The following is a guest post by DFHS social studies teacher Michael Meagh (@mikemeagh). Mike Meagh has played a key role in our school’s 1:1 Chromebook initiative and is dedicated to effectively using educational technology as a vehicle for enhancing teaching and learning. Please feel free to contact Mike via Twitter if you have any questions or feedback.
When I heard about Classroom last spring I was curious and excited about how this application could transform the way that I interact with my students. I had already made the switch over to a paperless classroom environment last year when all of my students received school issued Chromebooks, so I had a lot of experience using Google Docs and Drive which gave me the confidence that the transition to Classroom would be the next logical step with my classes. I played around with the site a little bit over the summer and decided to roll the dice in September by jumping in 100%.
The Benefits of Google Classroom
Last year I spent a lot of time sorting through documents that my students shared with me and then moved the documents into folders while cross referencing my class roster to see who did and did not submit their work. This was a time consuming process as you can imagine! Classroom has removed all of these steps. I now see in real time who has submitted their work and all of the organizing in Drive is now automated. This has been a huge time saver!
Another benefit of Classroom is that it enables students to become more aware of their assignments and feedback. The students have an “assignments tab” that keeps track of their work as “done” or “to do.” Students see their grades and feedback which has enabled them to be more aware and on top of their work.
The stream in Classroom is probably my favorite part of the site. I post all of my assignments, class notes, links to websites, videos, and class warm up activities here. The stream has become a virtual timeline of my class. This is a benefit that I had not anticipated back in September but has become one of the most powerful benefits up to this point. When a student is absent they see all assignments and notes as they are posted in real time. This allows students to stay more organized and on top of their work. When we are going to have a test or quiz I can simply direct the students to the range of dates on the stream that they need to study and they have everything they need at their fingertips. This is especially useful to students who in the past had papers bursting out of their binders.
Next Steps for Classroom
Limitations of the site at this point include both the inability to comment directly back to a student in the stream and the difficulty that exists with regard to keeping track of late/resubmitted work. For example, if I post a question on the site and ask students to respond I cannot respond directly to a student comment. I have heard that this will be changed at some point which will be good. Another slight problem I have had is keeping up with students who submit late work or resubmit work that has already been graded. It would be helpful if an automated email was sent to the teacher when a student resubmits or submits after the due date. At this point I am asking students to email me when this happens but they do not always remember to do this.
Classroom is in its infancy and will get better. As more teachers use it and provide feedback I can only imagine that it will grow by leaps and bounds. At this point the time it has saved me and the organizational benefits it has provided for my students has made it a winner in my book. If anyone out there has some fresh ideas or questions regarding Classroom feel free to reach me via Twitter @mikemeagh.