachers have participated in some professional development to learn that platform.  Our secretaries, though, had not received any training, so we spent Election Day on just that.

I will admit that I went into the day feeling a little nervous.  I have done several teacher inservice days on GAfE, but never any for ESPs and I know they know how to do things that I don't.  Plus, a couple of the secretaries in my building stopped me in the hall when they heard I was leading the training.  They explained that many of the inservices they had attended were not worthwhile - that sometimes they felt lost or the material was irrelevant or the demonstrations were ok, but there was no time to practice.  Armed with this information, I tried to craft a day that would be none of those things.

My nervousness was for nothing because it was such a fun day!  I can't remember a time when I worked with a roomful of people so willing to try anything and so eager to learn and share with each other.  They were learning on Chromebooks, which most of them had never used before that day, and I thought this might be an obstacle.  Wrong again!  With lots of other professionals, if you asked them to learn a new type of technology on a device they had never seen, there would be instant shut down.  Not these ladies - they were plucky and bold and adventurous.  

We started with basics of Chrome (they loved the extensions!) and then Google Drive.  We worked our way through Docs, Sheets, Forms, and Calendar, looking at some basic features first and then spent time exploring and experimenting.  Addons were a big hit -- HelloFax, Autocrat, Yet Another Mail Merge, and FormLimiter were all very popular.  Autocrat and Yet Another Mail Merge had both been on my to-learn list and they were both very easy and very cool.  With Autocrat I quickly whipped up some personalized certificates.  When you open it, it walks you step-by-step through the process of merging data with a file.  Yet Another Mail Merge allows you to send personalized email messages from a template.  Again, very easy!

When we say "Google Apps for Education," I think we typically think of what happens in a classroom, but so much important stuff in a school originates in the school office.  Teachers often receive PD, but my experience showed that ESPs are eager to learn and apply their excellent skills with these tools.  Collaborations with these valuable members of our team are vital to student success.  If you are in a GAfE school, consider asking your ESPs if they would be interested in a workshop.  I know I will jump at the chance to work with this group again.  It was such a great day!

Hats off to ESPs today.  I hope you all have a great day today.

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