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Published on 30/11/14

Google Classroom is gaining traction in schools and it’s only a work in progress!

I was introduced to Google Classroom about six weeks ago and was immediately taken by the concept.

Classroom is simple, straightforward, easy to set up and is a natural complement to Drive. As a teacher of mathematics I have yet to fully explore the ‘assignments’ functionality with regard to annotating and grading students’ work. However, as a tool for sharing information it is superb, and I use it as a teacher/student planner and timeline which allows me to set work, provide links to articles and guide students to worksheets in our shared area on Drive.

I still have much to explore and Classroom will undoubtedly continue to develop, but I hope that in doing so it doesn’t lose it’s most attractive feature: simplicity.

Take a look at this short introduction by Daniel Edwards (Director of Innovation & Learning) to see how quick and easy it is to get started with Classroom:

At a simple level Classroom helps teachers to communicate with their classes, create and organise assignments and provide feedback when and where it is required. Classroom is actually an excellent example of paperless workflow and does a fantastic job of leveraging the power of Google Docs, Drive and Gmail in one platform.

Advantages of Google Classroom

  • Students can be added to Classroom directly by the teacher or by entering a unique class code

  • Classroom automatically creates Drive folders for each student and every assignment

  • All assignments are available to students on the assignment page with class resources automatically placed into Drive folders

  • Teachers can share a document with a class or automatically make a copy for each student

  • The ‘turn-in’ feature allows the teacher to quickly see who hasn’t yet completed the work

  • Feedback can be received by the student as soon as it is given by the teacher

  • Teachers can make announcements or pose questions to a class

  • Students can communicate with each other and pose questions themselves

  • Classroom is set up to save time, improve organisation and enhance communication, allowing teachers to create, review and grade assignments. It appears to be the perfect solution, however……

Disadvantages of Google Classroom

  • No annotation tool available

  • No audio/video feedback option

  • Grading options are limited

  • No calendar integration

  • No markbook integration (although you can export grades)

Simplicity is Classroom’s strength and it is unfair to judge a product by the lack of desirable features when the ease of setup makes it so accessible. However, it can’t harm to suggest a number of options to make Classroom the ‘go-to’ workflow tool. A pen tool that works under mouse click or touch would be a very useful feature. This would perhaps open up the Classroom workflow for those subjects where annotation is a must and numbers are central to student work. This could be coupled with an audio feature that records the voice and any actions on the screen. This is extremely useful for teachers when making a point to students and has become a feature in other use cases, particularly in workflow apps for iPad. An audio feature could also be used by students to explain their assignment or indeed to communicate with their peers. After all, the inclusion of voice messages in apps like iMessage and WhatsApp, clearly indicates that audio notes are popular and worthwhile.

Finally, with most other GAFE features carefully weaved into Classroom, I can’t help but think there’s a place for Hangouts. A teacher could host reviews, create tutorials or simply communicate with students when lesson contact time isn’t possible. To have all your resources available to you within a controlled environment where you can speak to students as required, now that is a very powerful tool for learning.

I’m already sold on Classroom as a tool and I hope Google maintain their interest in developing a product that the world of education is crying out for. Watch this space.