Google Classroom Explainer Pointers Please
November 11, 2016 8:21 AM   Subscribe

On Tuesday I have been asked to speak for 45 minutes about Google Classroom to some teachers from the vocational high school who are not very technical with computers (though they are in other ways). I have the weekend to put something together that is not too granular but covers the basics. I have a login for our local instance and would like to learn the basics in an efficient way. Are there resources other than the basic ones on Google that would be useful? Maybe some Ed Tech resources I might not know about? Thanks for pointers, personal experiences also welcome.

Note: this is what they are already using so while I'm happy to hear about the possible shortcomings of Google Classroom, "Use something else" is not useful to me with this question. I am coming in to explain this, I don't work in IT.
posted by jessamyn to Education (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My school has been having a go with google classroom. I've found that I can learn a lot by googling specific things, but I haven't found a really good one-stop shop for background info and training. Some of my colleagues went to Google-sponsored training but I can't say they came back so well-versed in it.

Based on our experience, the basic interface is pretty navigable even for teachers who don't think of themselves as techy. The things that seem to be coming up for teachers are:

Assignments appear to students as soon as you publish them, and they can start working on them. That's not always desirable. It's possible to schedule them but it makes it harder to experiment. It's good to have an experimental classroom set up.

It's important to get written assignments right the first time. It's super annoying for us and kids to have multiple docs floating around for the same assignment.

For high school, it's not always obvious which will make your life easier - one class for all your sections or separate classes for each section.

It's really helpful for teachers to have an easy, working way to reset students' accounts. They often forget their passwords. Our teacher-reset system has gone down twice in the last two weeks, and it basically means students can't work in class.

Not everybody knows how to view the revision history, or that you can view old comments even after students have clicked 'resolve'

A surprising (to me) number of kids don't know the basics of computer keyboarding. They use caps lock instead of the shift key, they don't know how to get a quotation mark, etc. It's more different than the phone interface (which most of them are super adept in), than I realized. Also, the number of kids, and not always the ones you'd expect, who want to spend 10 minutes finding the perfect fancy font, consistently surprises me.

There are some basic things you still can't do (grade assignments out of anything other than 100), and other functionalities that seem to be changing/improving.

It's really nice if the school has chrome books set up so that students have to log into the system using their google account. That means that everything they do is visible to (a hopefully attentive) admin, and I think it has been helpful at our school with cutting down inappropriate off task computer use.

If teachers want their students to actually get their emails and notifications, they have to walk the students through either setting up their school google account to forward to an email they really use, or so that they get notifications on their phone.

What I've found classroom best for:
- Getting the students practice with keyboarding and basic computer productivity skills
- Grading writing that is not handwritten. SO NICE. (Doctopus is also a nice add on for rubrics)
- Being able to quickly copy and paste to check plagiarism
- Being able to see when students are interacting with my comments

I know this isn't exactly what you asked for, but I hope it's helpful
posted by Salamandrous at 9:51 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

I taught graphic design classes at a college level for five years. This involved a lot of software demos.

One of the best pieces of advice I was given as a new teacher was: anything you want them to remember say at least three times.

I also learned that people can't be relied upon to just ask questions. You need to get them asking. So instead of "Any questions? No? Let's move on then..." take a strategy of "I've just given you a lot - who has a question? You must have some?"

Some people learn better hearing, some people learn better reading, some people learn better doing. Planning for all three is helpful. For you, this might translate to explanation, demonstration, and some handouts/takeaways. I've found a wordpress blog was a great way to make information and demo vids available. (Although you may want to use a google solution too.)

If you do a demo, prepare it and practice it beforehand. Off-the-cuff demos can get bogged down way too easily. They can actually be counterproductive when they get bogged down. A good idea for a demo is to do a few steps with students watching, then redo the same steps with the students doing it themselves.

It is also really easy to get frustrated when someone doesn't get something you've explained several times in several ways. That's OK, just try to not reveal that frustration - it turns everyone off from learning.
posted by Cranialtorque at 10:45 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Larry Ferlazzo has started a 'best of' list for Google Classroom resources. Take a look at Free Technology for Teachers and search Google Classroom. He has a lot of videos on features of Classroom that might help you answer questions your audience has of the 'how do I' variety. Another resource is Alice Keeler--here is a list of her blog posts on Classroom. There is a lot to see in these lists; the teachers may wish to know about them to follow up your presentation with their own learning needs.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 11:24 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here's another one that just popped via Twitter--it might help you focus your 45 minutes.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 11:38 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just make sure they walk away having already accomplished some task for their classes. Teachers get grumpy about PD if it's all talk and nothing has actually been accomplished.

Also make sure you show them the "reuse post" feature. That one is a major time saver.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:16 PM on November 11, 2016

I use Google Classroom and truly the best way to figure it out is to play with it. I use it for my English classes, my Learning Center, and I've created a separate Classroom for a student out on a medical. It's really helpful for absences -- students can immediately see what they missed.

I would absolutely do some in-class work where they can create and link assignments, etc.

Also agree with what Salamandrous said. I was shocked at how few kids could navigate the Classroom with ease and had to have an actual lesson dedicated to using the site.

Used with Google Drive, it's been an overall good thing. It really helps with student and parent communication as far as knowing what's going on in class.

It's also really good because you can post all assignments with links to videos that explain concepts.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:44 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Technology Education Teacher here:

1. I really like Alice Keeler for this kind of stuff. She is constantly tinkering with Google for Education, and is really about the only reason I ever fire up Twitter. She writes books, but posts genuinely useful free information on her blog and twitter. She is smart and passionate about the subject and constantly experimenting with the software and student processes to continually improve. Highly recommended.
2. Show them how it will make their lives easier. Like automatically grading tests for them if you use a plugin like Flubaroo.
3. Encourage them attend professionaldevelopment events, I learned about Flubaroo at the Washington Industrial and Technology Education Association spring conference. Another good one in my region is the Technology Educators of Oregon. I am sure Vermont has similar things, and if not, I am certain Conneticut has a lot of good TechEd resources online, because I use them myself. But professional organisations are where they will meet their peers who are using the technology in new and innovative ways, and they will listen to their peers.

Good luck, and memail me if you have any other questions!
posted by seasparrow at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2016

When you say Google's resources are basic, are you talking about their Training Center for Education -

In the more general sense, avoid the "here's all the different ways you can do X" approach, and focus on getting something concrete done. 45 minutes is no time, though.
posted by idb at 1:52 PM on November 11, 2016

Oh, and, are you familiar with the G Suite Training Chrome Extension formerly known as Synergse, which embeds contextual training into the Chrome interface?
posted by idb at 2:00 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is all seriously helpful. I am very familiar with the teachers (I've been working here as a computer lady on and off for ten years) and they just got Google Classroom but mostly aren't sure how it solves problems for them and a lot of the teachers are tech-hesitant. I think 45 minutes is, I agree, not much time and since the teachers aren't actually using it yet, they may not even be set up on it (I don't know). My plan is to give an overview with links to resources and be available for follow-ups with specifics. If there are some "Let's get set up!" things I can do, step through them but have a back up plan if they've literally not yet been given access to it. I'll try to see if they even all have laptops that they can bring with them. Appreciate everyone's thoughtful responses.
posted by jessamyn at 2:11 PM on November 11, 2016

I came to suggest Alice Keeler as well. She is both a serious badass and will answer any questions you have on Twitter (@alicekeeler).

I've done trainings like this, and here's what I would do in your situation:
1) Get them logged in and teach them how to get back there (the easiest way is the nine olives button, aka the waffle, aka the rubix cube, and scroll to the bottom).
2) Have them create a demo class
3) Have them post an assignment with "Make a copy for each student" of a template, a question, and an announcement with links.
4) Have them leave private comments, return work, and give grades

That's about 90% of what you can teach from the teacher side. It would be amazing if you could get their tech department to give you some student login accounts so they can see what it looks like from that side.

Also helpful to know: the documents you want to use must be in the same google account as Classroom.

If you have more questions or need more resources, I seriously have done these trainings and I use Classroom for everything. Or ask Alice. She's a friend of mine and I can't possibly say enough about how amazing she is.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:16 PM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

nthing Alice. And guster4lovers is an exceptional resource as well.

When I help teachers with GClass, I also suggest that they not use it to give grades at all, but to just use it to give comments/feedback. Most (ok, probably all) teachers have to enter grades on some other platform (like Powerschool) and it's irritating at best to have to enter the same grades more than once.

Another workflow thing that's helpful: get teachers to number each assignment with a 3-digit code (001, 002, etc). It makes naming and finding and referencing assignments vastly more simple.
posted by concertedchaos at 6:42 PM on November 11, 2016

Yep, came to say Alice. She has it covered.
posted by Gotanda at 4:55 AM on November 12, 2016

Oh yeah -- all of my high school students have school-generated gmail accounts and they HAVE to use those for the Gclass.

100% of the time when kids say they couldn't see the homework (and do it) and they log on to show me what they did, they were logging on with the wrong email address...

posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:40 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

This was really helpful everyone. I took away a lot of good advice from this thread.

- Alice Keeler! (not just for me but for the teachers)
- I used Google Classroom as the primary teaching tool and added them all as students (wasn't sure I could do this and it worked fine)
- I had a real set of things for them to do (we had one "make a slide" and one "add a comment" and one "introduce yourself" task and they could mark them as done and I showed some of the teacher tools) and used some of the best practices like numbering assignments, using topics to find things, etc
- Had the teachers who were already using it talk about what they did with it, had the principal talk about how grading worked (they still need to use powerschool but there are ways to get the grades across easier)
- Sent them off with a handout that replicated the Google Classroom somewhat (with links and vocab) as well as my contact information.
posted by jessamyn at 7:58 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

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