The middle school teachers at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Staten Island (OLSS) were striving to ensure their students were future-ready. They were successfully assigning work to students on iPads, but they struggled with an interface that felt somewhat “clunky.” Realizing the need to better differentiate their instruction and continue to collect data on a regular basis, the teachers knew something had to change.
While there is an array of programs out there, Jonathan Johnson, an instructional technology coach at Educate LLC, introduced them to Google Classroom. As coaches, we have come to find that GC is one of those tools that is an “instant win” for teachers and students alike. Not only does it make lesson preparation more efficient, it also tends to make the teaching more effective. Utilizing Google Classroom supports students’ learning, because it pushes teachers to implement a variety of resources and assignments, rather than sticking to a “one size fits all” philosophy.
Google Classroom is a part of the G Suite for Education and is completely free for educational institutions. It works as an online platform (also available in apps for Android and iOS devices) and mimics the setup of an online course. Teachers can post classroom announcements, assignments, questions, etc.. In turn, students can utilize it as a “one stop shop” for all of their classroom resources. In conjunction with other Google Apps, such as Google Docs and Google Slides, GC allows students to work on assignments in and out of the classroom.
As it turned out, GC was just what the teachers at OLSS needed, so much so that they are well on their way to paperless classrooms. (We all know there’s nothing worse than watching that copier in the staff room get jammed!) Students are able to utilize the platform independently and are finding it easier to submit assignments than ever before. The teachers at OLSS have seen a great increase in student engagement and excitement around learning. Teachers are beginning to take full advantage of the online nature of Google Apps, providing students with more choice and promoting collaboration on group assignments. They have even found ways to import/export data from various sites to/from GC, making progress-tracking extremely efficient.
Make it happen in your classroom…
- Google domain for the school (can be applied for by school leader/technology expert)
- Google accounts for teachers and students
- Device (laptop/Chromebook, desktop, tablet, etc.)
1.Work with your school leader or IT person to be sure that your school has a Google domain and Google accounts for teachers and students. If you do not yet have a domain, Google can walk you through the process here.
2. Familiarize yourself with the basic Google Apps: Google Drive and Google Docs. (As these work in conjunction with Google Classroom, you must have a basic understanding before setting up your classroom).
3. Set up your Google Classroom. Be sure to check posting permissions; most teachers prefer to set them to “Only teachers can post and comment”. Practice by posting a simple announcement and question for students to answer.
4. During class time, have your students join your GC by signing in with their Google account information and joining via “Class Code.”
Don’t forget that if you’re ever feeling a little bit stuck, or you just need a thought partner, feel free to reach out to us in our FB group, the Innovative Teaching Co-op!