In the school I work, the teachers have embraced Google Classroom. We see lots and lots of benefits: student engagement, integrated technology, paperless environment and a huge cut in the photocopying budget, and many others. But my job is to provoke critical thinking (my teachers love it when I do that) and so today I am reflecting upon all the positives I see but also ask some questions that may guide us as we move forward with integrated technology.
Here is a somewhat related example. A number of years ago the smartboard was the tool to have. And, smartboards can be very cool, interactive learning tools. But, some of the research that arose from looking at classrooms with smartboards was that teachers were moving away from small group instruction and collaboration and back to “sage on the stage” type learning because the smartboard lent itself to that style of teaching.
Here’s what I see happening in our classrooms that I love about google classroom:
- Organization-yours and theirs. In the classrooms that are moving towards “paperless” kids don’t lose their notes and can access their work from any device. Teachers are able to see who has done what, in real time, and keep track of complete and incomplete work.
- There is no doubt that our students are tech-savvy. They enjoy using the chromebooks to find assignments, interact with the internet, complete online dissections, access texts and materials. It makes sense to them to use the technology.
- Timely and immediate feedback. We are learning the value of being able to peek in on a student as they are working, or in the evenings and find out where they are. We can conference the next day, plan a minilesson or even chat back to the student online.
- Differentiated Instruction. Within the google classroom teachers can upload a number of resources that may meet a variety of student needs. Those students who need the read and write feature can do so seamlessly.
- Shy students may feel more comfortable. Students who may not enjoy speaking in groups often feel more comfortable participating in an online discussion. They may feel more comfortable submitting work to you for feedback online.
Here are some cautions that might be causes for concern… or not:
- Would there be a temptation to return to the worksheet or booklet type of teaching because it is so easy to upload the instructions and the task?
- Might we move away from the real time collaboration because our students are so engaged on line? Is there a need for both? Do we get different results from different kinds of collaboration?
- Are we creating too much work for ourselves in trying to give timely feedback to every student, every day? How do we organize it so that we are checking in but it is manageable?
- Does google classroom lend itself to more individual work? How do we create that balance between collaboration and individual work?
- While it is great to provide online feedback, is there still a need for face-to-face feedback and/or small group instruction? How do we decide when to do each?
If I invited you to our senior elementary school you would see students using technology in a seamless manner in every class. We experiment with iPads, chrome books and personal devices. Technology is not an “event” but a part of how we do school. Google classroom is successful in our school and we continue to find new ways every day for it to enhance student learning. But embracing new ideas is about reflecting critically as well—as we go forward on this journey, are there other cautions? Are my cautions needless worrying by a 20th century educator? How will we refine our use of Google Classroom to provide the best educational experience for our 21st century learners?