Google Classroom Makes a Debut

Google_Classroom_Logo

I had my first real chance to play with Google Classroom and my first impressions have been very positive. It is a very simple interface and it will ease document management for both teachers and students.

What I like about Google Classroom:

  • Automatically makes a classroom folder in my Drive that contains a folder for each course. Inside each course folder, I can create assignments and store docs that I will be able to use year after year.
  • Automatically creates a folder to store a class assignment. Each new assignment gets a new folder within the class folder. When students make a copy of the doc for their work, it adds it in my assignment folder and automatically puts their name after the title.
  • The conversation stream for the whole class and on individual assignments is a great way to stay connected with students. It is a simple, yet effective, social media element.
  • In the Student view, you can see all your upcoming and overdue assignments on one page (might cause anxiety issues for some students).
  • Exporting assignment marks as CSV files could make for easy input in to student information systems.
  • The classroom code that students can use to enter themselves into a classroom is very slick. This code can be changed so that you can lock it down after the class has started if you don’t want people from outside the class getting in.
  • Tracks who has (and has not) turned in an assignment. It is also easy to send an email reminder to students.

Initial Thoughts

I also have a few things I would like to see changed, but as this is the early stages of Google Classroom, I am sure there will be lots of updates over the next few months and years. One such issue is the “turn in” button. In its current form, students are unable to edit something after they click the “turn it” in button, and the teacher has suggestions/commenting rights. It would be great to be able to toggle that on and off. If I could control the “editability” of the assignment,  I could turn on the “no more editing” feature if it was a summative assessment, or turn it off if I have a formative assessment and would like to provide feedback while they work.

One suggestion I would like to try is integrating an ePortfolio into the file structure Google Classroom automatically creates for the students. In their Classroom folder, students could make an ePortfolio folder that is shared with their parents/guardians and anyone else they choose. Students can move completed assignments to this folder and organize it in such a way that it becomes the archive of their best work over their school career.

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I am not an assessment guru, but any suggestions on how to make this an authentic ePortfolio would be appreciated.

A “classroom” doesn’t necessarily need to be for one course. It could be used for differentiation within a class (groups of students each assigned to a “classroom”). It could also be used for professional learning groups. And with a little more thought, I am sure I could come up with a way to use it as a project management tool for project-based learning and District level administrative projects. Lots of possibility here.

For more info, check out the following links:

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A Google Drive Tip for Starting the School Year

There are as many ways to organize your Google Docs for you classroom as there are teaching styles. As you think about how you are setting up your classes this year, be sure you find a system that works for you and your students, both organizationally and pedagogically. Here is one way that I have used with my class. Feel free add how you organize Google Doc for you class in the comments below.

The first time you use Google Apps for Education with your students, have each student create a folder and then share that folder with you. It is best to have a format for the title that they all use -[UserName] [CourseName] for example (a.trang15 Soc30-1a).

Student Folders 1

Make a class folder in My Drive. Then, go to “Share with me” in Drive, select all the subject folders created by your students and drag them into your class folder. When a student makes a file and puts it in their subject folder, it will automatically be shared with you.

Student Folders 2

Tips to make this work for you:

  • The first action of any assignment using Google Apps should be “Put the assignment  in your subject folder.” This way, students have handed in the assignment before they even begin, which is great for Assessment for Learning and tracking/organization.
  • Use the Drive App on your phone or tablet and as you walk around the class, look through their subject folder to ensure they have added the file properly.
  • Use the user IDs to quickly create contact lists or groups. This is best done with dual monitors, where one monitor has Drive open to your class folder and the other monitor has Gmail Contacts open.
  • At the end of the year, delete the Class folder. All the student sub-folders and files will still be in your archives, but not in in your Drive list. You can still find them by searching for the doc or file.

Edmonton Public Goes Google

It’s official! Edmonton Public Schools is dropping Outlook and migrating to Gmail.

This migration is bigger than just email. Currently, teachers who have been taking advantage of the Google Apps for Education have had to live in two worlds. By moving to Gmail, all those apps will be at our fingertips, easier to access and easier to use. It is hard to imagine or predict all the externalities (unintended consequeses, both positive and negative) that will occur from the transition.

Not everyone is happy with the move. One observation is that those who are unhappy about the change are typically people whose work flow is governed by Outlook. Generally, this is refering to the adminstrative branches of the District. Most teachers do not use email to guide thier work and routines, and only use the calendars to book rooms/equipement. For them, the change over should be relatively smooth. However, the adminsitrative positions that rely on Outlook to organize tasks and communicate through email and calendars may find the change a little daunting.

Its not easy getting a District of 8,000 or so employees to willingly and smoothly adopt a new email system, particularly when we have had the old one for as long as most can remember. However, Terry Korte and the TIPS team have created a Going Google Site with manuals, FAQ, professional learning oppotunies and videos to help people through the transition. They are also organizing Google Guides, teachers and/or admin based at each school who will act as a resource person for the staff. These Guides will be the first people in the District to be migrated to gmail so that they can help the rest of thier staff during the “Go Live” phase in May, 2013.

Google has created a great document and video called Life After Outlook that shows where the things you did in Outlook are located in Gmail and may aliviate some fears. The document is from 2011, so it is missing some of the locations of the new formatting, but most of it is pretty much the same. If anyone finds an updated version or something similar and newer, please post it in the comments below.

This is a big step for Edmonton Public Schools. Along with the recent proliferation of Chromebooks in the district, and the number of students who already use Google Apps for Education fluently, this could potentially lead to a big step forward in increasing tech use in the classroom.

Next step? Increase bandwidth 🙂