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by Sandy Scragg | March 1, 2018 New York Teacher issue
Google Classroom was introduced nearly four years ago and has been growing rapidly ever since. Google has bolstered its education resources and, as a result, more than half of K–12 students nationwide use at least one of its products.
Google Classroom is an online learning management system designed for schools. It mirrors the daily paperwork, communication and record-keeping tasks we do offline. With Google Classroom, you can share documents and resources with students, give feedback, and assign and collect work. Classes are private and password-protected, and posts can only be seen by fellow class members. And it’s all free.
Sounds great, right? Yet the powerful platform causes concerns for some educators. Let’s examine some of the pros and cons of using Google Classroom.
On the positive side, Google Classroom’s document sharing, data collection, communication channels and closed environment are great benefits. It’s very easy to start a classroom — helpful instructions guide you through the entire process. Once you add students, sharing is even easier; you just send resources to the entire class.
Something I’ve always appreciated about Google apps is that you create a repository of work — lesson plans, assignments, communications, grade records, etc. — that you can reuse. It’s also nice to decrease paper use and not have to fuss with a fickle photocopier.
The work submission process is effective, too. You can create an assignment, announce a due date and send individual copies to each student. When students complete work, they “turn it in” and it’s automatically shared with you. No more handouts to sort. No more tendinitis from lugging bags of student work.
Feedback is the superpower of Google Classroom. Commenting can occur at every step of an assignment. When you assign work, students can also post questions. Those reluctant to speak in class can still solicit help online. You can comment on works-in-progress, providing help along the way. Feedback on completed work can be a two-way conversation, mirroring an in-class conference. No more illegible margin notes that students ignore.
Now, let’s look at some of the cons.
Classroom setup may be easy, but you need to create unique accounts for every student. Already have a personal gmail account? Well, you can’t use it here. In order to keep a classroom completely private, you must make new accounts, including for yourself, through the Google Classroom domain. This may mean remembering — or forgetting — new passwords.
Because of the enclosed and private environment, it’s difficult or impossible to share items with the wider school community, the public or parents — even if you want to. (Classroom calendars with due dates and events are accessible, though.)
Although it records student grades, Google Classroom does not contain a full-fledged grade book. You can export Google Sheets to universal database files compatible with other grade book apps, but it’s an extra, cumbersome step.
The pervasiveness of Google Classroom sparks important questions about privacy and marketing. Google has succeeded in creating new, young users who will likely remain loyal to its brand. Because Google makes money from online advertising, it’s important to consider how and when students are influenced while using its platforms.
Sandy Scragg is an instructional technology specialist with more than 15 years of experience in New York City public schools.
What is your favorite movie about a teacher?
Dead Poets Society
Stand and Deliver
Mr. Holland's Opus
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