Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Google Classroom: Do Not Jump In The Deep End

Google Classroom Alice Keeler Do Not Jump In The Deep End
Google Classroom: Do Not Jump In The Deep End

Link to slides

Google Classroom: Do Not Jump In The Deep End

Making the shift to digital is NOT about doing what you’ve always done in a digital format. Digital allows us to rethink our tasks.

“When students can access information, I can talk less.”

How the class functions should be different when students have access to devices. First, students no longer need to wait for you to know what to do. Students walk in the door, go to Google Classroom and get to work.

If you teach kinder, make sure you check out Christine Pinto (@pintobeanz11) and how she uses Google Classroom and Google Apps with her Transitional Kindergarten (TK) students.

Value of the Teacher

Your value is not in your ability to tell facts that students can look up on the internet or find on YouTube. Probably the most important thing we do as teachers is to build relationships with students. What improves student learning is not necessarily telling students information, but rather providing students high quality and specific feedback. Release the telling of directions, collecting and distributing, and providing basic information. This magnifies the importance of the teacher. We now have more time to talk with students one on one or in small groups. We can spend more time providing feedback and asking students questions to push them further.

You can not talk a student into being a critical thinker. We have to let them think and provide feedback.

SAMR is Not A Ladder

SAMR is not a measure of difficulty. Sometimes new tasks are EASIER than trying to figure out how to make old tasks digital.


Moving to digital tools is a shift in mindset in how we interact with students. When starting with Google Classroom, start with a shift in thinking rather than a shift to being paperless.

The goal of 1:1 is not to be paperless, it is to change the task.
-Terri Stice (@tstice)

1. Use Paper for Paper Tasks

Being digital is not better. Same task yields the same learning. Digital tools will sometimes not work. Battery is dead, internet is down or slow, etc… If we are not improving learning, why put up with the potential hassle? Using technology is a whole new classroom management strategy.

Using technology is NOT more engaging.

No matter the medium, we must design for student engagement. Technology does not create engagement, your lesson design does. While anything new may energize students for a short period of time, there is no substitute for designing high-quality lessons.

Get started by not jumping in the deep end and throwing all your stuff online. Use paper for paper tasks.

2. Post Your Agenda

Get used to using Google Classroom by posting the tasks in Google Classroom. You do not need to make or attach anything. Take a little time to get used to sharing information digitally. Even if the task is “carpet time story” or “run around the track 10 times,” post this to Google Classroom. Create transparency that students can see everything that is expected of them that day.

3. Mark as Done. Leave a Comment

Students are able to mark tasks in Google Classroom as completed. Students go to Google Classroom, click on the OPEN button and click on the blue “Mark as Done” button. What allows Google Classroom to make a better learning environment is the “Private comment” feature. This allows students to provide feedback about a task or ask a question. More than just leaving a comment, Google Classroom allows you to have a conversation with students. You can reply to student comments in the private comments. This is a big deal, particularly with quieter students. Google Classroom gives every student an opportunity to ask a question or admit they are confused.

Create a culture that you encourage students to make comments. After carpet time story reading, ask students to go back to Google Classroom and mark the assignment as done. Ask them to leave a private comment about their favorite part of the story. Encourage them to ask you a question. Google Classroom changes how we interact with students for the better. Practice using Google Classroom to hear from students and have conversations together.

Mark as done. Leave a comment. Have a conversation

4. Ask a Question

When posting to Google Classroom the 3rd option is to ask the class a question. You can ask a short answer or multiple choice question. This is possibly one of the easiest things to do with Google Classroom. You can ask students questions on the fly and hear from everyone. Leave the default “Students can reply to each other” to help create a mindset of “We are a community of learners and we help each other get better.”
Create a question in Google Classroom

5. Give Resources

[tweet]Suggestion to get used to interacting with students before creating and distributing things.[/tweet] Google Classroom is a great way to share resources with students. Students can easily find the resources and this can be a great way to differentiate and provide additional resources for struggling students or those wanting additional challenges.

There are 4 ways to attach things in Google Classroom. After creating an assignment, notice the 4 icons at the bottom of the assignment creation window.

  1. Paperclip: Attach anything on your computer. Browse and attach.
    Caution: Think DIFFERENTLY when using tech. Suggestion to avoid attaching your Word documents and PDF’s. Students deserve us always updating and modernizing our lessons to prepare them for THEIR future.
  2. Google Drive: If it is in Google Drive you can attach it in Google Classroom. By default the file is view only.
    I encourage you to embrace Google Drive and have ALL of your stuff in Drive. Do not be tied to a particular device. When your files are in Google Drive you can access them anywhere, including on your phone. 
  3. YouTube: Link to a YouTube video.
  4. Web Link: Copy and paste the URL to any website and link to it from Google Classroom.
    Be consistent, always have students link to a website from Google Classroom rather than typing it themselves. 

Attach resources

6. Have Students Create Google Docs

Remember, [tweet]the person doing the work is the person doing the learning.[/tweet] We do not have to create templates or graphic organizers for everything the students do. Students are able to create Google Docs right from Google Drive. In the same way that you would instruct students to “get out a piece of paper,” we instead ask students to create a blank Google Doc.

Students click on OPEN and use the CREATE button to create a blank Google Doc. The document is automatically attached in Classroom, appends the students name, and the teacher has immediate access to the students work while they are working on it!
Google Classroom student creates a Google Doc

Take some time to get used to accessing and reviewing student work that is digital. Google Classroom organizes all of the student documents in Google Classroom as well as Google Drive. From the Stream in Google Classroom, click on the assignment title to open the assignment assessment page.
Click on assignment title to find student work

A link to the folder in Google Drive that has all of the student documents makes it easy to view each student’s work.
Link to the folder in Google Drive

7. Give Feedback

[tweet]The single most important thing you can do to improve student learning, after building relationships with students, is to provide high-quality feedback.[/tweet] Specifically, what the student did well and specifically what the student can improve on. [tweet]Google Classroom makes learning better when we take advantage of the feedback opportunities.[/tweet]

There are 3 ways to give feedback in Google Classroom.

  1. Private Comments: After clicking on the assignment title in the Stream, click on a student’s name on the left-hand side. For each student, there is a spot to leave a private comment. This is an excellent place to provide specific feedback to the student.
    [tweet]What is game changing about Google Classroom is it changes your comments into CONVERSATIONS![/tweet] Students are able to comment back so you can talk about the students learning together.
    specific feedback on what a student did well and what they can improve on
  2. In Doc Comments: You are able to leave comments in a Google Doc. Highlight the text you want to comment on and an icon in the right margin appears to allow you to leave a comment on the side of the document. What makes this better than leaving comments on a paper (or an annotated PDF) is that it is not a comment, it is a CONVERSATION with the student. Students can reply back to the comment.
    Comment Icon in Google DocsNote: When students TURN IN a Google Doc, the ownership of the document switches from the student to the teacher. The student is made a viewer of the document. Students can not view or reply to comments until you RETURN the document in Google Classroom to the student. Suggestion to RETURN the document BEFORE you give feedback. 
  3. Before The Student is Done Comments: Okay this is really kinda the same as the last two in that the feedback goes in the same place. When you make comments on a student’s paper we all know they typically do not read it or do not internalize the information deeply… why?! Because they are DONE! In their mind, they are DONE with that assignment.  We can spend HOURS giving students feedback with minimal learning outcomes. Giving the exact same feedback comments BEFORE the assignment is due changes the comment to being formative instead of punitive. Students appreciate the feedback when it is formative; resent the feedback when it is too late to do anything about it. Even given the opportunity to go back and make corrections is not something students typically appreciate. They think they are done with the assignment.As often as it is feasible, try to provide feedback comments to students WHILE they are working on the assignment. Before it is due.

8. Collaborate. Students can edit file.

When attaching Google Docs in Google Classroom the default is “Students can view file.” Click on the arrow next to this setting and change it to the middle option “Students can edit file.” This allows all of the students to edit the same Google Doc.

Google Apps are a collaboration suite.

At the top of your lesson plans write the word COLLABORATION super huge. How does teaching and learning in 2016 look differently? We can ACTUALLY collaborate together, whereas before it was difficult to impossible. Now that it is possible, as often as possible, have your students collaborate and work together.

My favorite activity is to attach BLANK collaborative Google Slides. You can create and distribute collaborative Google Slides in under 40 seconds. Each slide is essentially a blank piece of paper, what can you not do with Google Slides? [tweet]Opening 30-200 of anything is not fun.[/tweet] Attaching blank collaborative Google Slides (or Google Sheets, spreadsheets are awesome for this too!) gives you ONE document to open. It is super easy to give students feedback as they work since there is only one file to have open. You can see students work as they work. Creating that “community of learners who help each other get better” is a snap. When a student is on slide 7 they simply jump to slide 12 and insert peer feedback comments.

9. Make a Copy For Each Student

Switching to digital tools requires a change in mindset. Instead of doing what you’ve always done with distributing photocopies to students, first, work on how you will interact with students. How you will provide high-quality feedback. How you will have students collaborate.

I suggest that the last thing you try with Google Classroom is replacing the photocopy machine. Google Classroom allows you to take a document and create an individual copy for each student. Create a document in Google Drive. Create a new assignment in Google Classroom. Click on the Google Drive icon to attach the template. Change the default from “Students can view file” to the 3rd option of “Make a copy for each student.”
Make a copy for each student in Google Classroom

Remember, [tweet]same task = same learning.[/tweet] Students do not learn more just because a document is digital. Students are not more engaged because a document is digital. Opening up a bunch of digital documents is NOT fun. I suggest you use this option more sparingly and try to use collaborative documents as often as makes sense. Think differently, go further with Google Classroom.


2 thoughts on “Google Classroom: Do Not Jump In The Deep End

  1. Hello. A colleague of mine and myself are proposing to present Google Classroom at our MSEA conference in October. We wanted to make a Google Classroom for all educators that attend so that they can see how the students will view it and gave all handouts/resources in one place (Note: your site and books will be encouraged and referenced and cited appropriately). Our district said that we cannot have people outside our district join a Google Classroom and it’s a Google restriction. Do you know if we can ask for special permission? Thank you for any help/insight. Have a great day. I am on Twitter – @LScumpieru or you can email me at: fichtlis@wcps.k12.md.us. Thank you so much for any help.

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