Google Classroom – A Blessing and a Curse

Google Classroom is the both the best thing and the most frustrating thing to happen to my teaching in a long time.  My district “went Google” and the most logical thing for me to do was to try to leverage all of what was available to me to try to maximize the effectiveness of my teaching.  My newly blended classroom was the perfect place to experiment and learn about this new tool.  

While Classroom has given me some absolutely wonderful functionality, it is far from perfect.  Google readily admits that and has a wonderfully flexible outlook on its own product.  They are very upfront about how they are always working on it and are very receptive to input.  I really cannot ask for more than that from them, although sometimes the much-desired features seem like they will never take shape.  Thankfully, many features have been added, and each time a new one is introduced, I jump on board to try it.  So far, I have not been disappointed.  We may have to wait, but what they have added is high quality.

So, let’s look at the good:

  • The distribution of assignments and resources – this process is so much simpler using Google Classroom.  Please note that I am not doing any product comparison here other than comparing using Google Classroom to physically passing out papers!  The biggest win for me as a teacher in using this feature is the ability to hold my students accountable – they can’t lose anything or say they didn’t get a copy.  Organization, particularly in middle school students, is a rare thing. I have to say, some of them are speechless when they realize that old excuse has no validity anymore.  I kind of love that………………..
  • The ability for kids to have a classroom for each teacher they work with – again, organization rules!  My students can sign in and see all of their classes in one place.  This is invaluable when working with kids who have 5 different major subject teachers with 5 different lists of assignments.  I have seen a real difference in my kids’ ability to pull their organizational skills together.  We aren’t talking miracles here, but there has been far fewer meltdowns.
  • The ability for teams of teachers to use Google Classroom in a purposeful, planned way – the potential here is huge, although there is room for growth feature-wise on Google’s part.  Not only can we make each other teachers in each other’s classrooms, but what I create can serve as an example for another teacher on the team trying something for the first time.  Built in PD!
  • All of the add-ons created for Google Apps for Education and Chrome that work with Classroom – Holy Toledo!  The number of add-ons is growing every day.  Clearly, the quality is not all equal, but the ability to have so many to pick and choose from and the fact that they are available to the kids too is terrific.  The biggest issue is choosing which to use.  Some of my students have even become “product testers” and recommend certain ones to the class or to me.  Who doesn’t like free shopping??

With all good comes some bad.  Let’s take a look:

  • The grading situation – I cannot get my head wrapped around this flow – it seems unnecessarily cumbersome to me and involves way too much clicking.  There is vast room for improvement here and, if Google can figure out how to smooth this out and streamline it, they will have a huge win on their hands.  And a big fan!

 

  • The stream – it could just be that I am not a Facebook user or a fan of social media, but I don’t like this interface.  Visually, I would love the ability to change the layout – the timeline is just not working for me and many of my students struggle with this view as well.  The ability to display the assignments/announcements/questions in multiple ways – user choice – would be a very welcome change and would make this tool so much more user-friendly for many of my students.

 

In the end, I am much happier with Google Classroom than I was without it.  I do believe it will get better with time and user input.  I appreciate Google’s commitment to making Classroom function better for both teachers and students.  If you haven’t given it a try yet, what are you waiting for?  Dive in.