Despite some initial shortcomings, Google Classroom has found a permanent home in my learning environment. Google Classroom is the latest addition to Google’s popular apps for education, and like anything new, there’s a learning curve that must be conquered, but persistence usually pays off. The transition to Google Classroom presented some challenges during my first two weeks of use, but as the third week drew to a close, my students and I were beginning to feel that we have turned Google Classroom into a streamlined, time-saving instructional tool. I’ve really begun to appreciate the ease of creating and grading assignments, the instant feedback available to students, and for those of you used to asking your students to remember to “make a copy”, you will appreciate the inclusion of a feature that automatizes this process. However, Google Classroom has some room for growth to truly make a dent in the overcrowded space of educational technology. I’ve been keeping a list, and here’s what I’d like to see Google add in future updates.
Categorizing and/or Archiving: As an elementary teacher responsible for teaching multiple subjects, I would like the ability to apply subject tags to my assignments. As it is right now, all of the assignments that I create are listed in one long stream. I can see this stream getting unwieldily as the year progresses. Selecting subject tags would allow teachers to quickly view assignments by subject instead of searching through a long stream. Another option would be to offer an archiving feature whereby assignments are removed, but not permanently deleted, similar to how Gmail works.
Emailing Parents Assessment Information: Once an assignment is graded, Google Classroom automatically pushes out an email to my students’ GAFE Mail accounts with their grades. This is a nice feature, but I would like to have the additional ability to associate a parent email address with student accounts so that an email can pushed out to them as well.
Better Mobile Platform Integration: In my BYOD environment, one of the biggest challenges I faced during my first two weeks with Google Classroom was figuring out how students open, edit, and turn in assignments on a mobile platform. Google Classroom works very well on a computer, but on a mobile device it can be a little confusing at first. I have discovered that the most straightforward way to use Google classroom on a mobile platform is to have students go to Google Classroom in Safari, tap on the assignment, the Google Docs app will open (assuming it’s been installed), then the student completes the assignment in Docs and finally goes back to Safari to tap the “Turn In” button. I’m left wondering if Google will create a standalone app for Google Classroom whereby students could open, edit, and turn in assignments all without leaving the app. If it’s not easy, adaptation will be slow and cause frustration. Oddly, I’ve also discovered that Safari, not Chrome, offers the best experience with Google Classroom on an iOS device. Additionally, it’s handy to have your students use Safari to add a Google Classroom icon to their device’s home screen (see picture to the right). The next time they have an assignment to complete, all they need to do is tap the icon to start the process.
Addition of a Grade Book: Grading assignments in Google Classroom couldn’t be easier, and it’s probably my favourite feature, but currently there is no way to collate these grades into a single grade book or spreadsheet. It would also be a welcome addition to be able to click on a student’s name to receive an overview of their grades throughout a term. In turn, this could be shared with parents so that they could monitor their child’s progress.
Due Date Reminders: Currently, due dates for assignments are displayed in Google Classroom. However, students have to go to Google Classroom to check these dates. It would be nice if Google introduced the ability to send email reminders to students yet to submit assignments as due dates draw near.
Individualized Assignments: Students have a wide range of learning needs. I would like the ability to send modified assignments to individual students. Currently, when I send an assignment to my class, everyone gets the same assignment. This doesn’t allow the opportunity to differentiate assignments to meet the individual needs of my learners.
As an early adopter, I’m used to using software that may, in its current state, lack a rich feature set. If you have the ability to create GAFE accounts in your district, I would recommend Google Classroom without hesitation. Google has created a solid platform, and I’m confident that over the course of the next year, Google will introduce features that will make my wish list much smaller.
If you’re a TVDSB employee, and want to know more about Google Classroom, I invite you to attend one of the three sessions I will be facilitating at iCon 2014.