Friday, September 12, 2014

What's? and Hows? of the New Google Classroom

What's? and Hows? of the New Google Classroom 

I have been leading a weekly roundtable of teachers using the recently released Google Classroom. Overwhelmingly the teachers are pleased with the platform’s material distribution capacity and thrilled with the automated collection and storage. For those of you that have not had a chance to play with it yet, I’ll walk you through getting started.

Setting up your Stream:

Navigate to and login using their Google for Education enabled credentials (Classroom App is available in the Google Store). You will be asked if you are a teacher or student. Once you have successfully logged in, you are taken to your personal “home screen”  seen in image II.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 3.pngScreen Shot 2014-09-12 at 3.png
What we found: You see in screenshot II that I am both a teacher of sections and a student in an honors biology course. We found it to be very useful to “join” each others courses so we could preview how our assignments looked from the students’ perspective.

Click the “+” (shown above) to “Create” or “Join” a course. To join a course, enter the alphanumeric class code and the icon for that course will appear on your homepage.

If you create a class, you will be prompted to give it a name. After be taken to the class “Stream” (stream is like your Facebook wall) where you will post announcements and assignments. On the left sidebar of your screen you will see your class code so that others can enrol in your course.

What you will not see initially is that Google has also created a folder in your Drive account called CLASSROOM. It will create a subfolder here for each class you create.

In the top left of your screen you will see three horizontal bars that will return you to the home screen. In the top center, you will see three options:
1) Stream -- announcements and assignments, 2) Students -- shows the name of everyone that has enrolled in your course, 3) About -- allows you to give your course a description.  

Ready to add to your Stream:
You have two options; Announcement or Assignment. They are essentially the same but Assignments have a few additional features that are the beauty and power of Classroom.

This is always at the top of the teacher’s screen Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 3.38.57 PM.png

Clicking on Announcement drops down to look like this
Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 3.39.51 PM.png
You can see you are asked to enter the text you wish your class to see. You can also add attachments, insert any type of material stored in Drive, embed a YouTube video or link to an external site.

What we found:
We have not found a limit to the number of items you can put here; it will also accept entire folders from your linked Drive account. Click Post to add it to your Stream.

Clicking on Assignment drops down to look like this
Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 3.39.57 PM.png
See the additional line for instructions. Set a due date and time if desired. All the same attachment options exist here with a new choice of if you want the students to view the resource or be given their own copy automatically. Plus is names those documents with the name of the assignment + the student’s name. Click Assign to post to your Stream. If you need to change a post, do so by clicking on the three dots in the top right of the announcement or assignment.

What we found:
Changing assignments: Your students see the version of the assignment posted when THEY accessed their Stream. If you make any edits after student open the course they will need to refresh the screen to see the changes.
Only use assignment if there is a document, poster, etc… to turn in. Filling out forms or writing a hard copy journal does not result in deliverables; they can’t upload anything. When this happens, Google thinks they have a missing assignment.

Getting students work:
When you have students make a copy Google does two things behind the scenes: 1) Google creates a subfolder in your Drive>Classroom>Class> with the name of the assignment. 2) When a student creates their copy it will automatically be deposited within this folder.
Back in your Stream, you see how many students have started their work, how many have turned in their work, and you can click the students’ name to give real time feedback. By clicking on the assignment you can open, grade and email students their feedback.
Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 4.27.03 PM.png
What we found:
Return acts as both a send and save button. If you exit without clicking Return you will lose any grades you had entered during that session.

We are infatuated but not in love with Classroom...yet. It is better than most of its predecessors: Edmodo, etc.. The group and I continue to tweak how to use it best and what it needs to be better. I’ll keep you updated.

My next post will be on the subject of what and how to supplement the Classroom with synergistic systems.