This is our sixth Guest Post related to the impact of school and university closings that are catapulting schools into distance teaching on the fly!
Guest Post from Fairchild
My name is Kevin Fairchild, and I am an Instructional Technology Coordinator for a public K-12 district in California.
Watergirl asked me to write a bit about Google Classroom. I’ve been using G Suite tools for a decade now, and teaching teachers how to use them for 9 years, some as a Teacher on Special Assignment, and now as Instructional Technology Coordinator for a public K-12 district in California.
Google Classroom is an increasing popular tool for teachers in K-12 schools. This is partly because of its minimalistic design and ease of use, but also because it’s included at no cost if the school or district uses the rest of G Suite (Gmail, Google Drive, Calendar, Meet, etc.). Google Drive was designed for businesses, not schools. It works best when a few people are sharing files with a few others. For a high school teacher trying to share documents with 150 students, Drive is impractical. Hence the development of Google Classroom.
Classroom began with a very sparse feature set, but has grown over the last few years to be a nearly complete Learning Management System. Originally, Classroom was little more than a management system for Drive, making it easy for teachers to share files with students and receive work back in return. They have since added a gradebook, co-teachers, conversation forums, organization tools, quizzes, grading rubrics, plagiarism checking, and integration with other systems.
A typical workflow goes something like this. A teacher can create a classroom, and is given a “join code” that they can give to students. Students sign in, enter the code, and they’re in the class. The teacher can then create an assignment, with as many file attachments or links as necessary. Classroom can then create a copy of each document for each student, so they are working on their own, and each student’s document is automatically named for them. (No more receiving 150 emails with files all titled “My Paper”.) Students do whatever work they need to do, using whichever Google App, and click “Turn In” at the top of the page. The teacher can then grade, comment, and return the work. There are other options, but this is the prototype.
In my district, we have been teaching Google Classroom to teachers for five years. We’ve seen the most uptake at the elementary grades. Our secondary teachers tend to prefer using our full-scale LMS, with its additional features, and additional learning curve. But as Google has added feature after feature to Classroom over the years, we have seen much more usage at all grade levels.
Teachers who have been using Classroom already are well prepared for our sudden-onset distance learning. In the past few days, I’ve been working (remotely) with dozens of other teachers who want to get started using Classroom and other Google tools. There are some excellent videos and tutorials out there for learning how to use Classroom, but always be sure to look at how old the resource is. Even when they’re not adding features, Google loves to redesign and move buttons around, so anything older than a year or so is just as likely to confuse a novice user as to help them.
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