Google Classroom App for Teachers; A Year Long Review.
Introduction to the Google Classroom App.
Why should you use the Google Classroom app? I keep seeing a string of memes on Instagram with a quote from Ignacio Estrada; “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
Students of today operate in a totally different environment to when we were at school. A digital environment. We complain that they are constantly glued to their screens (despite most of us doing exactly the same!) so why don’t we use this to our advantage?
This year in my school we have exclusively been using the Google Classroom app for all home learning (and for a host of other tasks; explained in the “Extra benefits” section of this post) and it has been a revelation. It’s not been an easy switch but on the whole it has been a very positive project.
In this post I will be reviewing the key benefits I have found from using the Google Classroom App for an entire school year. I won’t teach you how to set it up but I have included a great video I found on YouTube below to help you if you decide to give it a go.
I know there are lots of other websites that offer home learning management but I really think that the Google Classroom app, linked with Google Drive, Gmail and Google Calendar offers massive advantages over anything I have seen.
Google Classroom overview.
On the Google Classroom app you have all of your classes set up with your students and their school email addresses. Upon setting an assignment students get a notification email (parents email addresses can also be added so they get notification too). Students complete the work either through the Google Classroom website or on a phone/tablet using the Google Classroom app.
Within a class assignments are arranged in a stream much like how most social media sites work. All assignments stay on the stream and can’t be deleted. They show who has completed the task and who hasn’t.
Engagement through student/teacher interaction.
When a student logs in to complete an assignment they can post a class comment which all other class members and the teachers assigned to that class get a notification of (through email and app notification) to which a teacher can respond.
This can be hugely beneficial to the teacher as they can answer a question or challenge a misconception to the whole class. A student can also send a direct message to the teacher if they would prefer ask a question without the prying eyes of their class mates; after all the same social issues are apparent in the digital world as in the classroom (How many times have you had to deal with social media conflicts between students?). All correspondence, whether it be class comment or direct message are safely contained within the Google Classroom servers.
These functions allowed us to close feedback loops very quickly and easily, with the app on my phone I was able to respond while on the train, watching TV or while in the pub just as easily as chatting to my friends over social media.
Engagement through student/student interaction.
Initially, there was a fair amount of silliness using the class comment function, there was all the usual social media style chatter. This stopped fairly suddenly when they realised their teachers could read and respond to their comments!
However, A slightly surprising benefit of the class comment function mentioned above started to happen once the students bought into using Google Classroom. They started answering each other’s questions. I’m not going to lie, not all classes did this but the ones that did really flourished. Now and again I had to jump in and correct a few questions but for the most part, they were actually teaching each other! Maximum engagement!!
As mentioned above you can link parents email addresses to their child within the Google Classroom app, this enables the parents to be actively involved in tracking the home learning of their child. Parents cannot see or interact with the class comments, they merely get an email notification that their child has a home learning assignment but as we all know, getting parental buy-in is essential to ensure students progress and achieve as much as the can.
We found that once students were shown the possibilities of how they could complete assignments they engaged more. For each assignment, we supplied a Google doc pro forma they could easily type their responses on. When a student opens an assignment they can click a drop-down box and open a Google doc, Google sheet or Google slide (Google’s version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint) to use to complete their work in any way they feel works best for them. They can also upload a picture straight from their device which is excellent if you set something creative like a poster as an assignment. This immediately saves to both their assignment and their Google Drive. As all Google applications autosave as they are working there is no issue with students losing their work….gone are the days of “the dog ate my homework”!
During our use of the Google Classroom app we have found several other benefits that were not immediately apparent when we started using it. We have been using it as a centralised place for booking parent-teacher consultation evening appointments. All teachers are part of a Google Classroom and like when students are set an assignment, we are set one that consists of an appointment sheet. We book appointments with our students on this form and school admin automatically know when our appointments are. This makes the whole evening much more organised and runs smoother.
Staff appraisals are also run on the Google Classroom app. Again, all teachers are part of an appraisal classroom and are set at the beginning of the year a pro forma to record our evidence. Using the docs/sheets/slides drop down box is an easy way to keep all evidence centralised; I’m not chasing random bits of paper that I’ve put in a “safe place”!
We also have classrooms set up for specific groups e.g. grade/year teams or subject teams. It really makes communication much easier.
I have been terrible at keeping up with my grading in past years (mainly due to procrastination; see the link at the bottom of this post), however this year I have been using the Google Classroom app on my phone for most communication and a larger percentage of the grading of assignments. I can do these tasks on the fly, I don’t have to get books and my laptop out, sit down away from distractions and do it begrudgingly. I have been regularly grading while in a queue at the shops or while cooking. This year I have been keeping up with my grading, this has left my head of faculty stunned!
Google Drive, Gmail and Google calendar integration.
With just one email address and one password students (and teachers) can log into all Google apps. All assignments appear on a students Google Calendar and all work is auto-saved in folders on Google drive that are automatically set up when you set up a classroom. With all notifications going through Gmail the whole suite of applications work seamlessly together. It makes life much easier and really reduces work load for students and teachers.
As with any new system, there are barriers to overcome. Some of which that I have observed are as follows:
- Teachers. Some colleagues have been less enthused; either they are older and find this “digital stuff” difficult to get used to or they are stuck in their ways and don’t want to try anything new. In my opinion there will always be these kinds of teachers (we all know one or two) and they will resist any change you bring in. This is an issue for senior leaders to deal with and us early adopters to help them with.
- Parents. in the same way that some teachers have resisted Goggle Classroom, some parents have been less enamoured with it to start with; “It’s not the way we did homework” was a common them of complaints. I invited those parents in to school to do a masterclass with me. I showed them the features and the benefits and over time, most saw the benefits to their child’s education.
- Students not having internet connection at home. This issue needed to be dealt with sensitively; it was often linked with financial issues in a child’s home. We handled this in a number of ways. We set up a home learning lunchtime club to allow students who didn’t have access at home (or those who wanted help) to come along and get the assignments done, this also had the benefit of students having access to the subject teacher during these sessions. For a small number of students we allowed them to complete the homework on paper but we kept this option only for students who really needed it as it is school policy to do home learning on Google Classroom.
I think you can probably tell that I am a big fan of the Google Classroom app by now and it won’t shock you that I would give it an A-grade 9.5/10. It has made my job easier and has really got some great engagement from the students. To me, these benefits surely eclipse all potential barriers.
I urge you to give it a go. Maybe just try it with one class for a while or if you are a Senior leader or faculty head research it a bit more or comment below if you have any questions then bring it in to your school. Trust me, like Science….it works!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Google Classroom and I’m happy to answer any further questions you have. Comment below and I’ll be happy to help where I can. Please also share this post on your social media.
Thanks for your time,
Get more help with Google Classroom >>> Google Classroom Help
You can find more videos by Technology for Teachers and Students on the link below.