For those who have been reading, I would like to thank you. For those who just started following or reading the blog, I would like to give you a little background on me as an educator. I am entering my 21st year as an educator, and during this time, I have tried to keep a history of my teaching, but for a number of reasons, it has not been a success. This year, I have a motivator – it will be an objective for my evaluation. This will not be anything fancy, just a collection of events and thoughts of my day. Also, this will not be proofread, so hopefully you will not judge, but rather have a better understanding of my journey as an educator and person.
This was published in the VEA Magazine in October.
“Beyond Surfing” by DeWayne Harrell
We’re always looking for innovative ways to spark an interest in the young people we teach, and the “elephant in the room” in schools and school divisions these days is often technology. Teachers get lots of questions about using 21st-century classroom tools, including:
- “How are you implementing technology?”
- “When do you plan to use it?”
- “Are students collaborating while using technology?”
There’s one technology tool I use that I believe can provide helpful and effective answers to those questions and help spur research, creativity and collaboration in your classroom. It’s Google Classroom, and I’ve found it to be a good way to create a shift in the school community and climate.
Google Classroom’s website describes it as a “free, web-based platform that integrates your…Google Apps services, including Google Docs, Gmail and Google Calendar,” and adds that using Google Classroom can save both time and paper. That sounds like a lot, but implementing it isn’t that difficult. Once you design a plan of action, create some collaborative teams, and find a target audience, it will feel easier and easier every day.
I look at Google Classroom as a lesson plan book for both teacher and students. We already make plans, but Google Classroom gives students their own individual agenda book where they can locate their assignments, have a list of their grades, and work in an environment that allows them to collaborate, create and share information. It’s not intended as an absolute way of teaching and managing the classroom, more as a way to enrich it and to increase student involvement. Building enrichment and involvement creates a learning space in which students and teachers can share and discuss specific questions and develop a more in-depth look at learning itself. Yes, many educators are already creating this tone in and out of their classrooms, but Google Classroom also allows scenarios providing an opportunity for students to become familiar with many components of technology, as well as to use critical thinking skills throughout the learning process. It’s also a communication tool that could enable a more reserved student to express his or her thoughts in a comfortable setting, as well as give teachers more insight into some of their more outgoing students.
Here are just a few ways you can make use of Google Classroom:
- Post assignments or announcements (for example, The Balloon Creation Challenge must be completed by next Tuesday, November 29.)
- Publish links to sites and videos for students.
- Plan collaborative activities.
- Communicate with students, either individually or as a group.
As many of you know very well, there is a process for making things happen at individual schools, and getting Google Classroom for your students is something you’ll have to figure out based on your own school’s environment. It’s free, but some infrastructure is needed before you can use it. And, just like students, educators are at different levels of technology experience and expertise. Some are already immersed into Google and its many options, while others are just using it for simple searches. Either way, the most effective way to become familiar with the Google platform is to use it as much as possible. Research how others are using it in and out of the classroom, and talk with your students to get a better understanding of how they use the Internet and other tools to communicate with friends and family. Like any other education trend, we must figure out how the specific application will benefit our students, ourselves and our community. This platform can be adapted to fit the needs of many situations, and can be implemented in stages throughout the school year. Because of the nature of Google, it can be its own best source for learning more about Google Classroom. Just search for terms such as “Google Classroom” and “Google Classroom Videos.”
There’s really no one always-best way to get Google Classroom up and running in your classroom. Create and expand your comfort zone as you learn and apply new skills.
At first, students will likely be interested in Google Classroom purely because it’s a new technology to them. Of course, some will adapt to it quicker than others, and some will shy away from it altogether. (You know, kind of like educators do when they are first introduced to something new.) In time, everyone will grasp it at their own pace, which is exciting and scary at the same time. This is the beauty of using Google Classroom. Students now have a tool that can help them to develop both academic and personality skills, one they’ll use to design, decipher and manipulate their way through a new learning model. As educators, we’re hoping Google Classroom gives them the ability to grow at their own pace while still opening new avenues in the world of technology and education.
Students’ opportunity to view assignments for the day, week and month may give them a sense of empowerment and the opportunity to organize and manage their time. The way an educator disseminates assignments and tasks depends on the class. Because some students are task-oriented, the ability to see all their assignments at one time may motivate them to finish each task on a planned schedule. Google Classroom may also help procrastinators quickly learn the importance of time management. Either way, when students are given freedom, they will learn the important concept of consequences.
Once students familiarize themselves with Google Classroom, their strengths will soon follow. You will find the leaders, the researchers, the artists, the tech experts, the investigators, the analyzers, the doers, and every other personality trait you would find on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Google Classroom allows students to be the owners of their own education under the umbrella of the classroom. Yes, educators will still be responsible for creating and adapting lessons, sharing knowledge, and giving direction, but the process becomes more of an arrangement where the students are part of the agreement. Educators don’t need to change “what” they’re teaching, but maybe “how” and “when” certain content is taught. Students should have more possibilities to find correlations between learned knowledge and new knowledge. It should make sense to them as individuals because students of today have a unique way of looking at the world and the knowledge they seek to understand. Google Classroom does both for students and teachers by giving teachers structure in assignments and activities, but at the same time allowing students to find their own knowledge and learning styles.
Once you get more proficient with Google Classroom, you can expand its use throughout the building. Faculty meetings are a necessity at times, but Google Classroom can also serve many of the same purposes. Teachers and administrators can create presentations to share and help lead your staff in new directions based on educational research, likes and dislikes, student support, community support, and any other specific need in the building. Assignments and Internet links could also be distributed this way—and “assignments” shouldn’t be looked upon as work, but as of a way to give a task to all that will benefit all. Google Classroom is an opportunity to become transparent about what a school and a classroom teacher are doing with their learners. The ability to post assignments, give due dates, and share resources is just as powerful as using an internal email system. Once teachers become users and learners of Google Classroom, there will be additional opportunities for individual educators to be ambassadors of this technology, as well as create better conversations about the concept.
Harrell, a member of the Salem Education Association, is a librarian and media specialist at South Salem Elementary School.