The world is becoming more and more paperless each day, and classrooms are not left behind. Today, many teachers are beginning to find solutions to manage their classrooms, hand out assignments, and communicate with students via simple tools and platforms.
Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar -just to mention a few- are among some of Google’s most popular tools that are now staples for getting work done. These incredibly friendly tools have revolutionized the way we store information, work together, and communicate online. For students and teachers, the education-friendly platform of Google Classroom gifts the privileges of paperless sharing and digital collaboration to classrooms.
More than ten million teachers and students around the world use Google classroom in thousands of schools, making it one of the most popular EdTech tools you’ll find anywhere. Even today, many teachers are still finding their way to Google Classroom. The reason is that the platform is an ingenious virtual classroom that focuses more on teaching and less on tech, making it easy for people who are not so versed or familiar with tech and so on to use it. In other words, you don’t have to be a tech professional to handle this Classroom.
So what is Google Classroom? That must be the million-dollar question running through your mind now, especially if you have never heard about it. Or perhaps, you have, but you don’t know what it is about. Well, great thing you are here because, in the course of this article, we will be taking you through what Google Classroom is all about and how you can use it and even set up your own classroom.
Perhaps the easiest way to think of Google Classroom is as Google describes it- “mission control for your classroom.” To simply put it, Google Classroom is a platform that links together Google’s G Suite tools for students and teachers. The platform is a free application designed by by Google for schools and universities to simplify creating, announcing, distributing, and grading assignments.
It also performs the role of a digital organizer where teachers can keep class materials and share them with students –all in a paperless form. From there, you can select and pick the features you want to incorporate. Google Classroom flexibility, as well as its seamless integration with other Google’s popular tools such as Google Mail, is what has made the platform one of the most popularly and widely used EdTech tools today.
Students can be invited to join a class through a code automatically imported from a school domain or through a private code. Teachers can also create assignments, distribute and mark them all within the Google ecosystem. And to ensure that projects and assignments are met promptly, assignments and due dates can be added to Google Calendar.
The platform was developed by Google to simplify distributing, creating, and grading of assignments. According to Google, the main idea behind the development of Google Classroom was to create a web service for schools that aims to streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students. A survey carried out recently estimated that between 40 to 100 million people use the platform.
Assignments and due dates are included in the Google calendar, and each assignment can belong to a topic or category. Additionally, teachers can monitor each student’s progress by reviewing the revision of a document, and after grading has been completed, teachers can return work along with comments.
On the 6th of May, 2014, Google made a major announcement; the American multinational technology company introduced Google Classroom with a preview available for some members of Google’s G Suite (now called Google Workspace) for Education program. However, the platform wasn’t released publicly until three months later, in August 2014.
The following year, Google announced a classroom API, as well as a share button for websites. Thus, allowing school administrators and developers to further engage with Google classroom. In the same year, Google integrated Google Calendar into the Classroom for class speakers, field trips, and assignment due dates. In 2017, Google opened the Classroom to any personal Google users, allowing them to join classes without the requirements of having a G Suite for Education account. Also, Google made it possible for anyone with a Google account to create and teach a class in April, the same year.
In the following year of 2018, Google made a major redesign to Google Classroom. One prominent redesign was the grading of the interface that allows the reuse of classwork from other classes. Also, there was the new classwork section and other features for teachers to organize content by topic. Google added 78 new illustrated themes in 2019, as well as the option to drag and drop topics and assignments in the classwork section.
In 2020, Google introduced better integration with Google Meet for teachers to have a unique meet link with each class. According to Google, “as educators worldwide have reinvented their practice online, we’re also adapting our tools to meet the evolving needs of their educational landscape” and to this effect, the company added several new features to the platform. Below are some of the updates included:
- Ten additional languages
- Added auto-compose and added smart correct to Google docs
- Improved integration with learning management systems to great and distribute assignments.
In 2020, Google Classroom usage spiked up sharply when many schools had to shift lectures and classes online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Features of Google Classroom
Google Classroom ties Google Docs, Google Forms, Google Sites, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Gmail, and more together to help educational institutions achieve a paperless system. Google Calendar was later integrated into the platform to aid with assignments due dates, class speakers, and field trips. Also, any class created with Google Classroom creates a separate folder in the respective user’s Google Drive; here the student can submit work to be graded by a teacher.
Before we begin with the features of Google Classroom, it’s important to note that the platform is completely free. Once you have successfully set up your classroom, you can get started. Here is a list of some of the Google Classroom features.
Assignments are graded and stored on Google’s suite of productivity applications that enable collaboration between the teacher and the student or between students. Files are hosted on the student’s drive and are submitted for grading, instead of just sharing documents that reside in the student’s Google Drive with the teacher.
Teachers may select a file that can then be treated as a template; this way, every student can edit their own copy and then submit it for a grade instead of having every student to copy, view, or edit the same document. Also, students can choose to attach additional documents from their Drive to the assignment.
There are several grading schemes that Google Classroom supports. Teachers can decide to attach files to the assignment which students can edit, view, or even get an individual copy. Additionally, if a file-copy wasn’t created by the teacher, students can create files and then attach them to the assignment. Teachers may choose to monitor the progress of any student; concerning the assignment, where they can edit and make comments. When an assignment is submitted, teachers can make comments on them and then return it to the student to make corrections before submitting it back. Once an assignment has been graded, it can only be edited if the teacher turns the assignment back in.
The Google Classroom allows for two-way communication between the teacher and the students. For example, teachers can post an announcement to the class stream under which students can post comments. Also, the student can post to the class stream however; it won’t be as high of a priority, as compared to a teacher’s announcement. In addition to this, student’s post to the class steam can be moderated.
Several types of media from Google products such as Google Drive files and Youtube videos can be attached to announcements and posts to share content. There’s also the option to send one or more emails via Gmail in the Google Classroom Interface.
Classrooms can be accessed via the IOS and Android Classroom mobile apps or on the web.
This feature wasn’t added until January 2020. The feature allows students and educators to see the sections and parts of the submitted work which contains the exact or similar wording to that of another source. For students, it indicates source materials and flags missing citation. It also helps students improve their writing. Students can also check for the originality of the submitted report; thus, giving teachers the license to verify the academic integrity of the student’s submitted work.
Google Classroom has the archive course feature that allows teachers or instructors to archive courses at the end of the year or semester. When an instructor archives a course, it is removed from the homepage and kept in the Archive Classes area so that teachers can keep their current classes organized. When a course is archived, both the teachers and students can view it, but they cannot make any changes until it is restored.
Google Classroom Mobile apps were introduced during the first month of the year 2015. They are available for Android and IOS devices, and they allow users to take pictures and attach them to the assignment; share files from other apps, and it also supports offline access.
Things You Can’t Do with Google Classroom
So, now that we’ve provided some of the Google Classroom futures and uses, here are a few things you can’t do on the platform:
It’s not Chatbox: Although you can comment on announcements and assignments, the platform does not have a chat function. If you want to be in direct contact with a student, you can simply send them an email, or you can enable other Google Apps to take over that function.
A quiz or test tool: While there are a few possibilities when it comes to making quizzes in Google Classroom, it’s still not meant to be a quiz tool on its own. There are other great apps for that.
A discussion forum: Teachers can make announcements, and students can comment on them, but the Google Classroom isn’t a great fit for discussions.
How to Set up Your Google Classroom
If you are interested in setting up a Google Classroom, here are some simple steps that can get you started.
Before you can start using Google Classroom, the first thing you need to do is make sure you are signed in to your Google account. If you don’t have one, you will need to create one.
To access Google Classroom, you will have to visit classroom.google.com. You can also access the platform via your IOS or Android devices. Although the mobile app is terrific for accessing your classroom on the go, your best bet at having an easier time performing tasks like creating an assignment or grading is on your computer.
Create Your First Class
At the top (in the right upper corner) of the Classes page, click on the “+” button. Select “create a class”. Once you’ve clicked on this, you will fill in some detailed information about your class. Afterwards, you’ll write down a good class name and section. Ensure that the class name should be the title of your class, that way, you will be able to find it back within a few seconds. Then click on “create'”.
Invite Students to Your Class
After you’ve successfully created your class, you can now invite your students. Your students should sign in using Google Classroom by entering the unique code you gave them; this code will be in your created class. Another way of inviting your student is to enter their respective email, one by one. However, to do this, all your students will need to have a Google email Gmail address.
You can also let your students open the web and go to classroom.google.com. There, they will select “join class”, enter the class code you’ve given them, and they are in! This is much faster, as you don’t have to type in every student’s email address.
Once completed, your class is ready to go! Well, maybe not exactly, but it’s there and everyone can access it. Before you can really take off, there are still a few other things you have to do.
Make an Announcement or Create Your First Assignment
To share your first assignment, you can go Classwork – click on the “+ Create” button and share your first assignment or you can share your first announcement via the “Stream.” Remember to number your assignment. By numbering your assignments, your students will be able to tell which one comes first, as you are unable to reorder your assignments in the stream. You can decide to move assignments around to the top though. If you want to see if any student has submitted an assignment, simply click on the title to give grades and feedback. Once you’re done, you can return the assignments to your students, so they can start editing again.
Access the Drive Folder
Each time you create a new class, Google Classroom will create a Drive folder for that class. To access the folder, you will go to all your “class tiles.” On each tile, there is a folder icon. Once you click on it, you are in the folder. You can also add all your class materials to it. Additionally, all your student’s assignments automatically find their way in the Google Drive folder, that way, you can find it whenever you want.
Add Some Lesson Material to Your Class or Assignment
Google Classroom allows you to add a Youtube video, link, etc. You will find these options underneath the dues date.
Should You Be Worried about Privacy?
Protecting student’s data and privacy should definitely be a source of a major source of concern for any school or teacher, especially as a teacher who is looking for a digital tool for your classroom. For any tool collecting data from students, it’s only logical to ask questions about how the companies involved are using, storing and securing data.
According to Google, data security and privacy is a high priority for all G Suite for Education products. However, educators should understand that families and parents have a right to withdraw their child if they are not comfortable with them using Google products in school. That’s because there have been advocates, educators and families who have expressed doubts in the past about Google’s ability to deliver on promises about data protection and privacy.
Benefits of Using Google Classroom
Accessible from All Devices and Easy to Use
Using Google Classroom is a piece of cake, even if you are not a Google user. The fact that Google Classroom is delivered through Chrome makes it accessible from all mobile phones, computers, and tablets. The platform also makes it easy for you to add as many learners as you like, attach files from Google Drive, post Youtube Videos, add links, and create Google documents to manage assignments and make announcements. In addition to this, learners find it easy to log into the platform and receive assignments and deliver them.
With Google Classroom, teachers and students don’t have excessive amounts of papers to deal with since the platform is completely paperless. Once a teacher uploads assignments and their assessment to the Classroom, they are automatically saved to Drive. Students can equally complete their assignments and assessments directly through the platform, and their work is also automatically saved to Drive. Even when students miss work due to absences and other circumstances, they will still be able to access the resources they may need to catch-up. (Read 5 Apps You Need to Go Paperless)
Google Classroom has in-built tools that make communicating with students as well as parents a breeze. Students and teachers can post to the stream, send mails, send private comments on assignments, and provide feedback on work. Teachers can also speak with parents through individual emails, or via the Classroom email summaries which include class announcements and due dates.
There are several ways students can collaborate on Google Classroom. For example, teachers can facilitate online discussions between students. They can also create group projects within the Classroom.
Google Classroom enables teachers to easily differentiate instructions for learners. Assigning lessons to individual learners, groups of students or a whole class takes just a few simple steps when creating an assignment on the Classwork page.
Providing meaningful feedback to students is an important part of the learning process. Therefore, this makes the grading tool in the Classroom a vital tool. Through the grading tool, teachers can give comments and feedback to each student on assignments.
What’s the point of teaching or learning if teachers cannot tell if their students are grasping or understanding what they are being taught. That’s why teachers should be able to analyze assessments to make sure their students understand learning objectives. The platform allows instructors and teachers to easily export data from assessments into sheets for sorting and analysis.
Also read about Google Translate!