‘More teaching, less tech-ing’**
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:
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 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).
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.
*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?