How I Used Google Classroom Differently This Year

It was a lot to manage student work on Google Drive before Classroom. I did it because I believed in the power of what collaborative online word processing could do for the learning process. The feedback that I could give was so much more efficient and thorough using Google Docs. But it certainly took patience and hard work to teach students how to share in folders.

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The following year, Google Classroom was released and my workload lost a heavy weight. Although I had a lot to learn about what would work and what would not, Classroom allowed me to communicate and push materials to kids more efficiently than any other platform, including Edmodo and Moodle.

This year has been different. I'm in a school where students already have experience with Drive and Classroom. Many of them already had these apps on their mobile devices. It was this additional weight lifted that allowed me to focus on making better choices and make a better Google Classroom stream for my students.

Here are some of the things I've done differently this year.

1. One Agenda Post per week

The stream can become cluttered rather quickly. Since Google hasn't applied a labeling system to the stream, like Keep or Gmail, students have to scroll to find he post. I know. Poor kids. They have to scroll a bit to access the instructional agenda and materials. Give them a break. Their executive functions need some help here and there.

Honestly, one post per week helps me access it quickly, too. If I need students to access materials for only a part of a lesson, I make a separate post and delete it later. Sometimes I leave it and move the weekly post to the top, which is a helpful feature similar to pinning a post.

2. Co-Teaching

The co-teaching option was a feature that I would have loved last year – better late than never. I co-taught a special-ed history class last semester and was able to add the special-ed teacher as a teacher. Although the teacher was not much for using technology, he was able to see the efficiency. It also saved me from having to email him what we were doing every week.

This semester, I have a classroom paraprofessional access to the materials, which helps reduce the questions and time spent explaining what could be read from the stream.

3. Questions

Exit tickets. Paragraph Responses. One-sentence summaries. Thesis statements. The list goes on and on as to how this tool (type of post )can be used. The best part is how easy it is for me to read submissions, provide feedback, and return the work with a couple clicks. No papers lost. No folders taken home where the dog will come in from outside on a rainy day and ruin the work inside (true story).

Here are some ways you can use the question tool.

4. Using the "About" Page

The About page is useful for materials that you want students to access throughout the course. I used to make single item posts. I recently noticed that you can post several attachments to a post and edit the description.

This may sound like and obvious oversight, but it's how we learn. I continuously analyze the way I'm communicating with my students and making adjustments to improve wherever I can.

5. Exam Review Posts

Kids are always asking for a review. Even though I share a link to a Google Drive folder with unit guides, kids still ask for one. It can be so bad that I literally have to quiz them on the whereabouts of materials because they're not used to teachers using Classroom efficiently, yet.

That's why I make a separate post a few days before an exam. The post includes slide presentations, the unit guide, selected YouTube videos not in the presentations, and links to Quizlet decks.

6. Extension

The Chrome extension is new to me. So far, I use it when we find a resource during class and I want to push it to the students without leaving the resource (usually websites).

7. Polling

The newest addition to the Classroom platform is a step in the right direction. One question is limiting, but it's a quicker return on student feedback than reading a constructed response from a question post. For example, if you want to know the confidence level of the students, write the question response choices as a scale.

I haven't done much with this tool at this point in the year. But I can see the potential. It's quicker to make a question than forms, and perhaps eventually forms will be integrated into Classroom. How awesome would that be?