Friday, September 2, 2016

Google Classroom: Just Do It

Warning: The following rant will give me away as being over 30. 

Encouragement: The confession that follows it will encourage you if you are over 30, too.

Upshot: If you have the opportunity to use Google Classroom with your students, take Nike’s advice (and mine) and Just Do It.

After feeling bewildered and bereft when my school shifted from Word and its associated programs, I dug in and got pretty good with Pages, et al. I also—eventually, gradually—built up a pretty good proficiency with the online classroom platform my school was using (Moodle). 

Then I changed schools.

This one used not Word, not Pages, but Google Drive. And not Moodle, but Google Classroom. I felt like letting out a great, big, Charlie-Brown AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! 

So last year I spent shifting everything over to Google Drive. I set up a Google Classroom, but I had no energy left over to figure out how to use it.

Silly me.

This week, I tried it out. I’m a convert. It’s simple to use and so organized! I post an assignment, students get the notification via email, complete the assignment, and hit “submit.” Then it’s in the folder for that assignment. Labelled with that student’s name. No more nagging students to share it with me. No more hunting it down in my Google Drive.

I started out with a rough draft assignment. It took minutes to set up. Submitting the assignment was easy for the students. I could respond as they were submitted, both with comments on the document and with a private message when I “returned” it. (And students can actually read them, as opposed to my handwriting….) Ditto for the revised draft assignment, which I marked for the first 10 proofreading errors, choosing a commonly made error for a mini-lesson, and making notes of individual students to check with for understanding of a particular problem.

The students asked me to set up a separate assignment by the time we got to the final draft. That’s how simple and organized a Google Classroom assignment is. Now I’m motivated to explore more of what we can do in Google Classroom. 

If you are in a Google school, I highly recommend exploring your Google options. Yes, it can seem like the straw that may break the camel’s back when piled on top of the subject area content and skills you’re supposed to teach. But it will actually make that teaching more efficient and effective, saving you time in the long run.

Find a mentor—online, real life, or a combination—and just do it. For me, a colleague took 15 minutes to walk me through setting up my first class and assignment. Then it was just a matter of trying it out, letting students know that I was learning as much as they were, that it was a little scary and a little exciting, that there would be grace for errors on both sides, and that the point is not the technology, but how the technology can facilitate learning. 

For more help on the possibilities of Google Drive (Did you know that Google Docs has a template for MLA style?) and Google Classroom, see the embedded blog links. I plan to explore them further. If you have some other good online resources, please share! 

If you are already an expert yourself, offer to spend 15 minutes with a colleague, showing him or her the ropes. If we work together and help each other out, this technology stuff can make our lives (and not to mention our teaching) better, not harder. Even for those of us over 30. Or 40. Or 50…. 

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