Social media has completely taken over my life. In a matter of fact, the reason why I’m submitting this blog entry on a Sunday night is because the past week in world politics has completely consumed my life. I’ve fallen into what the kids refer to as an “internet k-hole”, a “cyber” black-hole if you will… sucking my very existence into its tight grip.
All silliness aside however, I did realize that taking a break from all of this crazy talk is necessary, and what better way than to reflect on some LMS platforms? Honestly, I’m not being sarcastic here, I’m stoked to actually be talking about something else for once.
I decided to roll with Google Classroom. If you’re wondering why I chose this platform, I promise you the story ain’t that intriguing. My rationale here was rather simple actually. I’ve seen some of my coworkers use Classroom, so I thought to myself: “hey, why not?”
Of course, there are other great reasons I would want to use Google Classroom. For one, my entire school is connected through Google. All my students have Google accounts with personal email accounts and access to all of Google’s awesome arsenal of apps. This makes using Classroom a no-brainer, as I would eventually like to actually start using an LMS platform in my own classroom. So in a sense, this entire project is going to be a huge trial run for me. If this goes well, it’s easy enough to use, and I can see myself planning and posting things regularly; maybe I’ll end up making the transition!
So I started up a mock classroom just to get a feel for the whole thing. I immediately came to a roadblock as I had no idea how to invite other teachers to become moderators with me. As I skimmed through the site’s various tabs and menus, I found the navigation on the website to be a little confusing. To be fair however, I only looked for maybe thirty seconds. Anyway, luckily for me, my great coworker Scott, resident Google Classroom guru, was there to help me out!
To be honest, he’s the one that ended up showing me everything. So today, I’m going to be giving you a different type of review: it’s going to be based entirely off my coworker’s awesome walk-through.
First thing’s first, Scott is a huge advocator for Google Classroom. When I asked him what he found most compelling about the platform, his immediate response was that it’s using something that kids are already familiar with. “It’s not that it’s that innovative or that the kids really care for it, but it’s practical. I post an assignment, their phones start going off. They’re getting text notifications… I mean, they literally have no excuse NOT to do their assignments”
Hm. Good point. I mean, as long as kids have a means to access their accounts (which he said all of them do), this doesn’t sound like a bad way to set up your classroom at all. See, having someone who actually uses this thing is a big selling point for me. This means I have someone to pester with questions when I run into problems 😉 , but it also means we can link-up and share our classrooms with one another. This means that I can go into his online classroom, and post assignments for his students. But why would I want to do that though? Well… It just so happens to be, that in our case, we actually teach each other’s classes. So really… NOT using this is actually kind of a bad call on my part. And sure enough, some of the kids in his class who haven’t completed assignments for me in the past have used the classic excuse that I hadn’t posted the assignment on their Google Classroom. Dang…they got me there….
As Scott showed me more and more, I started to get a good sense of how you can integrate this tool in a classroom. Scott’s not doing anything that crazy, but the platform allows students a lot more freedom as to what format they submit their work in. He explained to me that many students prefer having a digital copy of their assignment as they would rather type out their work.
He also mentioned how creatively-inclined students have used Classroom to their advantage. Some students submit video responses, pdf files, PowerPoint presentations, audio files, and even digital artwork.
The platform itself is fairly easy and straight-forward. Although I did not get too much into customization, I know that you can get a lot fancier if you really want to. For simplicity’s sake, Scott keeps things simple. At the end of the day, you want to make things easier on yourself, and for practicality’s sake, this thing gets the job done.
Communication between home and school is simplified through the platform. Scott gives access to all parents and guardians to the Classroom site. He says it’s greatly improved student accountability, as students are able to keep track of assignments, due dates, school announcements, etc.
I found that the platform was capable of doing some interesting things I never really thought about doing online; including grading and keeping track of complete/incomplete student work. To be honest, those two are big selling points for me as it would get rid of so much physical clutter from all the assignments students would be handing in, and it would make planning and grading a lot easier when you’re on the go.
At the end of my walkthrough, I was definitely sold on using Google Classroom as Scott answered a lot of my questions and concerns. Posting assignments is a breeze; parents are always in the know of what’s going on in the classroom; students can access, complete and submit assignments from literally anywhere; and it’s using a service that my school and my students already heavily rely on.
The true testament to whether or not I’ll want to fully commit to the Google Classroom world will come once I start actually using the platform for my prototype, but as far as first impressions go, I’m definitely sold on at least trying it out.
If any of you use or have used Google Classroom, and have anything that they’d like to share about the platform, I’d be really interested in hearing about it. I’m all ears at this point and am definitely curious to seeing what it’ll be like to plan a course using an LMS platform. Wish me luck!