Google Search Training

It’s not much time to give up – half an hour. But in that time at Paganel we have just honed up our search skills not only to save us hours of time planning and preparing lessons, but also to improve the quality of what we teach.


This is what the staff meeting looked like:


Here’s some places to go for safe searches:
 – a website with vetted pages.
On Google, remember to use:
  • Wonderwheel
  • Timeline
  • Picture filters
  • Custom Search
Here’s one of my custom searches: Paganel Space Search


Short and simple.


The first few links to Sweetsearch and IPL are links to vetted searches – ace for primary schools where an un-monitored Google search can lead to unmitigated disaster, or at least embarrassing conversations with parents and/or senior managers, even if the safesearch is set to strict. The image search for ‘copyright free’ images is an interesting one for us. In the past we’ve not considered this very much and have used pictures willy-nilly whatever their copyright might say. Now, as educated, law-abiding members of the 21st Century, Paganel staff will only use images that are copyright free.


The second section – guidance on wonderwheel and timeline – should help staff get to the information they need quickly when preparing lessons. And the fact that you can search for images down to wanting a red line-drawing of a pirate is quite remarkable.


Finally we finished the meeting by looking at a Google Custom Search that I had made – ‘Paganel Space Search’ (above). I had used sites found at the IPL (also found above). Each member of staff had to then make their own custom search for a forthcoming topic (which range from Rainforests to the Victorians).


As members of the 21st Century we have to teach our children to use search safely and efficiently to find the information they need. Teachers need to be able to search for information quickly and also teach how to use search within the curriculum.


Which is why I concluded the meeting by showing the staff the Interesting Ways series for the first time. The Interesting Ways on Search was particularly interesting.

First reflections on the impact of calendar training


Today I gave some training on using Google Calendars.


The training had two useful outcomes:
  1. It showed how useful online Calendars are and everybody grasped the basics of how to add events.
  2. It got everyone together in the same room to sort out some important rotas for the year.
I began planning the training back on August 25th when I wrote this blog post about my ideas for this training. Soon after I hit a snag with my decision making, when I’d been trying to kill too many ICT birds with one stone – I had ended up taking one step forward for every two steps back. I then decided to use videos as my main vehicle for the instruction. I even included a second video to really go over how to create repeated events, in case staff didn’t quite get it. I used Google Sites as the repository for the training:
What was really interesting was the the whole ‘I’m not going to talk approach’. I’m so used to presenting with
  • a little preamble,
  • a spot of humour,
  • some theory,
  • practical application,

that it was really weird just letting my video do the talking – we didn’t even watch the video as a group (which would have been a bit embarrassing).


Rather each teacher had headphones and watched it individually – there was an eerie silence around the place. Then, as people started to get it there was a slow murmur as people sitting near to each other explained or clarified their thinking about the task in hand or the instructions. Then the volume grew as the first events started appearing on the calendar and some people started to realise that they may miss all the best slots. This point was perhaps the most tense – a slight tone of anxiety creeping into the odd voice here and there. But finally everyone realised that we’re all colleagues still and began talking constructively about what slots to fill in. Within half an hour the training was finished, the calendars were done and staff were on there way to do stuff elsewhere.


What’s good for the staff now is that they all have a common framework and understanding of how Google Calendars work, with an expectation of being able to use them productively in the future. What’s good for me is that I’ve got the bulk of the rotas sorted without having to traipse around the school.

Divergent decisions


Sometimes the ideal way forward isn’t the most time appropriate.


I realised this morning that the best way of enabling my staff to collaborate on Google Calenders to set up the school rotas for the year would be to set up a Google Apps for Education account and do it within there. Then I could have each individual user logging into the school calendars and updating them together in the same session. The steps that led to that realisation included setting up the current school calendars to be shared with the e-mail accounts of each of the staff members (that’s the screenshot above). But unfortunately that would include setting up each of those e-mail accounts with an iGoogle account, which is time-consuming and pointless because most staff wouldn’t log on to iGoogle if they’re not already in the habit of using it. Hence I needed a Google Apps for Education account to tie it altogether. And of course that takes a few weeks to set up, because Google have to check that you’re actually an education establishment and not a company looking for a free-ride.


A few week that I didn’t have.


And three hours that I’d spent effectively wasting my time.


Each decision I’d made had led to at least two problems needing to be answered. Two more decision to be made. It was a network of ever-increasing complexity that, if I’d have the time, might have worked well, but the thing is that this particular opportunity will have lots its effectiveness if I don’t have it ready by Wednesday 1st September. I needed to get something sorted.


So I took a step back and looked at the best way to make my choices converge to a solution that would work. The ideal solution would have had staff working collaboratively to create the rotas in a way that will be continued throughout the year. The time appropriate solution is to cut-out the ideal methods of collaboration and just get the rotas done.


So I now have two gmail accounts – one called and the other The first holds the calendars, the second is what all the teachers will log on with to adjust the calenders. It’s not ideal because I’d prefer each teacher to log on with their own account – but as I’ve explained that isn’t possible yet. Maybe later on the year, I’ll be able to tie these things together with a Google Apps for Education solution and get closer to my ideal solution.


Next I will post the video I made to explain to the teachers how to add things to Google Calendar.
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