What’s in your classroom: Is Google Classroom ready to take over?

Google Classroom, Google’s tool for managing, sharing and collaboration in your classroom, has had an important update in the last month. A teacher can now assign a task to specific students, something we can all do ‘in real life’ but teachers who have found Google Classroom to be a time-saving effective tool for sharing content and accessing work have been calling for this feature for some time. To see the other updates, including usage statistics in admin panel click here.

When I presented a Google Classroom session for the first time at an Appsevents summit it solved many problems for teachers who already used Google Drive with their classes but those using Edmodo, Hapara Teacher Dashboard, Moodle liked the interface and usability but when they asked if it:

  • Can share information with parents like show my homework
  • Sync with markbooks like…
  • Work on iOS and Android
  • Annotate student work like…

It didn’t, but it does now! What we have learnt is that the feedback button was worth pressing. Google’s team of project managers and developers read every piece of feedback and have aggregated the main requests to regularly improve the product based on user’s requests. If you appreciate being able to sort by first and last name, you’re welcome.

All the items I listed in my training slides that Classroom couldn’t do have consistently been crossed off. Third party tools have made Classroom even more effective, more and more of your favourite web tools and apps work seamlessly with Classroom. Here are a few of my own favourites:

  • Geogebra
  • Share to Classroom
  • Desmos (sort of)
  • Peardeck
  • Smartamp
  • Texthelp

More and more providers of educational tools are taking advantage of the API access to integrate their tools with Classroom so your favourite may be linked soon if it is not already. Check out the ones that do here.

For admins, some who eagerly await more integration with the tools teachers want to use, others who have used a lack of integration as a reason to deny teachers use of it, there are now ways to sync users, create classrooms for the whole school and monitor usage. Parents can get updates on assignments and a calendar is created for every class.

Chromebooks are getting android apps and a stylus to make it even easier for teachers to annotate work submitted, which for me leave one last request…

Google, please can you develop Google drawings to work seamlessly with touchscreen, stylus and interactive whiteboards?

Ben Rouse, 2017

For schools looking to harness technology for learning, can they really look much further than GSuite and Chromebooks?

Enjoy

Ben

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Funding #edtech in State Schools (How do I…)

What are we missing by having GAfE but restricted access to devices?

Having taken my school “Google” in September 2013 I feel my focus will need to start moving to our access to devices. Currently we have six computer rooms which are used 90% of the time for timetabled computing/ICT lessons. Teachers scrabble to book any free periods in these rooms but often you find that only one or two of your classes will coincide with an available slot so the use of GAfE in class is very limited. This reduces the potential for:

  • Collaborative, in class, group work. Click here for an example
  • Class feedback on a document.
  • Peer review under the supervision of the teacher.
  • Training students in the required workflow.
  • Using blogs and sites for flipped instruction or providing students with differentiated tasks.

Introducing Devices

I believe there are great learning and teaching benefits to having easily accessible devices, especially as we have GAfE. It will be my job to pursued my colleagues, the parents and students of this. Outside of the learning and teaching other benefits can be reducing the amount of paper etc. but if this is the driver for devices you are probably doing it wrong.

I see two main factors to consider as I begin to plan the best solution for our school (other schools in other contexts may take different approaches).

  1. How do we want learning and teaching to develop?
  2. How do we fund the change?

Case Studies

I have read two case studies of schools that appear to have made the transition to 1:1 devices successfully.

IPACA in UK – read about it here

Hillsborough Middle School in US – read about it here

There is a significant common theme to both of these schools, and that is clear leadership. The school leadership has committed to embracing technology for learning and have driven this with appropriate support for teachers to make the change necessary to get the best out of the tools. Therefore, I have a ‘simple’ task ahead of me… Get the backing of our leadership to move the school towards technology underpinning the learning in our school.

Interestingly I have recently found a case study of a 1:1 device initiative that was not a success.

Strategy

This is something I will be developing with my school leadership and our new academy ICT director over the coming months and as I get closer to a clear strategy I will let you know.

Enjoy

Ben Rouse

 

 

Chromebook Trial: Part 1 – They’re here

I applied for a one month Chromebook trial through c-learning and the 15 Chromebooks were delivered on 10 January 2014 ready to be handed over the the PE faculty, who have been the most fervent users of Google Drive since we adopted Google Apps for Education (GAfE) in September 2013.

We have the Samsung series 5 Chromebooks until Valentine’s day and I aim to share our experience on this blog in addition to my other technology for learning instructional blog.

Chromebooks are up and running in 10 seconds, you log in to your Google account and then you have access to all the tools you can use through a web-browser. For education you can purchase a management licence per Chromebook (around £20), which allows you the ability to manage content and access and wipe any Chromebooks that go missing making them useless. The Chromebooks run Chrome OS (who would have though it!) providing a web-based interface for all the Google tools and other web services you use. Dan Leighton has more experience with Chromebooks and GAfE and wrote a review of Google Apps for education with the following summary for Chromebooks:

“They just make all of the useful stuff above work properly. No fuss. No messing about. No losing work. Cheap. Good to type on. Go buy one and try it out. I recommend the new Acer. Not as pretty, but way faster than any other models for around £200 from all participating outlets…”

A name that has regularly been mentioned to me in discussions about Chromebooks in education is Guy Shearer who I will be meeting at BETT2014 in order to gain some of his experience for getting the most out of Chromebooks and GAfE in schools. He writes an interesting blog that I recommend for anyone leading GAfE or looking to introduce Chromebooks.

Our school are at a point where we need some investment into infrastructure if we are to introduce extensive access to devices via wifi. The purpose of the trial is to

  1. Evaluate the infrastructure’s ability to accommodate web-based devices
  2. Evaluate the learning impact of devices
  3. Evaluate the appropriateness of Chromebooks
  4. Establish some best practice in using devices in the classroom

It is important that a learning benefit is clear if any investment is to be made available. If the infrastructure stands in the way of improved learning outcomes then there is a strong case for infrastructure investment which I can take to the leadership team. This month will be an interesting indication of the best route forward with technology for learning at our school.

My personal feeling is that devices available for teachers and students would be a better solution than providing 1:1 devices as many schools seem to be trying to do. I have not managed to understand the use of 1:1 ipads yet but having not taught in a school with such a scheme I have no evidence to base that hunch on.

It would be interesting to know what kind of devices other schools are using. I would presume Microsoft PC’s and laptops are prevalent but there are some increasingly innovative technical support people out there who are trying hard to support the learning and teaching in their schools with alternative models.

I look forward to sharing the progress of the trial with you all.

Ben Rouse