It looks like word finally broke on Twitter yesterday about a project I’ve been working on for about 5 or 6 weeks at my school. It started as a “I wonder what would happen if….” project and has turned into a pretty awe inspiring, self-motivated, get-out-of-their-way, dare I say fun project.
When I was going through the process of becoming a Google Apps Certified Trainer I was taking the required tests on all the Google Apps. The tests run on Google’s own system and once you press start you have 90 minutes to finish. Google also gives you all the training materials which are public and anyone can learn from. So I did what any cheating student would do. I started the test in one browser and then opened up the training materials in another browser. When I came to a question I didn’t know the answer to I would quickly search for and find it in the training manuals. Basically an open book test.
As I continued taking the tests I kept asking myself “What is Google after here?” and then it hit me.
It’s about searching and finding information
A big smile came across my face when I realized I had been beat at my own game. I’m constantly preaching that filtering and searching are skills that EVERYONE needs to master in today’s information abundant world and here’s Google putting it into practice.
It makes perfect sense! Google Apps change so rapidly that really the right answer today might not be the right answer tomorrow. So the ability to search and find the right answer is what they are testing. I, as a technology coach/integrater/coordinator (whatever your special name is for the job), do this same thing everyday. People ask me how to do things, I look up the answer. So a big part of being in this role is knowing how to find information when you need it.
I then thought what a great way to build a tech team at our school. To find the kids that are geeky/eager enough to go and find the answers they don’t know on their own.
So I set out to create the ISB Google Apps Ninja Training Center. Here’s the idea:
- Students take a test of 10 questions needing to get 80% of better to “earn” their Ninja Belt
- Once they get 80% or better on the first test they progress through the Ninja Belts until they reach Ninja Master
- White Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, Ninja Master – Total 40 questions
- Each time a student earns a belt I will send them a widget of that belt they can put on their blog
- Each time a student earns a belt they can come get a button from me to wear around school
- Once a student has become a Ninja Master in all 5 areas I’ll give them a shirt hence making them an official student tech team member
- If students don’t get 80% or better they can simply study and retake the test as many times as they would like.
Next I started creating the tests in Google Forms and embedding them into the site. Once students have taken the test I install the Flubaroo script which grades the tests for me and e-mails the students their scores. Next those students who earned 80% of better get added to a sheet that is displayed on the front of the site so they know and others know who’s taking the tests and where they are in their Ninja training.
Now….how to get this out to kids? We don’t have tech classes, this isn’t a school initiative, there is no buy-in from teachers or admin. This is me….doing what I always do…creating stuff and figuring out the details later and ask for permission last.
Every middle school and high school student goes to our Moodle at some point in the day so why not start there? I put a message on the front page of our Moodle site that simply read “Do you want to become a Google Apps Ninja?”
That was 5 weeks ago and needless to say I can’t keep up creating and grading the tests. We’ve had 125 students attempt the tests at this point which blew my mind. Then I shared the site at a staff meeting and next thing I know I have teachers taking the tests. We started running parent trainings a couple weeks ago and now parents are taking the tests.
Parents and teachers are motivated to learn because they want the skills…I get that. But what about students? Why are students taking their free time to take a test? Really…is the little widget on your blog that cool? Our the little button you get to wear around school? So I asked a couple kids why they were taking the tests.
“It’s kind of fun.”
What? Taking a test is fun? Since when? So I asked them how they take the test. Love this student’s response:
“I take the test the first time without looking at the study materials just to see what I know. Then if I don’t pass, the e-mail tells me which questions I got wrong so I can go find the answer or play around with my calendar until I figure it out.”
Or how about this kid:
“I watch a couple of the Youtube videos, maybe 5 to 10 minutes worth and then take the test. It’s pretty easy.”
Let’s see here…they have complete autonomy over how they learn and the timeline to complete it. They have a purpose to learn something new and they can work towards mastery.
Released under Creative Commons 3.0 License
Now comes the good news. I am releasing all the work (most importantly the tests) under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License so that any school can take them and use them with their own students and staff.
All I ask in return is that you share with the community and help keep all the tests updated….actually that’s the hard part. As Google Apps changes keeping the tests updated will become important and I need/want all the help I can get. I need a community!
I have everything you need to get started in a collection in Google Docs please fill out this form and I’ll add you to the growing list of educators helping out and using the tests with their own students and faculty.
Images: I contacted Google about using the Ninja images. Google’s response was that they own the images and that they could be used as part of Google Apps Training but that they hold the copyright to the images. SWEET!
Features Image: By brunkfordbraun