Sunday, December 4, 2016

12/4: Tech Eval. #8: Google Classroom

The Google Help definition of Google classroom is as follows: “Classroom is a free web-based platform that integrates your G Suite for Education account with all your G Suite services, including Google Docs, Gmail, and Google Calendar. Classroom saves time and paper, and makes it easy to create classes, distribute assignments, communicate, and stay organized.”

Cost: free.

Three years ago, the Freshman Team had just started its first year teaching PBE classes for the incoming ninth grade. In October, we were told to adopt Google classroom as our communication and classroom platform--”everyone” was going to use it. After a few crazy weeks, my co-teacher and I had our classes using it, and we have used it since them, to the point where we run a nearly paperless classroom. However, not all our colleagues use it--the math department in particular does not, so its function as a common platform for communication is in question, as is GC’s functionality for math-based work. GC works well for us, though, and this year, we have used the newly developed calendar interface and have also utilized the “invite parents” option to enable better, smoother, easier communication with our ninth graders’ parents and support staff.

Google Classroom has a lot of benefits: it provides a hosting site for assessments, an option to share grades/scores, a way to provide student feedback, a record of past tasks and individual students’ accomplishments--in short, it is the classroom around which our assessments and student work centers. It provides both general, classwide communication options as well as private contact and conversation with individual students, and, as of this past August, it allows parents some access to the classroom and some awareness of what work their student has not yet completed.

Drawbacks are that the teacher view and student view are different enough that my most distracted students can struggle to find key assessments,  and even I can “lose” a post when I’m working with a student on his/her laptop. In addition, although a “reuse post” has been added in the past six months, it is still impossible to add a “make a copy for each student” option to an existing post; you have to delete the post then re-attach all the tasks in order to get that individual option after posting. Once again, that is hugely frustrating.

In addition, anything I score or share on GC has to be recorded in a standards-recording program (like MasteryConnect) and/or a gradebook (like MasteryConnect or Powerteacher). It is not yet a gradebook or a platform for sharing students’ progress towards mastery per se. As far as I know (and it’s easy to miss new events in GC because of its sheer size!), Classroom has no pretensions towards that function, but it’s worth noting that it is not the end of the “reporting line,” so to speak.

Harnessing the power of Google as a whole (google docs, drive, add-ons, GAFE. . . . you name it), Google Classroom is a constantly-evolving powerhouse. As our students become more used to its occasional glitches, and as its engineers work to improve it, Google Classroom gets closer and closer to excellence.

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