Google Classroom*

‘More teaching, less tech-ing’**

My employer has provided Google Apps for Education (GAFE) since the beginning of the year.

Actually, this started five years ago when the student email service was hosted by Google but has taken some time for the full suite of tools to become available. We have been promised GAFE for the last two years but various challenges have delayed the launch. This is what I now see when I login into Google Apps at my professional portal:

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 5.28.13 pm

My Year 9 Big History class have been using the tools, especially Google Docs, Drive and Classroom since the first week of the academic year. It is great that students can logon to the student portal and have access with this one password.

I have used Edmodo since 2008 but in this new context, have not had this class create accounts as they no longer seem as useful with the GAFE suite on offer so easily. I particularly like the potential of Google Classroom.

The key advantages of using Google Classroom in a BYOD environment are:

  • works on all devices and students who are absent have easy access to missed lessons

  • unlimited storage space in Google Drive  

  • the seamless integration with the GAFE suite ie. Google Docs automatically saves student work as do the other tools like Slides and Sheets

  • the advanced sharing features for teachers and students which allow collaboration

  • the folder structure (automatically created in Google Drive) when I set an ‘assignment’ rather than ‘announcement’. The kids respond in Docs (or whatever tool they like) and I can make comments, changes etc. (see below examples of the folders as well as announcements v assignments).

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 5.39.53 pm

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 5.56.40 pm

The main disadvantages of using Google Classroom in a BYOD environment are:

  • the wifi is going to be tested and will likely need upgrading as more classes make regular use of the suite
  • concerns over the corporatisation of educational spaces with brands gaining even more of a foothold
  • students may become de-skilled by using such simple tools rather than an expanding their Personal Learning Environment
  • the growth of Google tools being a poisoned chalice as student horizons are limited to one brand

For most teachers Google Classroom none of the above will be much of a concern as they will find this tool to be a complete BYOD package for sharing, collaboration, writing, presentation and storage needs.

You may find my Google Classroom bookmarks useful.

Closing thoughts

*This post could have easily been about the corporatisation of education. Citizens of NSW may wonder about students at schools who have their data stored by a corporation that pays very little tax in Australia but what is a teacher or students practically to do? They are offered unlimited storage, free tools and the support of their employer to legitimise students making use of these apps at state schools. Plenty of teachers in school systems around the world have experienced the poor quality of in-house tech tools over many years and will find the ease of these Google ecosystem products more enticing than worrying.

Digital citizenship training assists students to become more critically literate about the online world. Teachers should spend time discussing technical and philosophical issues to ensure that students are informed as citizens as well as consumers. Some possible activities are looking at open source platforms like MOODLE in contrast to Google GAFE or considering why Google would be so enthusiastic to be in the ‘education marketplace’ by offering unbeatable deals to schools.

Many students can already see that free services likely mean that they are ultimately the product.

** ‘More teaching, less tech-ing’ is the Google slogan promoting their Classroom product and the reality is, it is very likely that teachers will find this to be the case. Everything just works seamlessly and will suit even the least ‘techy’ kind of teacher. 

What do you think about GAFE?

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3 Comments

  1. Jim Mallios:

    Thanks for the run down, it’s a great set of tools to utilise within our classes. I have a nephew attending a public school and was able to collaborate with him on an assignment, scaffolding and correcting language live on 2 laptops.

    We could have used this level of integration back in 2009 within the department.

  2. GAFE does raise interesting questions about the corporatisation of education but I feel more OK than when my daughter’s year 5 class went on an excursion to an Apple store!
    To me GAFE is closer to schools using Moodle or Blackboard, or MIcrosoft products..

  3. Roland Bernett:

    This comment is from someone on the support of technology but with a partner who is a high school teacher.

    In relation to “tools” for learning, I suspect the writer and possibly a number of readers will have only used pen and paper at school, and accessed much of their information from the printed page. At the time there was no choice. To what extent was their education limited by that lack of choice? To use these tools the user had to first learn how to read and write. Collaborative learning also occurred but within a limited circle.

    With these new tools there is also a need to learn the skills to use them. These include reading, a form of input (eg typing), and the overhead of using the technology itself. But they do allow for new and extended ways of learning.

    Two main rate determining steps in learning are the speed with which one can accept input eg reading and hearing, and the speed with which one comprehends inputs into the brain. Technology is capable of delivering at much faster rates than the human brain can ever handle – unless you want to enter the world of science fiction.

    We are talking about tools here – a means to an end. If they bring new ways of learning, increase engagement and reach a more satisfactory endpoint they have justified their use. Learning how to use them will generally be a minor part of the whole educative process. That’s not to say there is no value in learning how to use these tools.

    So an assessment of the disadvantages of using certain tools is really about whether or not those tools produce poorer learning outcomes rather than a lack of technology choice. In the end a range of learning tools will need to be used including a few analogue ones!

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