Use Google Classroom to Interact
What is awesome about Google Classroom is how fast it is to get up and running. You can create a class and have students turn in work in under 3 minutes. While it is quick to get started with Google Classroom, we have to be intentional with how we use it if we want to improve learning.
Dumping All Your Stuff Online is Confusing
There is nothing wrong with using paper. Trying to take all your paper stuff and dump it online is hard to manage, confusing and does not improve learning one tiny bit. Can we please stop this quest to be paperless and instead think about how we can INTERACT better with students to improve learning.
Putting worksheets online is not magical, nor engaging, nor is it best practices for using technology. The best use of teacher time is NOT opening digital documents, waiting waiting waiting for them to load, scrolling through an entire document looking for what a kid scribbled on a line and grading it. VERY LITTLE learning comes out of that but it sucks a lot of teacher time.
When getting started with blended learning, do NOT start with digital assignments.
When students can access information, I can talk less. This is more time for students to be actively engaged which results in better learning. This is more time for the teacher to be able to sit next to students, which improves learning. Think, what information can students access digitally that would allow me to spend less time providing directions and more time working with kids?
Put instructions in the description of the assignment or add a Google Doc with the instructions. Nothing about the assignment needs to be digital.
Even though the assignment has NOTHING digital it allows for all students to access the information, even if they are not in class. Make “What did I miss when I was absent?” an obsolete question.
My mantra is “Get it in Google Drive.” If it is in Google Drive it is SO EASY to add to Google Classroom. Go to http://docs.google.com/create to create a blank Google document. It is hard to get used to, but there is no save button. Create your directions document and then click on the Google Drive icon in the Google Classroom assignment and add the document.
Add a Video
Not into text based directions? Add a video! Use my Webcam Record Chrome extension to record a 30 second webcam video for you to let students know what they should be doing.
It Isn’t Digital, It is INTERACTIONS
Being digital does NOT make learning better. It is the intentional design of the teacher to use digital materials to interact with students that improves learning.
Teachers make learning better, not digital tools.
Interacting with students, having conversations with students, sitting next to a student, fast feedback that is specific, encouraging students …. these all have a HIGH IMPACT on learning. The value of the teacher is hugely important. I use my technology to allow me to do more interacting not more digitizing.
Mark As Done
Notice in the sample assignments above I asked the students to “Mark as done.” Even though the assignments do not have a digital thing about them, the students can use Google Classroom to indicate they are done with the activity. Just seeing a count of how many students are done is super helpful for me.
So get started with Google Classroom by doing NOTHING digital, so far as assignments, but asking students to Mark as done. Talk less and interact more.
Hands down Private Comments are my favorite part of Google Classroom. They allow me to digitally interact with students. Private Comments in Google Classroom gives every student, including my quiet students, a voice. Private Comments allow students to reflect on their learning, which makes learning better. Private Comments allows students to give ME feedback, which makes me a better teacher.
Find Private Comments
In Google Classroom to find student work you click on the assignment title. This reveals the roster of students on the left hand side. Click on any students name. You will find a spot for Private Comments in the bottom right.
Private Comments are easier than using email and have a big impact on learning. Why? Because you are INTERACTING with students. If email is turned on for your district (it should be, even for Kinder) the student will receive an email notification when you leave them a Private Comment. Same for you. If a student leaves a feedback comment, you get an email. DELETE THE EMAIL. It is a notification, you do not need to save it. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the email that Google Classroom generates, try filtering your Gmail. I have a workflow for managing the email explosion. Basically, I filter for Private Comments. Open from Gmail, delete the email, repeat. Deleting the email lets me know that I responded to the student. I mass delete emails. I type in the assignment number into the top of Gmail and then check the checkbox to select all notifications for that assignment and DELETE THEM. Feels super satisfying to delete a bunch of email notifications all at once.
Ask A Question
Wicked easy is to ask a question in Google Classroom. “No” tech skills required. However, asking a question in Google Classroom switches from hearing from 1-2 students to hearing from everyone. This is a big deal.
In Google Classroom, click the plus icon in the bottom right. Choose “Create question.” Type the question. Click Ask.
Use Multiple Choice
Use the multiple choice question option for an exit ticket out the door. Get some quick feedback before the student’s leave. To view the summary of responses, click on the assignment title in the Stream.
View Who Said What
Click on the bar to reveal the students who responded with that answer. Hearing from EVERY student on how the lesson went will help you to better lesson plan but more importantly, know which kids you need to go work with the next day. So often I try to judge students by their body language or asking them “how did it go?” on the way out the door, but this is a very inaccurate. You worked hard to build relationships with students and they want to please you. They smile and try hard, but sometimes are hiding that they are struggling. Ask. And ask digitally.
START WITH THESE
- Interacting with students by posting directions so you can physically interact more with students during class improves learning.
- Clearly letting all students and parents know what went on that day by posting everything, including non-digital activities, to Google Classroom helps everyone to be less confused. It also reduces the “can I get my kid’s assignments” emails and eliminates the “what did I miss?” questions.
- Having students to mark as done helps them to make sure they are on track with everything.
- Allowing students to ask a question in the Private Comments improves relationships, which improves learning.
- Having conversations with students in the Private Comments makes learning better and improves relationships.
- Asking questions digitally allows for all students to think and respond rather than just a few.
- Using digital exit tickets to get the pulse of the class helps you improve lesson plans which makes learning better.
Not Digital, Self Grading
When you’re ready to start doing digital assignments, the goal is not digital. It is SELF GRADING! Do not make your activities into Google Docs or PDF’s, instead, put them into a platform that grades for you!
Grading does not improve learning.
For low critical thinking questions that the computer can grade, it should. Try a digital platform that you can get your questions into that frees you up from grading!
- Turn on Quizzes in Google Forms
- and a whole lot more
Use your time in ways that impact student learning. That is encouraging students and increasing critical thinking.
It will be FASTER to make your activity self-grading than it will to grade it.
There are so many wins for making practice self-grading.
- Happier teacher. A teacher not bogged down in paperwork makes learning better by allowing the teacher to spend time differently. Hopefully, it also allows more time for family and being rested which is good for kids too!
- For low critical thinking tasks, the students are emotionally invested for about 5 seconds. Feedback later is too late. If the student can get feedback NOW that will increase learning and motivation.
- Redo. Do we not allow redo’s because it is good pedagogy or because we can not live our lives under a pile of paperwork? Computers do not get tired. They will allow a kid to practice until the kid actually shows they learned something. Mastery learning
- HELP ME: When a student is getting fast feedback and they are not being successful they are much more likely to ask for help. Later is too late, they stopped caring.
- Data data data data. Unlike paper or PDF’s, self grading platforms provide you with data that allows you to adjust your teaching, and target students who need help. Data is not a 4 letter word, OLD data is. You want information NOW that allows you to help students sooner rather than later.
- You spend time helping students develop critical thinking. This is TIME CONSUMING. If you want to help develop students as critical thinkers you have to GIVE OTHER STUFF UP! Give up grading.
No matter the medium, design for student engagement.
When you put stuff online ask yourself, is this engaging? Is uploading a stack of digital paperwork going to help my students learn? Help them love learning? Will it improve my relationships with students (which has a high effectiveness for learning)?
You do NOT start going digital by boring students with paper assignments online. You start by INTERACTING with students and making learning better.