Exploring Google Classroom

Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Google Classroom, Edmodo, and Schoology are becoming increasingly popular classroom tools. A LMS is basically a digital classroom — it is a online space that is used to deliver content, manage assignments, monitor student participation, and assess student learning. This week for ECMP 455 we had to explore a LMS platform and evaluate it as a teaching/learning tool. The LMS platform that I chose to try out is Google Classroom.

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Photo Credit: Alice Keeler via alicekeeler.com

I personally have never used Google Classroom, although Regina Public Schools, the school division where I interned, uses Google Classroom as a division-wide LMS platform — all RPS teachers and students are given an email address that allows them to connect. I wasn’t assigned a teacher email address during my internship so I couldn’t use Google Classroom with my classes; however, I did set up a Google Calendar for my Physical Science 20 class (the class that I taught all semester) where I would upload class notes, handouts, and assignments in order to make those resources readily available to my students outside of class. I didn’t mind using Google Calendar. It was easy to use, and I liked that I was able to organize the calendar such that I could label each day with the topic that we covered and attach any notes or assignments that were given. The downside to using Google Calendar was that it was inconvenient for students to access, so it become more of a space for me to post notes rather than an online learning space — the communication was only one-way

To really explore Google Classroom as a teaching/learning tool, I started off by creating my own class.

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Next, I started to add content to my class.  Right off the bat I liked how easy Google Classroom was to navigate and to use as a teacher. Google Classroom has what’s called a “Stream” which is a space where things that are posted show up as they are added. Essentially, the Stream organizes everything that students need in one place. My initial thought was that the Stream could get crowded by the end of a semester — students would be forced to scroll through a semester’s worth of material in order to access content from the beginning of the year. However, Google Classroom conveniently allows you to organize the content you add into topics.

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Topics can be used a way to organize course material into units. For example, in the class that I set up, I created three different topics corresponding to three different units: “Atoms and Elements”, “Molecules and Compounds”, and “The Mole”. When I went to post something, I could choose the topic that I wanted it to post under.

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In an elementary setting, rather than having to make a new class for every individual subject, topics could be used to separate the subjects. In her helpful post on adding topics to Google Classroom, teacher Alice Keeler also suggests using topics as a way to move towards outcome-based assessment. The neat thing about the topics option is that students can click on a particular topic and see everything (class notes, assignments, handouts, etc.) that has been posted under that specific topic. This eliminates the problem of having to sift through an entire semester’s worth of content.

Google Classroom also simplifies the assessment process. When posting an assignment to Google Classroom, you have the option to make a copy of the assignment for every student.

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This option makes it easy a teacher to monitor individual student’s progress as they are working on the assignment (which they can do through the platform) and provide on-going feedback — a feature of Google Classroom that my classmate Sarah found useful during her internship. Students can also submit their assignments through Google Classroom, and Google Classroom will actually provide you with a report of who has handed in the assignment and who has yet to finish. Teachers can also grade and add comments to students’ work directly through Google Classroom, so students are able to view their marks online and see any comments made by the teacher. However, I think one of the best features of Google Classroom is that you are able to give certain assignments to certain students. I think this would be very helpful for differentiating to meet students’ unique, individual learning needs.

Aside from posting notes and assignments, in Google Classroom a teacher also has the ability to post class announcements, create a class poll or question, create discussion forums where students participate in conversations, or post videos, presentations, or other attachments. This is a way to keep communication active even when the class is not physically together.

Google Classroom has so many cool features that I could go on and on all day. I guess one major disadvantage to the platform is that it is not available to the general public — teachers only have access to it if their school division does. However, after my little test run this week, I think Google Classroom is definitely a tool that I would use in the future if I end up in a school that has access to it because it provides a space where students can access course materials outside of class, simplifies classroom communication, and allows for easy management of assignments.  I’m excited to keep exploring what Google Classroom has to offer.

Do you use Google Classroom or another LMS platform in your class? What are the advantages/disadvantages to using an LMS platform like Google Classroom? Let me know in the comments!

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