Google Classroom is a powerful and effective tool for teachers striving for a paperless classroom. While not a learning management system in the traditional sense, Google Classroom is a blended program that can replace the paper world teachers and students have long lived in.
The free resource, available to educators who have a Google Apps for Education account, can save teachers time, help keep classes organized and improve two-way communication with students.
Early adopter Michael Hakkarinen, an instructional technology trainer for the Utah Education Network, said the app has been very organic in its spread among teachers and has seen a host of changes since its introduction. These changes have made Google Classroom both more personalized and more teacher friendly.
For students, “Google Classroom is authentic to the 21st century and provides an arena to compose on the computer and do work on the cloud,” Hakkarinen explains. “Students need to know how to sit and write straight into the cloud and Google Classroom let’s them do that.”
For teachers, the app operates as a schoolwork management system that solves the backend issues of Google Drive, which requires users to create documents and take proper steps to copy, view and edit.
And, as Hakkarinen’s colleague Katie Hill puts it, Google Classroom has “the Fisher Price element – there’s only two or three buttons at a time that you have to click. It’s a beginners’ paradise.”
Since its inception, Google Classroom has seen the addition of an iOS app, the creation of an assignment page and the addition of class resource pages.
Google Classroom looks like a stream on Facebook, Hakkarinen noted, where teachers and students can post. By adding the class resource page, teachers can also provide students links to other websites or other online learning systems. “It gives it more of a website feel rather than a discussion, and teachers can personalize their resource page or stream with a theme by uploading pictures.”
Samantha Smith, K-12 technology integration coach for the Red Lion Area School District in Pennsylvania said she’s learned a lot about what Google Classroom can and can’t do. “It’s not a learning management system or a content management system yet, but it’s getting there.”
Those accustomed to a school- or district-based LMS will find that some features common to Blackboard or Moodle aren’t included in Google classroom, but may be added, Smith predicted. Today, turn to Google Classroom to get yourself, and your students, organized and to keep that organization on track.
Use it to post daily assignments in a format similar to a class blog. Put it to work as a “digital home” if you haven’t yet established that type of structure. Access it to post copies of digital resources your students use often so the documents are constantly available – even from mobile devices, Smith advised.
Google Classroom is among the hot topics at ISTE 2015. Here’s a rundown of some of the sessions available.