Okay as I sit writing this I am not at work. I am at home. It is my daughters birthday and I usually take the day off and spend it with my girls. She is two and is currently napping. My students are at school with an occasional substitute teacher and I left some interesting plans for today, but back to that in a bit. My students have been using google classroom all year to hand in their digital assignments. In my room, I provide choice. Choice on how a written assignment is completed. Some students write in the traditional way with a pencil and paper in a notebook…awesome. However due to the growing special needs in my classroom many require assistive technology to write me anything. So in order to allow those students to feel comfortable in using the tech in class without sticking out like a sore thumb I allow all students to use technology
if they choose to complete their work digitally. I fully support BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in school and allow them in my classroom all the time. This helps to boost the amount of tech in my classroom to approx a 2:1 or 2:3 ratio at any given time. Including the tech tubs of about 12 iPads that I use regularly too. As the year goes on more students bring in their own devices. I insist that all students use Google Docs to write all of their work. They can make their organizers on other apps that export to google docs such as Poplet and Explain Everything. I can easily track their usage and I don’t have to worry about saving issues like with Word or Pages. Our school board also has google apps for schools and each student has an account. However before we did I had a general classroom account that I set up that everyone used.
I have used a digital writing option for a few years with some success and lots of headache. So previous to this year I just had students share the document with me and then I maybe glanced at it as it was generally buried into my inbox and was not easily accessible I have two google accounts one for work and one for madlylearning. Which makes it hard to sign in to view the document. This worked but was not easy and helpful. I had students type, print, and glue their writing into their notebooks and this was also problematic as there was a rush to print at the end of the week. I needed something different and this is when I came across Google Classroom.
Why You Need to Use Google Classroom
Google Classroom is simple…it is a hand in station for students digital work. It is easy to set up and easy to manage. There are many tutorial online on how to set it up but like many other google products it is easy even for the digital novice. Once all my students were added to the classroom via their board supplied email we were set to go. Every week I create an assignment folder for students to share their digital work in. Once they submit it to me, google classroom locks them out of the file and they are not able to edit their work. I then have access to comment, change, edit or otherwise on the students work. I can place a mark on their work and hand it back to them. All of this can easily be done on my iPad mini without the pile of notebooks to shlep home. I find it is also faster to mark this way.
Ok so back to today. I left an assignment where students had to log into google classroom and watch a video from Learn Zillion about setting (Just found Learn Zillion and it is wonderful too) Students had to watch a video on setting and how it impacts a story. They then had to comment and answer a question about setting based on the last few stories that we had read in class. As I made my birthday girl lunch the iPad mini that I have for school was dinging like crazy. Looking at the clock it was Language time and my students were completing their assignment. Once she was napping I logged into see what they were writing. AMAZING!! I could see their responses to the questions. I could (and did) comment back to them asking them follow up questions or providing feedback on their responses. They were providing feedback on other students’ responses. It was amazing and authentic learning happening and I wasn’t even in my classroom. I mean I do have many AWESOME students in my class but I was so impressed with what was happening.
So the moral to my story is this. Embrace technology in your classroom, support BYOD and use Google Classroom as your digital hand in box. You many not really know how to use it and may be learning along side your students but trust me. In your class there is a digital expert that is just waiting to show you their knowledge and they can teach you and others. Students teaching students is a valuable activity. So take a leap, move forward and jump into the technological deep end with both feet.