When I first heard mention that we need to create an online blended course, I immediately thought of using Google Classroom. I currently use it with my students and I have enjoyed discovering new tools and learning how to optimize my teaching and my students’ learning. I am going to share a little bit of what I enjoy about Google Classroom (and maybe a few things that I don’t). I will do my best not to make it sound too much like an advertisement for Google. They are not paying me to write this (although, if they want to, I will gladly accept).
EDIT – Since starting this blog post, I have noticed many other people have written about Google Classroom. I have also come across this page by a person who literally wrote a book on using Google Classroom. So, if you want to stop reading now and check out the professionals, I understand.
The Upsides of Google Classroom
Easy to Use – One of the biggest reasons I like Google Classroom, is that it is very user-friendly, for both teachers and students. It has a simple interface format that is easy to navigate, as well as simple buttons and options to get everyone started right away. I use this with 10-year-olds and they are off and running in the first class I introduce it. It is also easy for teachers to set up and use (I found this to be one of the things that turned me off of Canvas for the moment. There is a lot to do to set up a course).
Always Updating – I have been using this LMS since I started my teaching career and I have seen many changes to it. I like the fact that it has constant upgrades, all for the better. They address real needs and options that teachers need and suggest.
— Amanda Brace (@amandajebrace) November 30, 2016
(Note: Google Apps for Education, or GAFE, recently created a new setting to do just that!)
3rd Party Apps – GAFE allows other developers to make apps that can be used within Google Apps and Classroom. This includes many brainstorming templates, referencing apps, dictionary/thesaurus, and one of my personal favourites, ReadWrite, which allows speech-to-text and text-to-speech for students.
Access to Drive – Having Google Drive integrated is great for teachers and students. I can create and attach assignments, rubrics, organizers, templates, forms, etc. for students to use. Students can create Docs, Slides, and more to document, record, and share their learning. The tools for learning are right there and easy to access.
Roll Over Assignments – This may be something that all LMS do, but the ability to reuse assignments from previous years is a huge time saver. It also motivates teachers to put more work into developing quality lessons, assignments, and courses, knowing that it is an investment for other years as well. It also provides a good chance to review and improve on last year’s work.
Feedback – It is great to be able to view and comment on student work WHILE they work on it, not just when they submit it. Feedback turns directly into learning. Some days, in a classroom, you simply can’t meet individually with every student to help, but I really like how sharing documents allows teachers to see student progress and cater instruction.
Pedagogy is not necessarily about the tools you use, but how you use them. I think most LMS would support a learner-centred pedagogy, and Google Classroom is no different. It provides a tool to support collaboration, student ownership of their learning, timely and meaningful feedback, resource-based learning, and more. I especially like how it gives the ability to provide adaptation and differentiation to help equip every type of learner. It is a great way to compliment what we love most about teaching kids.
Obviously I love using Google Classroom, for all the reasons above and more. However, not everyone agrees with everything, but here are a couple of the big downsides about Google Classroom.
$$$$$ – It is expensive and, due to that, a little inaccessible. I am lucky enough to work in a division that footed the bill to pay for GAFE for all students and teachers and Courobrandt worked their magic (no questions asked) to get a few accounts for this class. For basically everyone else, this isn’t a viable option. I wish it was. Maybe one day it will be, considering how many products Google offers for free, but until then, it remains a very privileged user LMS.
No Chat – This is one downside that I think makes Google Classroom definitely more of a blended learning option, instead of a distance only option. The only communication is on posted comments, emails, or on assignments. This limits a lot of what can be done online and makes collaboration a bit more cumbersome.
Global Domination – This may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but may not be as far fetched as it seems. Google is a very powerful corporation. They do a lot of good things, make good products, and even created a new verb. But we also know they have a lot of information (check out this documentary on Netflix). It is the price we pay for using the technology that we use, but it may be something we want to consider when we make those decisions for our students. Are we turning them into future bias consumers as they get used to Google icons?
I don’t really have an alternative. The online world that we live in demands that price for everything we use, but it is just something to think about.
I like using Google Classroom and its many benefits. It works for me because I have access to it and I know how to use it. The more I learn about LMS, the more I think that it is most useful in a blended learning situation. I would like to explore more options, especially ones that might work better for fully distance learning, but until then, I guess I am supporting the Google empire.
Thanks for reading.
Header Photo Credit (https://www.smore.com/euj3r-tech-tip-thursday-31)