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Final Design Project Proposal

The Google Learning Management System: A Focus

on Grade 6 Science (Trees and Forests)
Ryan Layton, Mariana Reinoso, Mel Burgess, Dale Pearce & Ryan Dub
ETEC 510 65B/C 2013
Site: https://sites.google.com/site/etec510treesandforests/

Key frameworks

This project focuses on one of the required units in the Grade 6 science
curriculum Trees and Forests. Our objective is to introduce the students to the
Google+ world while applying constructivist strategies, in a blended learning context.
From the Google suite, we integrated into our design Google Sites, Google Search,
Google Drive, Google+ (Communities), YouTube, and Blogger to frame and structure
learning in a collaborative fashion that promotes inquiry and meaningful engagement.

When designing this unit, we mainly considered the ideas of Piaget (individual
engagement), Vygotsky (sense of community), and Scardamalia & Bereiter (collective

Piaget (1978), with his Schema Theory, suggests the need of mental patterns to
guide learning and interpret new experiences or material in relation to existing schemes.
However, for new material to be assimilated, it must first fit an existing scheme.
Therefore, new concepts well anchored by or attached to existing schemata (or
schemes) will be more readily learned and assimilated than new information relating to
less established schemata. In order to achieve this, our design includes examples that
the students can use as a model when completing the assignments.

Vygotsky developed the concept of Zone of Proximal Development; the idea is
that there is a zone for each learner, bounded on one side by the developmental
threshold necessary for learning and on the other side by the upper limit of the learners
current ability to learn the material under consideration. This concept can be reflected in
the interactivities created, where students are required to work together as a group.

Scardamalia & Bereiter distinguish between knowledge building and learning.
Learning is an internal (almost) unobservable process that results in changes in beliefs,
attitudes, or skills. Knowledge building is seen as creating or modifying public
knowledge and lives in the world and is available to be worked on and used by other
learners (people). By using a blended-learning approach we give the students the tools

to discover and build their knowledge with the support from their peers and their

The activities are based on constructivist approaches and their potential for
exciting learning and promoting learners of all levels. Jonassen (1999) considers factors
such as design, real world problems, presentation of the task, the learning environment,
the available resources and the opportunity for collaboration with other learners, and
sometimes experts. In our design project, learners are presented with interesting,
relevant, and meaningful problems to solve. They are provided with a sufficient area to
research, experiment, and pose hypotheses with the problem (Jonassen, 1999). In this
case, some applications of the Google suite are used as a means for the students to
achieve the desired learning outcomes. Successful collaboration and communication
leads to peers being seen as resources rather than combatants (Strommen and Lincoln,

The students will be engaged within the Google suite and through a variety of
Google options. They will explore and advance their knowledge and experience while
meeting the Province of Albertas Grade 6 Trees and Forests learning outcomes
(Alberta Education website). Throughout the project, educational media will be used as
a means to encourage learners to solve practical problems and work in a collaborative
environment. Students can refer to the rubrics included for each module as a means of
verification when doing the activities. The design also considers an evaluation form that
students have to complete at the end of the unit as a means of reflection. Peer and self
assessment is a very important step in the learning process, as it helps to create a
learning community within the classroom.

Other factors, like online security and privacy were also considered. As the
minimum age to open a Google account is 13, the school will organize the accounts on
behalf of the students, after the parents sign a consent form.

We used Robert Gagnes nine events of instruction as a model to design this unit
and included aspects of the constructivist and social learning theories.

Intentions and positions

In preparing this project, the goal was to create an environment that considers
the importance of creating a learner-centred, knowledge-centred, assessment-centred
and community-centred environment while exploring the science concepts of trees and
forests. (Anderson, 2008, p.47-51). The project changed and evolved a number of
times while striving for a balance between these four areas.

In order to fashion a learner-centred (or learning-centred) context, it was
important to first understand where our students were coming from. Comprehending
what students are already bringing into a course allows for correction of misconceptions
and also informs the instructor whether or not the content accurately matches where
students are in their own learning. In order to achieve this, an initial section where
students could share information about previous knowledge was created. As students
share here, connections are being made to the content, but also social connections are

The community-centred aspect was also extremely important as learning is a
social activity. According to Vygotskys sociocultural approach to learning indicates that
near the beginning of any activity, learners will rely on those that are more
knowledgeable. Overtime, as they are able to be accountable and responsible for more
and more of their own learning, students require less dependency on others (John-
Steiner & Mahn, 1996, p.192).

The idea of community was expanded upon in the design project through multiple
strategies. First, students were able to interact on every page of the main project site as
each page contains a section at the bottom allowing for students and teachers to leave
comments on content and assignments. Having this on the main site would allow
students to stay on task and allow for a constantly updating FAQ. Secondly, in many

instances students worked on the same document which encourages collaboration not
only on the content, but also the conversation into its development. Each Google
document allows for synchronous chatting to happen along the right hand side of the
document, while content is being assembled. Thirdly, students were able to access the
Google+ social media community which allows for conversations between students in
regards to the content of some sections of the project, but also socialization outside of
the course. Lastly, students are also given the opportunity to work in the YouTube
environment that allows for interactive multimedia and content creation. As students
create content, they are able to receive feedback from their peers, but also through the
general public.

Student assessment has also held an important role throughout this course
development. Students are assessed in three main ways. Students are provided with
two formative assessments in the form of self-evaluations at the end of each module,
and through feedback received from peers as they work to complete collaborative
projects. The main form of summative assessment occurs as students complete module
based assignments, which are then marked using the rubric provided. This allows
students and teachers to receive feedback, motivates students and allows them to
visualize what is being assessed before they begin their projects (Anderson, 2008,

With the specific knowledge that students will be attaining as they go through this
module, they will be guided to resources that will allow them to increase their own
knowledge, but also give them focus. Students can often feel overwhelmed at the
amount of knowledge that exists. The sites and resources provide, as Vygotsky
mentioned, the opportunity to scaffold from existing schema(s) to what the expected
understanding by the end of the module. Knowledge-centred learning is additionally
increased as students are given opportunities to reflect on what they have been learning
through the different interactivities which are provided.

Numerous experts in the field of education have voiced their support for student-
focused learning, in addition to using instructional design practices to guide learning.
Robert Gagnes Theory of Instructional Design shifted thinking on how students learn.
His idea that individuals learn in a multitude of ways was revolutionary and led to many
others examining and re-thinking the various models of education. Dick and Carey
(1978) presented a model which was an evolution of prior models of instructional
design, such as the ADDIE model introduced by Florida State University. Dick & Careys
Systems Design Model conceptualizes learning as a flow, where context, content,
learning and instruction are interconnected and lead to a desired learning goal. We
believe integrating Google technology within such a model facilitates learning in a way
which is intriguing to learners in the 21st century. In following the footsteps of Piaget,
Vygotsky, and Scardamalia, we strive to create a flow of learning which leads students
from their existing schemas, yet which is sensitive to their culture and allows knowledge
to be built and ideas explored.

Our project fits with the goals of the Alberta Grade 6 Science curriculum,
developing knowledge of trees, forests, as well as human impacts upon the
environment. It also strives to build knowledge (Scardamalia, 1994) while advocating
for flexibility in the expression of learning within concrete learning objectives.

We will be using the tools within the Google software suite to build and
implement our Module. Specifically, we will incorporate Google +, Google Chrome,
Google Sites, Google Communities, Google Drive, and Google as a search engine to
design and offer our learning module. Other applications we will use include YouTube
and Blogger. This technology was specifically chosen for three reasons:
1. We wish to create a user-friendly, collaborative environment in which learning
is student centred.
2. We intend to leverage the power of Google technologies to create an
engaging, open learning space for our students. Given that technology, specifically
online applications, are developing at exponential rates, it is next to impossible for
educators to know of or keep abreast of every development and advancement that can

assist in the meaningful delivery of curriculum. Our intention is to use Google as a
platform, and highlight the educational opportunities that select Google applications
afford, beyond simply being used as a search engine.
3. We wish to demonstrate to our students and our peers the potential benefits of
using free software in an educational setting. These tools can create a wonderful and
powerful environment for student learning while not posing any fiscal threats to schools
and classrooms.

Key concepts and contexts

According to Piaget, the students of a grade 6 classroom would mostly fall into
the Concrete Operational Period of intellectual development. This level is categorized
by an increased understanding of logical and mathematical thinking (Good, Mellon,
Kromhout, 1978, p. 689). Children also experience a shift from egocentrism to altruism.
This shift is very important when considering the use of the Google environment.
Logical thinking is necessary as students will be organizing and sorting information as
they go through the content of this unit. Also, students will be required to communicate
and collaborate using the online tools provided. This idea will only succeed if students
are able to interact in an altruistic manner.

Vygotsky has indicated that communication and collaboration are the essential
tools needed in order to learn. When beginning an activity, learners depend on others
with more experience. Over time they take on increasing responsibility for their own
learning and participation in joint activity (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996, p.192).
Throughout this unit, students will be required to engage in interactivities in order to
increase their own understanding of the concepts covered, and also to increase the
knowledge of the entire group.

Both Piaget and Vygotsky would agree that the ultimate goal of these activities is
individual learning. According to Scardamalia and Bereiter, individual learning should
not necessarily be the goal. They argue that schools focus too much on individual

students abilities, disposition and prospects (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994, p. 268).
Rather activities should focus on advancing and developing the knowledge and ideas of
the group as opposed to individualistic learning and goals.

Within a blended learning context, students will work online and in the classroom.
These blended learning environments allow students to collaborate and support one
another. It is important for instructional activities to provide opportunities to collaborate
with instructors and peers and to engage materials at an emotional level (Lim, Morris,
Kupritz, 2006, p. 35).

Our unit will be presented as a Google site, and students will move through the
unit in a directed manner; working through 4 modules of work. Students will be gradually
introduced and taught how to use a variety of Google software. The strengths of each
piece of software is outlined in Table 1 below:

Table 1. A comparison of Google software and learning.
Software Individual
Constructivist / Group Learning
Google Search Yes - students
navigate to locate
information related
to concepts
Yes - the process of searching by thinking
of keywords helps students make
connections between terminology and
related information
Google Documents Yes - student post
ideas, links,
images, to
represent learning
Yes - students scaffold upon other's
contributions to build a single shared
document of learning; students and
teachers can comment on entries, refining
learning through questioning and
supporting ideas.
Google Presentation Yes - student post Yes - students scaffold upon other's

ideas, links, and
images to
represent learning
contributions to build a class slideshow;
students and teachers can comment on
entries, refining learning through
questioning and supporting ideas.
YouTube Yes - students
develop media-rich
content to
showcase ideas
and learning
Yes - videos are a means of synthesizing
many modes of learning (ie. visual,
kinesthetic, auditory) to represent
learning; students and teachers can post
comments, refining learning through
questioning and supporting ideas.
Google+ and Google
Yes - navigating
the domain of
Google+ and
Yes - content shared through Google+
and Google Communities is collaborative
and centralizes ideas related to a theme;
others are able to comment on posts,
refining learning through questioning and
supporting ideas.
Blogger Yes - students
post individual
thoughts and ideas
or reflections.
Yes - others are able to comment on
posts, refining learning through
questioning and supporting ideas.

As each new Module is introduced, the students will be explicitly shown how to
utilize each piece of software through face-to-face seminars, through the interactivities
within each Module, and through exposure to exemplars created by both students and
teacher. Students who are familiar with the software will have the flexibility to move
through the Modules at an accelerated pace and will be encouraged to share their
knowledge with fellow students and, if willing, placed with students who may need
assistance. Because each Module involves research, development of knowledge of

content, and simultaneously the development of skill using software, students will be
shown how to access and continue working on their projects outside of school time. If
access to technology is limited at the school, then the ease with which students are able
to access and work on projects outside of school time will be crucial.

In addition, each Module will have at least one method of assessment. The
teacher will assess some student work, and students will self-assess and peer-assess
their projects. Several projects will also become part of a shared class community
through Google Community. Through sharing knowledge in public spaces, we hope to
see students taking increased interest in their learning, as their audience will not be
reduced to just their teacher, but instead will include their friends, family, community,
and potentially, the world.


The Trees and Forests Unit has been constructed with a number of interactivities
framed around the research of Piaget, Vygotsky and Scardamalia and Bereiter. Each is
intended to be modelled for the students either in class and/or through the use of
exemplars. In-class discussions and modelling are necessary to assess and ensure
student introduction to and competency with using and navigating the Google
environment. The following interactivities will be used throughout the unit:
Table 2. Trees and Forests Unit: Interactivities
Page Description of Activity(s) Links to
Home Page

* Welcome to students
* Brief intro to the site, the aims of
the unit and general navigation.
and Bereiter
Knowledge * A place for students to share prior Vygotsky,

and Questions knowledge and then ask questions
of content.
and Bereiter





* Google Search & Google Drive

* Google Drive & Google
Presentation Activity

* Field Trip & YouTube Video
Creation Activity

* Google Drive & Google+
Discussion Activity

Blogger Activity



and Bereiter
Assignments * List of assignments for each
Piaget and
Assessments * PDFs of rubrics used to assess
the activities for each module
Piaget and
Trees and
* Terms, definitions and images of
related vocabulary
Piaget and
About Us * Brief intro to the design team N/A


Each educational environment or design needs to be assessed or evaluated for a
number of reasons. Did it clearly meet the needs of students in terms of the overall
goals? Assessment can be quite standardized, subjective or a combination of the two.
Our project utilizes rubrics that provide very clear objectives, but allow for students
differences and choices in terms of the assignments they need to complete. In this
manner, we allow the students to have input in their learning but also make them
accountable for specific knowledges or learning outcomes that Alberta Education
deems necessary.

Any instructional design needs to have methods of measuring success. The
most obvious method in this case is a summative test at the end of the module/course
to measure the students understanding of the basic concepts covered. A summative
test does not measure all that the project is designed for. A key feature of this project
is to create a constructivist learning environment, where students will work together to
build on their own knowledge. Student involvement in the social spaces built into the
course would be an indication of success and high student motivation. Verification
activities will aim to measure both the process of learning (formative) and the product of
learning (summative). Assessment strategies will include authentic tasks, group
assessment tools, and self-assessment tools. With the results from these tools, the
designers will be able to see if the project is working as anticipated and how to improve
on it for future learning.

While part of the verification process may be its presentation to Alberta
Education, the ultimate test will be the classroom. We are hoping that students will be
part of this verification process. This will be accomplished through the completion of a
Course Evaluation rubric at the end of the course.

Reflections and Connections

As a group, we learned the importance of communication. Open communication
is critical in developing a collaborative climate where all members are actively
participating. In our design project, many decisions required all of us to be in
agreement and involved in the process. Early in the design, we had some breakdowns
in communication due to equipment failures and access to Internet services in rural
areas. This caused some confusion for the member affected, but the rest of the group
was able to keep the member involved. Fortunately, all matters were discussed and
responsibilities were assigned and through this, the climate of collaboration grew
stronger. The resulting experience for our group has been educational and growth
building, both personally and professionally.

Timing became another critical element in the collaborative process. It became
clear, that regular correspondence would be necessary to the creative process and
successful completion of this project. We communicated at first through e-mail and
eventually we set up communications using Google Hangouts. This became a very
effective means of communication and allowed us to video conference and record our
meetings allowing for them to be sent to YouTube for access later if required. This
allowed for all to be kept abreast of what was happening if unable to attend the meeting.

This project brought together a dedicated and diverse group of educators that
were committed to the development of a course using the Google suite of technologies.
As a group we learned that there is a fair amount of theory and research involved and it
is not just a matter of having students place their artifacts into an electronic repository.
Using the constructivist theory in general made us realize that students learn in different
ways and that our course needed to address the issues if all students were to
experience success and make the subject matter meaningful.

Mel Burgess

Aside from learning several Google technologies which students can use to
represent knowledge (specifically Google Communities, Google Presentation, Google
Documents), I have learned that being a member of a group has rewards that extend
beyond the building of a project. For the past 4 months, the only face-to-face contact I
have had with any member of the MET community has been with the fabulous members
of my design group. I really feel that these Google Hangouts kept me motivated
towards completing this project. I have deep respect for the members of my group and
this definitely pushed me to bring my best effort forward. Throughout this project, I was
humbled by the skill, experience, ideas, and professionalism of the individuals in my
group. Each member has a very unique skill set which pushed this project in directions
that I could not foresee. At this point I feel that each member brought something
valuable to our design and that this truly was a group effort.
My contributions to this design were: attendance and collaboration at all online
chats, development of Modules 2 and 3 of our Google Site, and construction of much of
the Google Site, including the layout of the site (ie. building links and developing the
page design thereby creating a consistent feel across the site). I worked hard to make
our Google Site as polished as I could in the time allotted. I also revised and rewrote the
Key Concepts and Contexts section (originally crafted by Ryan Layton) of this final
document. I personally feel that I put a great deal of effort into this course and especially
into this design project as I found it very relevant to my own teaching practice and I
enjoyed learning the subtleties of collaborative software made by Google.

Dale Pearce

Every opportunity to work with a new content management system expands the
way I think about organizing and delivering learning materials and facilitating interaction.
I found the entire design project to be a learning journey. I had no idea what it would be
like as this was my first exposure to Google technologies. It was very interesting to see

how different people with different backgrounds/strengths collaborate and work within
different time zones. Overall, designing this project with my colleagues was a highly
rewarding constructivist collaboration. Because we were working with the tool while
reading about design and technology affordances, I have been able to connect the tools
more concretely with the theory. We practiced what we were learning and designing,
collaborating effectively both synchronously and asynchronously. In many ways, it was
the success of this group that enabled me to see how effective a project such as ours
could be. The process of creating this project was truly a group effort, which we
achieved through using technology to support our disparate team. We used Google
Docs, and Google Hangouts to stay connected and build our shared understanding and
expertise. For me, there were the issues of communication because of poor Internet
connections, but once rectified, I was able to participate with the group.

My contributions included attendance and collaboration at the online chats that I
was able to make. When it came to the overall website, I added material to various web
pages and modules to enhance the course material and add to the learning process. I
provided the final comments to the Verifications and Group Reflection portions of this
final report. Overall, I personally feel I made an equal contribution to this project as did
all other members of the group.

Ryan Layton

At the beginning of each group project that I have undergone, I have worries
about communication and collaboration. Our group did not have that problem, mostly
due to the regular contact that was kept through two methods. We did email back and
forth quite a bit, but the majority of our communication happened through Google
Hangouts. This tool has become a very powerful and important tool for me, not only in
this course, but in others. I have enjoyed the ability to take my courses online, but have
missed the in class interactions of my undergrad. This tool has bridged the gap and
engaged me in a meaningful way for me.

It was also nice to share some of my knowledge of the Google environment with
others in the MET program. I found myself mentoring others in the use of the different
Google tools. It also allowed me to approach these tools from an instructional viewpoint.
This will continue to help me as I look to continue to use the Google environment in my
own class and as my school district adopts, little by little, Google as well.

One of the great things that I took away from this project was the thought and
time that needs to go into the planning and production of content systems, whether it be
an LMS, or a simple content library. It is important to understand the key objectives and
outcomes then, as development begins, to return to them and the plans that have been
made. This process was accelerated and facilitated by the way in which the group
collaborated and discussed questions, concerns and comments about what was being

Ryan Dub

My prior expertise with Google was limited to Googles Search, Gmail, Drive and
Calendar applications. These programs were only a taste of the larger community and I
am happy to have had the chance to explore how Google can enhance my teaching,
learning, education and communication and that of my students and colleagues alike.

I was most impressed with the Google Hangouts application in Google+. Not only
did this avenue allow video conferencing but it also enabled screen sharing and video
posting of Hangouts to YouTube. The combination of these services increases
individual engagement, strengthens collaboration and enables easier visual
communication with others. Rather than solely verbal explanations as in video
conference, in Hangouts the speaker can share his/her screen and visually show/model
for others what he/she is explaining. The screen that is shared is accompanied by the
speakers voice-over. Concurrently, questions and answers can be shared by all
participants in the Hangout. As a result, Google Hangouts has advanced beyond the
limitations of video conferencing applications.

Google Sites was also new to me. While I would not recommend it as a place to
start for those interested in creating websites, I would say that those who are familiar
with Weebly, Wikis and other basic website creation software would most likely find
Google Sites worthwhile. Google Sites operates with similar Edit and Save functions
as well as other widgets etc. found on other websites/applications. I think this site could
be overwhelming to a novice and for this reason it would be better suited to those with
previous experience working with other website creation programs.

I am pleased to have worked with a group of professionals who share a passion
for exploring new technologies in an effort to expand their individual and our collective
knowledge as well.

Mariana Reinoso

Working on this design project was a very satisfying and rewarding experience.
While I was already familiar with some basic components of the Google suite, I didn't
know how they worked from a developers (or instructors) point of view. My favorite one
so far is Google Hangout (video conferencing). Although we didnt incorporate this
technology in our final work, it became an essential communication tool throughout the
design project. We organized hangouts on a weekly basis (and even more often
towards the end of the course), to share ideas and make decisions. The Hangout also
has chat functionality and it is possible to share the desktop with the other participants.
This was extremely useful when one of us wanted to make a demonstration of one of
the features. As if this wasnt enough, there was also the option for uploading the
Hangout to Youtube; this way, if a member of our group couldnt attend the virtual
meeting, he/she could still be informed of the discussion and progress. This feature
could be used as a method to generate an archive of the Hangout meetings. The tools
provided by Hangout for face-to face interactions made our sense of team stronger.

For me, it was particularly important to see the theory we have learned
throughout the course reflected and applied in our final project. We played different

roles as students, teachers, and peers at the same time, and we used the same
principle when verifying the content and activities in our Trees and Forests unit. This
has definitely been an enriching learning experience. I personally enjoyed this activity
thanks to the professionalism and respect shown by all members of our group.

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