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  • Writer's pictureJames Kerr

Why Try Google Classroom?

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

Affordances and Constraints for Google Classroom

A great variety of Classroom Management Systems (CMS) are available for teachers who want to efficiently serve students. To increase classroom organization, take advantage of innovative collaborative options, and share with professional peers, Google Classroom provides a cadre of useful features with limited constraints and many affordances. For the purposes of this post, the features will be divided into three sections: Safety and Security Features, Communication and Collaboration Features, and Google Classroom Constraints.

Safety and Security Features

Our local CMS is hosted by the school district. Only students, faculty, staff and administrators have access. Google assumes no ownership of any of the the data that is kept on the server. So, no data is ever used for advertising purposes. Data is not shared with third parties unless required by law. Google builds and operates their own secure servers and platform services. Local administrators have a dashboard where they can monitor usage. Google has signed the Student Privacy Pledge and also follows required FERPA and COPPA guidelines. Independent auditors review Google Classroom data protection practices. The Google classroom site included no advertisements.

Communication and Collaboration Features (Affordances)

Portfolio: The teacher portfolio includes a photo and password (as required). The teacher photo is scaled automatically. Data and personalization, as well as sharing parameters can be customized, The portfolio is easily accessed for updates. The settings can be reached via a dot icon at the top right of the home screen.

Student Accessibility: Google Classroom is available to teachers and students 24/7. Google Classroom works on the following browsers: Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft, Internet Explorer, Apple, and Safari. The mobile Google Classroom app can be found at Google Play (Android) or at the iOS app store. Chromebook's built in Screen Reader, ChromeVox, assists visually impaired students. CromeVox also affords the choice of multiple languages.

TalkBack supports Google Classroom on mobile phones.

Building classes / Settings: Class identities are easily created. Class pages can be customized using individually designed color coded headers, and artwork that reflect the nature of the class. There are a large variety of prepared headers to choose from. A class code can be shared with students who will be enrolling in a class, or an invitation can be sent to a student to join the class. The number of enrolled students is unlimited. Students may easily be added or deleted from the class list manually. The student identity is the assigned g-mail address. Teachers can edit the class title, description, section, room, or subject. From class settings it is easy to display, change, or disable the class code. From the settings page, teachers may choose to see deleted posts. The order in which classes appear on the teacher classroom homepage can be altered.

Parent/ Guardian Access: Parents and guardians do not have access to the student's account. However, they may receive daily or weekly g-mail summaries based on the discretion of the teacher. The summaries include missing work, upcoming work, class activity (announcements, assignments, and posted questions). The parent summaries are turned off by default and must be activated by an administrator.

Classwork page: On this page, teachers can create a topic to include classroom resources such as a syllabus or classroom rules. Separate topics created like files to hold assignments. Assignments can be assigned a point value, a due date and a topic. Announcements, questions for the discussion board, and assignments may be scheduled to be posted at a later date. The order of assignments in a topic can easily be changed by dragging the assignment to the desired placement on a page.

Stream: Any post will appear in the stream. The most recent posts appear at the top of the stream. Students can scroll through the stream to select a recent post. The teacher can decide if students have access to post on the stream. Teachers can delete any student comment added to the stream.

Adding / Editing / Deleting Assignments: When an assignment is added, it is easy to attach worksheets, tests, quizzes, links to websites, or videos. An assignment description, due date, and topic can be easily altered or deleted. Entire.assignments can be deleted as easily as they were created using the same edit selection. Assignments can be saved in a folder for future editing.

Posting to multiple classes: The same assignment can be posted simultaneously to multiple classrooms. All students in each classroom receive the assignment.

Individual posting: When an assignment is for a specific student or students within a classroom, the assessment can be posted individually.

Categories and Topics: For each assignment or published question, a Category and Topic may be assigned. Examples of categories include tests, quizzes, essays, homework, etc. Topics can be chosen based on the subject matter and units or chapters that contain specific subject information. Topics can also easily be ordered by sliding to a new position on the classwork page. The assignments can be ordered with the most recent additions first. Topics makes it easy for students to find assignments. Topics also makes it easy for the teacher to group assignments that have similar content.

Share/ Push: A Chrome extension affords teachers the ability to instantaneously share websites or documents on student screens. Students may also use this extension to share with peers or the teacher. The teacher maintains a filter for the websites and documents shared by students, allowing the teacher to select what will be shared from his/ her computer.

Archiving Classes: All assignments can be archived and retrieved. There is no limit to the number of classrooms that can be archived. Copies of both active and archived classes can be made, making it quick and easy to re-use assignments and resources.

Notifications: Teachers can receive messages on their g-mail account including: Any comments that have been added to a post, Comments that mention the teacher, Private comments, Record of late submission of assigned work, Scheduled posts, and Record of posts that are published or that failed to publish. Teachers can customize notifications by selecting the classes for which they will receive notifications. Notifications can be set up to be shared with a co-teacher.

Interaction with Google Applications: Google Classroom interacts seamlessly with Google Drive. Documents that are created by the teacher or the student are easily copied, edited, and shared. Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google slides also easily interact. Videos created with mobile devices can be attached to documents. Most of these apps must be added on mobile devices.

Groups: Groups can be created so that g-mail can be shared, group discussions can be hosted, collaboration on group projects can be supported, group meetings can be scheduled. Members may be selected and offered specific privileges. The group can choose a name and description or purpose.

Rubrics: Teachers can create and share rubrics with students. Students can use the rubrics for feedback to improve and edit documents that support their learning goals. Students can also build their own rubrics.

Classroom Calendar: A classroom calendar posting all due dates for assignments is automatically created when an assignment posts. A calendar can be created for each class. The Google Classroom calendar can interface with other Google Calendars.

To Do Page: The status of student assignments appears on the "To Do Page." This page can be located by scrolling down on the menu bar. Both students and teachers can access a page that lists tasks that have been completed, are yet to be completed, or may be overdue. Status updates include: To review, Reviewed, Turned in, Assigned, and Graded. The data for all classes can be viewed, or the data can be filtered to show the status for individual classes.

Sharing Resources: The Google classroom set up makes it easy for students to share resources with peers or with the teacher. Teachers can also share resources and add additional teachers to afford co-teaching opportunities. An entire class ownership can be transferred to another teacher.

Discussion Board: Teachers can post questions on this board. Students may respond to the prompt and also may interact with responses posted by peers. Teacher approve posts by students to the discussion board.

Assignment Drafts: Google Classroom allows the teacher to post a draft of an assignment and edit it at a later date. A date for publishing the draft can be selected, and the assessment can be posted at that date.

Mobile Application Feedback: The Google Classroom is available as a mobile app. The mobile app allows students and teachers the option to highlight, draw on, and notate documents and PDFs.

Feedback: Comments are easily added or attached to assignments. A range of feedback potentials include video feedback (from mobile devices), audio feedback, and written comments. Students can respond to teacher feedback. A comment bank, useful for providing feedback for multiple students, holds samples of comments that may be edited. Comments can easily be added or deleted from the file. Word recognition helps to locate potential comments.

Grading: A grade page allows students to view their progress. Grades can be transferred to Google Sheets or a CSV file. In the most recent Beta version, grades can be shared directly to a Student Information System. It is also possible to view the grade history for an assignment.

Google Classroom Constraints

Editing: While it is very easy to copy a document to multiple classes, once a document has been copied, the page must be individually edited in each classroom.

Stream: While this is good idea for locating most recent posts, it is not helpful in locating older posts.

Computer use and mobile Use: Some of the options for feedback are only available in mobile apps. Also, to use other Google products such as Google Slides or Google Forms, these applications must be individually added to mobile devices.

Account juggling: If a teacher has more than one Google account, it causes a difficulty to open the correct Google Classroom. Classes created in one Google Account cannot be transferred to another account.

Google Classroom / Word documents: Since Google Classroom is a Google product, Google Docs are easily supported, but Word documents may need to be re-formatted.

Students need to make copies of documents: The students can edit documents prepared by the teacher. Therefore they must make a copy before writing on a shared document.

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