On Tuesday (incidentally my 28th birthday), I co-led some differentiated PD about Google Classroom. The aim is to implement it across the whole of the primary school. We ‘flipped’ the PD by first sharing a short Google Classroom YouTube tutorial. From this, the teachers chose either level 1 or level 2 based on their experience/confidence. I want to use this blog post to summarise the main messages from our level 2 session.
First thing’s first: well done me! Public speaking is a huge challenge for me. I am slowly growing in confidence and learning to turn my ANTs into PETs (Google it!). Was I still nervous? Yes. Did it show? Probably. Did I feel slightly more comfortable than last time? Absolutely! Just like we encourage our students to take risks, we should too! I will continue to grab opportunities like these throughout the year. It helps when I feel so passionately about the presentation topic.
My colleague Mark and I led the level 2 session. This was aimed at teachers who have used Google Classroom before or teachers who are generally very familiar with Google apps. The session acknowledged the excellent practice that has been happening with Google Classroom so far, but shared possible ways that we can take it further.
To read about the basics of Google Classroom, follow this link.
I have repeatedly shared this model on my blog (originally introduced to me by my colleague Dickie). When we use technology, it’s important to consider its potential for transforming the learning experience. Google apps are examples of technology that have this potential. However, we do not always use technology in such transformational ways. Our focus of level 2 was to start thinking beyond substitution and convenience.
“It is easy to slip back into a comfortable routine and teach the same way we have always done. This often means that we use new, digital tools in ways that are not innovative or different.”
Alice Keeler, 50 Things to go further with Google Classroom
The following are just some suggestions of how you could take the next steps with Google Classroom:
Flip your classroom
Plan for low-level, factual/procedural learning to take place at home. This could be achieved through short videos. Adding a YouTube video to Google Classroom is very easy. Furthermore, thanks to a recent update, videos can now be watched within Google Classroom instead of redirecting students to YouTube. If students can learn it from YouTube, don’t waste classroom time on it. Utilise classroom time for application, problem-solving and inquiry.
To read about my first experiences of flipped learning, click here.
Small group instruction
Google Classroom is efficient, organised and can be accessed from anywhere. These things make it perfect for home learning. However, don’t think of it as just a homework platform. Google Classroom can be used to give written instructions to groups in class, and to set them off with independent tasks while you focus on a different group. In this way, learning is personalised and effectively differentiated in all parts of the lesson.
Speaking of differentiation, there’s no obvious way to do this. I wish there was option to make groups and assign tasks to certain groups (hopefully this is an upcoming update). For now, I suggest creating one assignment for the whole class (so that there won’t be any ‘not done’ students), but attach different documents that are clearly labelled for different groups. Students can simply open their task and ignore the other attachments.
Working collaboratively is easier than ever thanks to technology like Google apps. When you attach files to Google Classroom assignments, consider the options carefully (shown on the left). The middle option allows students to collaborate on the same document from wherever they are. Even if their work is their own, I like them to submit it in a shared file (numbered Google Slides and Sheets are perfect for this). Even if they have worked independently, the shared document allows for peer comments and feedback (and I can assess them all from just one document instead of opening twenty-eight separate ones). Top tip: when working on collaborative documents, the ‘undo’ function is invaluable! Make sure your students know that their mistakes can easily be reversed. They don’t need to panic if they accidentally delete everyone else’s work!
Google Classroom is a safe, secure environment with teacher/school controls in place. It’s perfect for learning about digital citizenship, especially if students are collaborating. Discussions of this nature should be explicit and students should learn from each other’s mistakes. I truly believe that using Google Classroom makes students more responsible, mature and aware. These lessons are so important to learn before secondary school, when social media suddenly becomes available to them (and everything else that the deepest, darkest internet has to offer).
I learnt this wonderful lesson unexpectedly one day last year. I created an assignment on Google Classroom for Maths class and I was surprised to see that the absent student was working on it from home at the same time as my students. Oftentimes, unwell students are still capable of engaging in learning tasks. Absent students don’t need to miss out anymore.
I like to use Google Classroom for providing feedback. I deliberately use this word instead of ‘marking’ (although it’s worth mentioning that simple marking can now be automatic thanks to Google Forms). Rather, I want my students to continually improve their work. They know that their work can be submitted, unsubmitted, returned, and resubmitted again and again. Comments can be given on Google Classroom (as can grades, but I don’t bother with this). However, I prefer to use the commenting functions within the Docs, Sheets, etc.
This is not something that we have explored at our school (to be honest, I’m more interested in parent access for Seesaw), but it’s worth mentioning that a recent Google Classroom update allows for some parent involvement. To find out more, follow this link.
How have you used Google Classroom? What are your next steps? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
The following blogs and books are invaluable to me as I learn about Google apps. Many of the ideas above came directly from these teachers. I highly recommend checking out these blogs. The book is a very useful resource to keep at hand! (Click the image to be redirected to Amazon).
http://christinepinto.com/ (kindergarten and lower primary)