Google Classroom is an online application for distributing and collecting student assignments. Google Classroom is now available for anyone with a Gmail account. Google classroom was only available to educators with a service through Google. This service was typically provided through a school district.
Google classroom is more like an assignment manager. Within the portal, teachers create assignments for distribution to students. Students, in turn, return assignments through Classroom. Teachers review and grade assignments online with Google Docs. Teachers return assignments for review by students with comments made by teachers. Students return those assignments for a final grade from the teacher. This back and forth is part of the collaborative process between teacher and student.
Teachers provide a variety of resources in Google Classroom assignments. These resources include links to websites, YouTube, and Google documents. Students have the option to create documents through Google Docs for assignments. When a document is created within an assignment, it is titled with the assignment information. This assignment information includes the assignment name, student name, and date.
Assignments created by teachers with resources from Google docs are distributed to students in one of three ways. With the first option, teachers distribute documents with view-only access. This means that students will only be able to read the contents of the document. With a second option, teachers make a document editable by students. All students in the class will be able to contribute content to the document. This can be a little confusing with many students working on the same document. The third option is where each student is given a digital copy of the document.
Let’s take a look at each of these distribution options. Read-only documents are used for instructions and resources. It serves as a reference document for teachers and student. This is what we may refer to as an instructional document. In an instructional document, we provide instructions, directions, and links to resources.
Documents, where all students contribute, are not as common. They are very useful for collaborative work. Here is an example. Teachers create a document like a Google slide. Each student is assigned one slide by the teacher. Each student works on that slide to develop a complete project. This way of collaborating on assignments works best with small groups.
The third option is the most common. Teachers create an assignment with an exercise which includes questions. A copy of the assignment is sent to every student. The copy is saved into the student’s Google Drive folder. The student provides answers to questions in an assignment or assessment.
The folder structure used with Google Classroom and assignments is a little complex. I will touch on the folder structure briefly in the issue.
Assignments distributed this way include a submit button in the button-bar. Students use this button to hand in the assignment. Google Classroom monitors documents with a submit button. It marks that the student has handed in the assignment.
Documents created in response to an assignment
This is the process I like to work with when issuing assignments to students. I prefer that students create their own documents for an assignment in Classroom. I provide instructions for what the student must do in an assignment. These instructions are in an instructional document linked to the assignment. Students create the appropriate document for the assignment. The buttons to create documents are located within the assignment. These buttons are similar to ones used by teachers to distribute documents.
Students click a button in the button bar to hand in the assignment. This button appears when the student creates a document using the option below the assignment.
A note about assignments
The option to distribute a document to all students must be selected before an assignment is pushed to the classroom. If this isn’t done, the teacher must delete the assignment and create another with the option enabled.
Newly created assignments float to the top of the classroom assignment list. The most recent assignment distributed by teachers is placed above previous assignments. This is a handy way for students to see which assignments are currently available.
I like the term drafting assignments. This calls to mind the process of creatively thinking about the process of teaching.
Teachers don’t need to assign or schedule an assignment for release while the assignment is being created. We have the option to save assignments as drafts. Saving assignments as drafts allow us to return to assignments in progress. It allows us to distribute an assignment without distributing now or scheduling it.
There are times when we are not sure if the class will have time for another assignment during the class period. In this case, it is a good idea to place an extra assignment as a draft. A drafted assignment can be distributed very easily and quickly.
There are times when we are not sure students will understand the concepts well enough to work on an extended activity. In this case, it is useful to place the activity into a draft. The activity can be released with the lesson or it can be held in a cue until we feel the students are ready to work on the activity.
Drafting assignments is a great way to start work on assignments without assignments. When teaching we are often inspired by things around us. Creating a draft of an assignment places that inspiration in a box we can revisit once it is well-formed.
Google Classroom workflow
Google classroom is a great resource for distributing and collecting assignments. It does have some limitations. Assignments must be scheduled for regular release. Assignments are floated to the top of the assignment list. A mistake in a distribution option for an assignment requires that we delete the assignment and then reassign it with the correct option for distribution. Releasing all the assignments at once can cause confusion. When several assignments are released at once, students need to scroll through lists of assignments to find the one they need to work on now.
Google Sites with Google Classroom
A major drawback to google classroom is that a classroom must be created every year and assignments must be re-created every year. As teachers, we don’t teach the same way each year but the materials and resources remain fairly consistent. It would be nice if we could refer to these resources without the need to re-create the classroom and assignments.
A way to work around the limitations is to have a Google site that accompanies classroom assignments. It doesn't have to be a Google site, but a Google site provides ready access to resources which are probably already on your Google drive.
With Google sites, we provide access to documents stored on Google drive. We control access to these files. We have the option to provide view-only access to some files and edit access to others. The common way to share files is to make them viewable only. Students make copies of these documents for their own use with the copy option in Google Drive.
Linking Google Drive folders
We have the option to embed an entire folder of files on a Google site page. This option displays the documents inside a folder. The documents are listed in columns like a table. Students click and open a document to view its contents. The content in these folders isn’t limited to Google documents. Google Drive accepts images, video, audio, and PDF documents.
Google Drive with Sites and Classroom
Combining Google classroom, Google sites, and Google Drive makes things much easier when creating assignments. We don’t need to write elaborate instructions for an assignment each time. Instructions are created in an instructional document, which is shared with students as a view only file. The instructions in the document are updated as needed with Google Docs. As soon as the instructions and resources are updated, they are available to students.
Managing content on Google Sites
Using Google sites in combination with Google drive we control the flow of information to students. In Google sites, we control which pages are displayed to students. We control the display of information using Google drive folders. The folders are embedded within a page on our site.
We are able to control the display of pages on our site. This means we are able to moderate the content. In the issue, I go over the process for releasing content to students throughout the school year.
when we combine Google Drive with Google sites, we have control over the display of resources. It is easy to copy documents from one folder to a folder on the site. Once the documents are copied to the folder they are immediately available to students. This means we don’t have to edit our site. Content is dynamically updated.
This is one of the reasons why I like using Google folders on Google sites. Teachers create a folder for active lessons, slides, or images. Teachers transfer assignments and resources from other folders to this active folder. Students have access to the document immediately.
The use of instructional documents is better than recreating the assignment in Google classroom each year. The assignment instructions can be updated the following year. We can customize the instructions and resources very quickly with live Google Documents. One way to do this is to make a copy of an existing assignment and make modifications to the new copy. This new copy would then be made available in the active assignments folder.
I like this method. I can make modifications and adjustments to the document at any time and on any device. I spend less time creating assignments and more time facilitating instruction.