Being a teacher candidate, I have experienced the constant crunch for time that teachers constantly feel. Teachers have a lot on their plate and their work day is not limited to typical school day hours. Although a teacher starts and ends their “work day” to the sound of the school bell, the time a teacher puts into planning and marking outside of that time is remarkable. The devotion of a teacher to their students is one that only comes from a genuine love for the profession and a drive to help their students become the best they can be.
As I get closer to starting my career in teaching, I have gained a new appreciation for time. Finding time for myself has become more difficult and I find myself spending hours preparing units and lessons for my students, to ensure they will learn something new while having fun. Finding any tools that help me save time in organization, provides me with more time to design and prepare activities that will enhance the learning experience of my students.
Do such tools exist? Well, I have finally found one! Google Classroom does exactly that; it helps me organize my virtual classroom, which saves me time over the long run. I came across this tool during one of my Practicum experiences. My Associate Teacher had started using this tool with the class and showed me how to use it. I was able to give it a try during my Practicum! Here’s what I learned about it:
Google Classroom is just like your real classroom, but online. Since teacher and student school email addresses are Gmail accounts (depending on the board), they all have Google Classroom built into the Google apps. As the teacher, you can create a “class” and invite your students to join. Once you have your class up and running, you can post announcements for your students. These announcements are visible to everyone and can be scheduled in advance to be released at a later time. Links and attachments can be added to these announcements.
Google Classroom can be used to assign assignments to your students. It is very easy to link to any other G Suite apps such as Google docs. The teacher only has to attach an original doc and select the option to make a copy for each student. Each student will then receive a copy with their name in the document title. A due date can be set to the assignment and students would have to submit their work before the deadline. The teacher can then mark the assignment and give feedback. This saves time (and paper! No printing necessary so it’s also good for the environment!) so you can hand back assignment quicker, since it’s all in one convenient location!
Parents/guardians can be added to the class as well, but they do not have editing abilities on assignment, they are simply able to view. This allows them to be more involved in their child’s learning and gives them an idea of what their child is doing at school. Parents/guardians receive a weekly update summarizing the classes activity that week.
For a short video about Google Classroom, click here.
Google Classroom helps students with their organization. Everything is found in one location and they don’t need to worry about forgetting due dates or losing papers. It can also be accessed anywhere as long as they have access to the Internet. This means they can work on assignments at school, home, or anywhere.
An example of an assignment I did with my class in Practicum was the culminating task for their creative writing unit. The students were to write a narrative. I announced the assignment on Google Classroom. Attached, each student found their copy of the Google doc they were to type their stories into. It contained the success criteria and a formatted page to type directly into. The due date was set for the assignment and students were aware of the time frame they had to complete it so they could plan their time accordingly. I liked that I could assign the doc to the students as one announcement for the entire class and even set the due date on it. My students really liked being able to ask their questions directly on the post. This helped a lot of students since sometimes they were able to help each other and sometimes many students had the same question and would benefit from being able to see the answer. The only thing I would change about the experience is being more clear as to the material they should be commenting on the post itself. It’s always very important to outline your expectations to your students! A great way to do this is by co-creating a set of rules as a class, allowing them to outline what is important to them, allowing them to take ownership of their learning.
How much does it cost? It’s free! That’s right! FREE! It’s a part of the Google for Education package. It can be purchased here. If you are already a teacher, it is a part of your G Suite account (that comes with your school email address, if your board uses it).
My advice? If you are a teacher looking to save a little time, Google Classroom is a great tool to help you organize your virtual classroom.
More information about Google Classroom can be found here.
If you want to give Google Classroom a try, the instruction to sign in can be found here.