A couple of years ago someone tried to show me how to use Google Classroom. After a very quick and complicated introduction, I stumbled my way through a few assignments for my students. It was about all I could handle. I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to use this tool with my fourth grade class. Fast forward to this year, and there is no way I could live without it.
A little information about Google Classroom may help. Our district is a GSuite (formally GAFE/Google Apps for Education) district. This allows our teachers and students to have access to Google Classroom. This great app allows teachers to assign students documents, forms, slideshows, videos, links to websites, pretty much anything you could imagine. Students then click a link to the assignment or just read directions and upload their own work. Teachers are able to create various "classrooms" for their students, using multiple classrooms for different grades (great for combination classes), subjects, or periods. Google has now allowed teachers to copy an assignment from one classroom to another to make it even easier. Parents are now allowed to be invited to view what assignments their students are going to be doing, or that happen to be not completed.
Since I begin really using the Classroom app, I have discovered that I no longer spend my limited classroom budget on copy or lined paper. We still have assignments where students write on paper, or where I need to print out something for them to keep, but I am no longer waiting in line at the copy machine to run off a bunch of worksheets or packets. My students have learned how to take screenshots of their work and create new products that show their understanding of a concept way more than if I had them do a worksheet. Both of these are easily turned into the app. Students can find their assignment, access it from anywhere (including when they are home sick), and no longer lose their assignments (nor do they forget to put their name on it!).
One of the great things for me is that going paperless has made my work/grading more efficient. I have all the materials in one place. The app tells me who has turned it in, and who is still working on it. I can check the progress of every student WHILE they are working on it, as well as give feedback. Students can fix their mistakes or expand on their thinking before turning it in based on my immediate feedback. When I had to go out of town unexpectedly, I was able to do three days worth of class activities all through Classroom. I even had the students complete study guides which I corrected and returned so they could take a test upon my return. (This never would have happened without Classroom!)
I have now shared my love of Google Classroom in many different venues. I will be presenting a session at the CETPA conference in a few weeks. Because I struggled with the app in the beginning, I have tried to make what I love about Classroom easier for teachers to understand and use. Many of the teachers I have shared with wish they had known about it a long time ago. If you are lucky enough to be in a district with Google Classroom, I highly recommend trying it out. You will not be sorry!
What I learned:
-Google Classroom is a much more efficient tool for collecting work than papers in trays/shelves.
-Students get more creative when they have a way to show what they know beyond the worksheet.
-Teachers need time to figure out the tools in order to be able to use it effectively.
-Administrators are using it with their staff in order to get information to the teachers quickly and easily as well.
If you are interested in starting a Google Classroom of your own, feel free to check out my presentation at: https://goo.gl/m5XgB1
Here is a list of apps that sync with Classroom: https://goo.gl/ibv4n7
Thanks George for the reminder!
Last school year my class started participating in #mysteryskypes. I would connect with another educator somewhere in the United States (keeping it to the states so far), usually through Twitter, to guess each other's locations. We ask the other class questions, like "Are you near an ocean?" or "Does your state start with a vowel?" As we narrow the list of states left, students begin to make guesses. Both classes end up winners by figuring out where the other class is located. Students are using deductive reasoning, while learning geography, map skills, and meeting the social studies standards. (5th grade Social Studies standards in California are all about US history and state locations, while the 4th graders are learning more about CA geography and location.) It was a great learning experience for my students. So far this year, my class has participated in two "games" with another 8 set up for the near future. (The goal is to connect with all 50 states by the end of the year.) Our first one took longer than I thought it would, but the second was much faster, for both classes.
One of the new things I have tried this year to make it more engaging for all students involved, not just the few whole like solving puzzles, is assigning roles to the students. Roles we are using came from Paul Solarz. (http://psolarz.weebly.com/how-to-set-up-and-run-a-mystery-skype-session.html) Students act as greeters, questioners and assistants, answerers, researchers, class map trackers, photographers, sharers (for the end when each class shares about their school/class/city), and closers. With a class of 35, I needed many roles so that all students would have something to do. Students got to pick their top three role choices. I made the final choices, with the understanding that by the end of the year all students would get to do all jobs. With the new roles, I found more students were participating, the students who understand geography better were helping those who needed more support.
I notice that not only are my students becoming more proficient in their map and geography skills, they are becoming more collaborative and greater problem solvers. They have also need better listening skills. Students made poor guesses because they didn't listen carefully to the answer the other class gave us. The "competition" to guess where the other class is located before they guess ours helps the students to work together. They are also becoming better speakers. They have had to learn to speak clearly into the computer so that the class understands the questions and answers over the internet.
Students are learning that others around the United States are just like them. It is always interesting to see the difference in schools and classes, especially class sizes (our last class had only 12 5th grade students!). My class is fascinated when we see schools surrounded by snow (It has snowed once during school in my 20+ years as a teacher in Simi, and that never hit the ground.) They are excited to see other classes have flexible seating and other similarities with technology. We get to see the differences in school times and homework (some have it, some don't.) All of this has made my class better global citizens while learning the academic subjects that can get boring.
What I learned:
- Having roles keeps more students engaged in the activity
- Friendly competition created greater collaboration within my classroom
- Schools that don't have Skype can use Google Hangouts in the same way
If you wish to try a #mystersykpe or #mysteryHangout
- Search and follow #mysteryskype to connect with other classes around the world
- If you would like to connect with our class to make our 50 states goal a reality, please contact me through Twitter (@MViTDiTeach or @CsotoMViT) or through the comment section. :)
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching