The Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Google Classroom
Ok, so I’m not alone in my fascination with Google Classroom, I know, but I’ve been thinking a little bit about why I love Google Classroom so much lately. Perhaps it stems from a conversation that I has this week with three representatives from Edmodo who asked me, as the district Edmodo admin what they could do to increase Edmodo use in our district. I was unable to give them an answer. Frankly, I stopped encouraging use of Edmodo with our 18k teachers three years ago when we, finally, decided to go Google as a district.
Anyhow, in the last few days I put together this list of the top ten reasons for my enthusiasm for Google Classroom – and these are in no particular order, mind you – I’m not Letterman. Let me know what you think.
10. Ease of adding students
No, this isn't unique to Google Classroom, but in just a couple of minutes, you can have your entire class up and running in Google Classroom by simply projecting the six-character invite code up onto the screen for students to enter and be a part of your class... how easy is that?
9 - Ease of adding parents and communicating with them
Where parent communication is concerned, Classroom is a great tool that provides a daily summary for parents via email, or you can email all or specific parents with information that you need to pass on. All you need is the email address for each parent, then you can invite them right from Classroom itself. Super easy way to improve your communication with the parents so that they always stay informed.
8 - Student Discussions
Have you ever noticed that, in your brick-and-mortar classroom, it can be really difficult to get some students to participate in classroom discussions, while other students relish the limelight and want to insert their opinion constantly and even take over the discussion? I have found that digital discussions are a great way to give a voice to those reticent students who are more comfortable sitting quietly and unobtrusively at their desks. For many of these students, and I am speaking from my experience as a student, they lack the confidence to articulate their thoughts and feel the need to compose what it is they would like to say rather than blurt it out in front of an audience that they fear will not understand them. What a great tool we have in being able to pose a question for classroom discussions where students can compose their answers and even edit them after they are posted. To further the "discussion," you can turn on or off their ability to respond to the posts of other students, allowing for true digital dialogue that will, I believe, surprise you when you see the depth of thought that some of your students are able to express, whereas they previously sat mute, content to let others take center stage. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
7 - To Do List
While this seems super-simple, the to do list in the menu is a great way for students to keep organized, listing all of the upcoming assignments for their classes in one spot so that they can easily keep track of what is upcoming and outstanding. Sometimes it is just the little things that help the magic!
6 - Student Polls
The question feature in Google Classroom presents a great way to poll students to check for previous learning, ascertain comprehension of learning, or discover their opinions on a given topic. Obviously, the ability to use this as a formative assessment tool is powerful. I especially appreciate the ability to poll students, allowing them to see the responses after taking the poll themselves. When you then use their responses to guide instruction, giving them an added element of choice, it increases the level of authenticity and buy-in for the students.
5 - Reuse a Post
You have an assignment, question, or announcement that you've used in a previous year or class, and you want to use it again. With this feature, you don't have to worry about trying to re-create it; instead, simply reuse the post/assignment, make any tweaks that might be necessary, and voila - magic! Gotta love how much time this feature saves!
4 -Natural Integrations with YouTube, Drive, and Calendar
Of course, Classroom naturally integrates with other Google Apps, and that is part of the beauty of it. It is so easy to pull any files that you have in Drive into Classroom to share with students or use as part of assignments. I love how simple it is to assign YouTube videos, and assignments that you create automatically appear on the Classroom calendar and onto the calendars of every student in the class.
3 - Make a Copy for Each Student
All right, you've created a great template, which you've stored in your Google Drive, that you want students to be able to work in. However, you don't want students all working in the same file, for obvious reasons. (If you haven't experienced this phenomenon, you should... it's a blast for about 90 seconds but certainly not an effective way for students to demonstrate their learning!) On the other hand, you don't want to manually create a copy of the template for each student (my largest student load ever was 270 students, I kid you not, in High School English). Google has made the solution so easy! All you have to do is change "Students can view file" to "Make a copy for each student" and assign it. They each get their own version of the template - and it only took you two extra clicks of the mouse. Easy!
2 - Scheduling Assignments
This is really about productivity, but to me is uber important. I am that super-nerdy, OCD teacher who, on the first day of the quarter, assigns all of the work for the quarter to the students. (Yes, I really do that.) Google allows me to put that organization into Classroom as well!
Instead of clicking on "ask/assign/post" for your questions, assignments, and announcements, you can click on the dropdown arrow to the right and schedule it for the specific time that you want students to first be able to see it. Why do I find this helpful? You are not inundating students with assignments before they need to see them, which can sometimes result in items being overlooked or lost. You also don't have to be "on it" every minute of every day to manually post for each class at exactly the right time and not a moment sooner! Again, a super-cool feature that I love about Google Classroom!
1 - Differentiating Instruction
Ok, so this really is, without a doubt, the number one reason why I love Google Classroom. As a high school English teacher, with up to 270 students in my classes, I have really struggled with the idea of differentiating instruction. Then along comes Google Classroom. You can easily assign an assignment to the entire class... or you can differentiate by creating different assignments (even with the same name) for different groups of students (flexible grouping) based upon the need of each individual student in your class. While I'm not going to go into details about the many ways to differentiate instruction in this post (look for it in a future post), I would like for you to keep this in mind - to me it is a game-changer!