5 Student-Centered Google Classroom Features

My goal is to use technology to allow students to take increasing ownership over their learning. It is my belief that they can do this under the right conditions.

For the teenagers that I work with, the right conditions are often anything that doesn't make them work too hard to access the content. Think about it. They engage in online media based on ease of use and access. If teachers make content too many clicks deep into a website or LMS, they won't want to find the information.

Meeting kids where they are is ultimately more important than testing their grit when it comes to developing classroom routines. Google Classroom is a great platform to help students become efficient self-starters because it allows teachers to manage a stream of information, not unlike the design of most social media apps.

The following shares some of the ways I use Classroom to set up the right conditions for students to take full advantage of their learning opportunities.

1. Links in the Stream Text

This may seem like not a big deal, yet I've found that my teenagers are more likely to find the link if it is within the stream post text. The bottom is for attachments and links, but there's less confusion when the link is within the post.

2. Student-Specific Stream Posts

Not every student needs the same support. Sometimes students need different learning support, while other times they may have missed school and need to make up work.

Any type of post to the Google Classroom stream can be posted for a specific student(s). This keeps the stream relevant for every student and protects the privacy of the students who need different learning supports. 

3. Topics

A parent once told me that it took her child 20 minutes to figure what to do for homework. Kids will be kids, of course, but the fact that the student didn't know exactly where to find the information was a bit troubling. This wasn't a story about one of my students, yet I'm sure some of my students could relate. 

I create topics for each unit, technology information, weekly agendas, and exam reviews. If a student missed an assignment, they can click the unit topic and find it quickly. The same goes for exam reviews. Better yet, the final exam review is as easy as click exam reviews, leaving the student with every unit review to prepare for the final. 

4. Comments (Stream Posts)

Google Classroom provides the option for teachers to set the extent to which students can post and comment on the stream. Every class is different. Some classes use the stream to make comments, post useful content, or ask questions. 

I keep the options wide open because it allows my students to take ownership of their learning in a interpersonal way. It's one of my number one jobs as a classroom teacher -- to help students develop interpersonal skills.

5. Move to Top

We are competing for our students attention. They have conversations they'd rather be continuing with their friends and Instagram content they've invested so much exploring. Who am I to say that they should sift through my unorganized Classroom stream.

Move to Top allows teachers to move a post to the top so students will see it first. This is critical when posts pile on top of a post that will continue to drive learning activities in the future. 

I make a weekly agenda post, so those are the posts that get moved to the top after the quizzes and Google Classroom question posts pile on top of them. 

Thanks for reading, and please share your questions or tips in the comments below.