By Teachers, For Teachers
Google has already made a large impact on education with its Google Apps for Education (GAFE), which includes Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Calendars, and a diverse array of other apps easily utilized by schools.
Now Google is introducing Google Classroom, a technology in the classroom app designed to provide a single dashboard to unify instructors’ use of other Google apps.
Google has announced that as of this week, all GAFE teachers will have immediate access to the Google Classroom. Those who are not GAFE educators can still apply for a preview.
Google Classroom’s purpose is to facilitate paperless communication between teachers and students and streamline educational workflow. Classroom allows teachers to create classes, post assignments, organize folders, and view work in real-time.
One of the best features is that Classroom is fully integrated with all other Google apps, so students and teachers can share information with one another instantaneously instead of having to hop through various hurdles to submit work. This simplifies certain functions in apps, too: For example, Google Docs would no longer require the use of the nefarious “Doctopus” function to create duplicate copies for students.
Students can begin their work with just one click, by viewing the assignment then opening a Google Doc. When they do this, teachers have a real-time view into student progress and can offer feedback along the way. Students each have their own Google Drive folder that allows students and teachers perpetual access to previous work, and educators can even assign grades within Classroom.
In short, Google Classroom offers a one-stop platform for facilitating digital production, workflow, and communication between teachers and students. Like other Google apps, it is available for free to schools, has no ads, and never uses student or teacher content for advertising purposes.
If you’re still largely using paper for materials and assignments, then Google Classroom offers an easy-to-use, entry-level step into making your class more digital. Like many of its products, Google makes every attempt to provide a self-intuitive and user-friendly experience. If you already employ paperless methods for your students, then Classroom will streamline your workflow with its peerless integration with its apps. Now the advantages of all GAFE are easily organized and accessible within one educational framework.
Not only does it help with student organization by putting all assignments and work in one safe place, but it also helps teachers too. Creating, copying, assigning, supervising, collecting, grading, recording, and returning work to students is a process requiring a great deal of time and steps. Google Classroom simplifies these tasks by combining, eliminating, or organizing them. Google Classroom will undoubtedly save time and trouble for teachers grading student work.
Google Classroom is additionally designed for teachers and students to share ideas and resources with one another. Teachers and students can participate in online Classroom discussions, and everyone can post links to informative resources within discussions or other sharing mechanisms. I should note that there is no app for Google Classroom yet. Classroom exists on a website platform, though students using iPads can easily log into Google Classroom and seamlessly pull in their work from other Google apps.
Classroom is not a production tool, but rather a management tool; so it merely requires you and students to learn how to post information and documents and how to locate the information you want on it. If your school is already a GAFE institution, then you already have access to Classroom – you merely need to login in and invite your students to do the same. If your students already have experience using other Google apps, like Docs or Spreadsheets, then they are already set for using Classroom.
With Classroom, Google is entering an already competitive market ripe with effective learning management systems. Where it has the most leverage is in its seamless integration with its own apps. This allows extremely easy access for students and teachers to one another’s work, and reduces many of the steps previously necessary for sharing information. While other systems like Schoology or Edmodo effectively integrate Google apps into their systems, it requires extra steps, which mean extra clicks and extra complications.
Another advantage is that products created with Google apps are designed for sharing, and that sharing may more easily take place in Google Classroom than other more “closed system” management software that allows students to put work it, but not spread it out.
Still, Google’s new Classroom tool is brand new. It may lack some of the perks teachers have come to enjoy with other systems like Schoology, which has consistently expanded its features for the last several years. Other systems allow for teachers to create assessments right in the system itself, or more easily allow the utilization of non-Google tools for communication and resources.
Although Google claims that more than 100,000 teachers from 45 countries have provided feedback since May, Classroom has yet to endure the test of a full school year. It may prove to be the best platform for integrating with Google apps and giving even non-tech savvy teachers a usable entry point for digital education. But it may also lag behind the multi-faceted features other engrained systems have already offered to educators.
Will you use Google Classroom? How so? Share with us in the Comments section!
Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and currently serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.