After waiting all summer, Google Classroom is finally available to all Google Apps for Education teachers and students.
Google’s venture into the world of learning management systems seems to be a pretty solid one. My first impressions:
- It looks and feels like a Google product (which it should and which is a good thing)
- It’s clean and simple (which hopefully will make it easy to use)
- It provides a home base for everything you do in Drive
For those of us that used lots of Google scripts (i.e. Doctopus, gClassFolders) to manage our classes — and for those of us that didn’t know those existed! — Classroom should make life easier.
After taking Google Classroom for a spin, here are some features I know I’m going to take advantage of:
1. Set the class theme. This was the first thing I did after creating my classes. I love the breathtaking photos and the color schemes that go with them. Several photos will be a perfect fit for certain classes (i.e. there are a few nice ones for science).
2. Use the “About” page to provide information and important links for/about your class. After opening your class in Classroom, click the “About” tab at the top. Your “About” page can be a central hub for your class with clickable links (make sure to use http:// before links) and information students will need throughout the year.
3. Attach YouTube videos, Google Drive files and links to announcements. What better way to show students what you want them to do or inspire their work than with a video? Create a video to teach a new concept, to excite students about a new project or provide answers to frequently asked questions. Or choose a video available on YouTube. Attach photos from the classroom from your Google Drive in an announcement. There’s a LOT you can do with this feature!
4. Choose how to deliver files to students in assignments. If you include a file to distribute to students in your assignment, you choose the editing rights they receive. Select whether to let them edit the file or only view the file. You can also make each student his/her own individual copy of the file (so everyone isn’t typing notes on the same document).
5. Start a conversation/backchannel in announcements. When you post an announcement in Classroom, anyone in the class can comment on it. Post a conversation starter and let students reply to it, creating a digital conversation. Backchannels like this are a great way to make sure EVERY student is comfortable to contribute … not just the ones that are willing to raise their hands in class.
6. E-mail students from within Classroom. Using the “Students” tab at the top, send an individual student e-mail by clicking the mail button to the right. Or highlight several students and e-mail them at the same time. There’s no need to leave the app to send messages!
7. Provide an example of the work you’d like them to do. Within the description of an assignment, provide a link to an example you want students to emulate (and again, remember the http:// so it’s clickable).
8. Provide a collaborative space for students to work. Distribute a place for collaborative class notes. Create a Presentation and give everyone a slide as their own space to work on a class activity. If you create files that everyone can work in, teamwork takes place online.
9. Track student progress with submission history. Follow the changes students made to their assignments by clicking a student’s assignment in the “Assignment Status” section (after you click on the assignment) and “See submission history.”
10. Revisit previous work in your class folder. Classroom creates a new folder for submitted student work in your Drive when you create a class. It creates a new folder for each assignment so files aren’t jumbled together (like they were in your “Shared with me” or “Incoming” folder when students shared them with you!).
11. Toggle your e-mail notifications on and off. This is a nice feature if you don’t want an e-mail every time something happens in Classroom. Change it under “Settings” when you click the menu button at the top left of your class (the three lines button … sometimes called the “hamburger button”).
12. Give Google your feedback. Use the little button in the bottom right corner to send Google your praise, your frustrations and your suggestions. You never know if the next feature they unveil could come from you!
What are your favorite Google Classroom features? How will you be using this new tool? Share in a comment below!
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