Posted in G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

New Materials Option in Google Classroom

Last year, I used the “About” section in Google Classroom to post links and resources that my students would need throughout the year. These were materials that were not necessarily tied to a specific assignment, but items that students might need to revisit or access randomly.

With the “About” section gone, I have had to make a quick change in how I manage this need. Fortunately, Google just released a new feature in Classroom called “Materials.” This “Materials” option will allow me to create a space in my Classwork feed where I can place these items for student access.

To create a space in my feed, I simply need to:

  1. Create a topic and call it something like “Class Resources” or “Class Materials.”
  2. Once the topic has been created, hit “Create” again and select “Materials” from the drop-down list. Add materials like Docs or Slides from my Drive or paste in a link to a website for my students.
  3. Before I post the material, I need to make sure that I select the “Class Resources” topic.
  4. Once I have created this “Materials” post, I can then go back to my Classroom feed and by clicking on the three dots to the right of the “Class Resources” topic, select “Move Up” from the menu to essentially pin this topic to the top of the feed.

And just like that, I almost have my “About” section back! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Teacher Feature

Risk Takers – Susan Bost and Her Bad Tech Mojo

Susan Bost, Spanish I teacher at Lebanon Junior High, is always looking for ways for her students to be able to practice their burgeoning language skills. Since students are in the initial phases of language acquisition, they are often shy with their language sharing and feel intimidated when attempting to speak in front of other students. Knowing this, Susan wants to give her students opportunities to practice their language skills in as many ways possible. I send out regular suggestions to the staff here in Lebanon about innovative ways to use GSuite tools or other apps like Flipgrid and Pear Deck. Sue reads these suggestions and her mind starts racing with potential ideas for how to implement them in her classroom. However, Sue is a possessor of very bad tech mojo. Like, very bad. Very, very, very bad. Sometimes you come across a person in life who just has really bad tech mojo. You know that person; nothing ever works the way it is supposed to. Apps won’t open, programs won’t run, projectors just randomly shut off. There is no rhyme or reason for these things happening, it is just bad tech mojo and Sue is infected with it!

Even knowing this, Susan still wants to use edtech tools to give her students the best learning opportunities and that is why she is my featured risk taker this week. She is willing to try something new, even though the chance that it will go horribly wrong is always present.

One of the first big activities we tried was using Flipgrid for a formative assessment activity. As part of her program assessment, Sue gives the students prompts that they orally respond to in Spanish. In the past, this formative assessment activity has eaten up a lot of her class time since she has to sit with each student to give them the prompts and then listen to their responses. We used Flipgrid to create an assessment platform where she recorded the prompts as a grid topic and allowed the students to Flipgrid their responses. I believe that this took a lot of the pressure off since students could take time to collect their thoughts, rehearse what they wanted to say, and then record themselves without worrying about other students hearing them. She was also able to whittle down the amount of class time that she gave up for the assessment process using this method. Now, we did run into a few issues with the bad tech mojo and there were a couple of frantic emails from her the morning she began the assessment process, but if you ask her, I think she would say it was a great success! She has gone on and continued to use Flipgrid for other speaking activities and is using the private feedback option to respond directly to students and coach them on their language acquisition.

Another activity that we took on was creating opportunities for students to practice their Spanish writing skills through digital collaboration. Knowing that in order to be competitive in a global job market students are going to need to be able to collaborate with a person that they might never see face-to-face, Sue came up with an idea for the students to have “silent conversations” on a digital platform. She created a group work assignment for the students on a Google Doc. Using Google Classroom, she assigned the Doc to a group leader who then added his or her group members as collaborators. The students had to complete the assignment together, but they were not allowed to speak in class. They had to use the “comments” feature in Docs to discuss the work to be done and then collaboratively make the changes before turning their completed project back in through Classroom. Sue was able to monitor the work they were doing through Classroom and also use the comments feature to give the students just-in-time support and lead them forward on their projects. All in Spanish, of course. She tweeted a small snippet of this activity- check it out here.

There have been many other activities that we have tried, including animating Google Slides to illustrate Spanish vocabulary, teaching the students how to use Screencastify to annotate their digital work, and most recently using Pear Deck to give students photo prompts to respond to with appropriate forms of tener. This activity not only forced her students to think creatively, it also gave them an opportunity to anonymously share their writing. Sue was able to lead a class discussion based on their responses, leaving the students with a much better understanding of the concept.  Have all of these edtech based activities gone off without a hitch? Not even close. But, she keeps trying and we keep finding successes!

Step out of your comfort zone and be a risk taker. It might be a little scary, but if you start with sound pedagogy and teaching methods, the lesson will stand up even if the tech does not.

 

 

Posted in Google Classroom, Mastering Your Google Drive, Quick Tech Tips

Easily Access Google Classroom Materials in Google Drive

Did you know that the materials you use in Google Classroom are easily accessible right in Google Drive? As soon as you create a class in Classroom, a new folder called “Classroom” magically appears in your Drive. Within that folder you will find subfolders with the name of each class you have created. Any time you create an assignment in Classroom, a corresponding folder with assignment name appears as well. What you will find in those folders will be the work that you have assigned to your students in whatever stage of completion it happens to be on any given day. You will also find any external files (not Google products) or attachments you have used with the different assignments.

Students have the same structure in their Drives as well. Once they join their first Classroom, they will now have a Classroom folder with subfolders titled with the name of the class. Unfortunately, their materials are not organized by assignment, they are just loosely placed in the folder for their class. The good thing about this folder is that their materials will now follow them from year to year, even after they leave your class and move on to a new teacher. What an excellent way to track personal growth!

Accessing these materials is a simple process for both you and your students. There are two ways to do this:

Option One:

  1. Go to Google Drive
  2. Locate the “Classroom” folder
  3. Open the “Classroom” folder, locate the folder for a specific class and view the materials inside

 

Option Two:

  1. Go to Google Classroom
  2. Click on the Folder icon on the bottom of the tile for the chosen class.

 

Students have an even better option where they can see all of their assignments and the status of all of those assignments with a simple click of a button.

  1. Go to Google Classroom
  2. Click on the icon on the bottom of the tile that looks like a person

A special note about document ownership: The way the materials in Google Classroom work are based on ownership. When you create the assignment, you are transferring ownership of the item to the students so that they can work on it. When they turn that assignment back into you, they lose ownership of that item to you. This means the student is UNABLE TO SEE ANY COMMENTS ON THE DOCUMENT OR MAKE ANY CHANGES TO THE DOCUMENT while the teacher is the owner. You must use the “Return” feature in Classroom to give ownership of the document back to the students so that it once again belongs to them and follows the student instead of the teacher. Watch this video for a better explanation and example of how this works.

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

Share to Classroom – The Extension of My Dreams!

I wanted to make sure that you are aware of one of the most powerful extensions out there for Google Classroom users – Share to Classroom.

The Share to Classroom extension allows you to take a web source and share it with your students in one of two ways:

  1. Immediately push the source to all students at the same time, allowing every student in your class to navigate to the source without having to type in the URL.
  2. Create an assignment, make an announcement or ask a question with the web source as your primary component.

The reason that I like “Share to Classroom” so much is that it allows me to use current materials with my students with minimal effort. Let’s say I want to discuss the current hurricane and how it is affecting the people in its path. I can go directly to a news source (no fake news here) or a site like weather.com or nationalgeographic.com and find news articles, images, or video that I want my students to use. Then, using the “Share to Classroom” extension, I can create an assignment where students have to interact with the materials and then create a disaster plan, write a personal connection paper, or design a social action plan where they define ways that they will help those affected by the storm.

Another way that I see a benefit in “Share to Classroom” is the ability to get every single one of my students onto the same resource at the same time. When I PUSH the web source or video to the students, it interrupts whatever they happen to be doing at that time and opens up the material I want them working with.

To make the extension work they way it is intended, students and teachers must have it installed. Fortunately for Lebanon City Schools teachers, our awesome tech department has already pushed out the extension to the students. You as teachers will need to install the extension. If you don’t know how to do that, click on this link and click the “Add to Chrome” button.  

To use this extension, follow these easy steps themselves:

  1. Make sure you are already signed in with your G Suite for Edu account.
  2. In Chrome, go to the webpage you want to share. Next to the address bar, click Share to Classroom. share to classroom
  3. Click the name of your class. classroom list
  4. From the drop-down list, choose what you want to do:
    1. To share the webpage to your class, Select Push to students and then click Push. The web material instantly appears in the browsers of all active students.
    2. To attach the web material to a post:
      • To create an assignment, select Create assignment, enter your assignment, and click Assign.
      • To ask a question, select Ask question, enter your question, and click Ask.
    3. To create an announcement, select Make announcement, enter your announcement, and click Post.

Just imagine all the possibilities that this extension opens up for you and your students! And I didn’t even mention the ability of students to share materials with you! More on that at a later day.

Posted in Creating Accessibility, G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

Getting Started with Google Classroom

imagine if you willImagine if you will, that there is a free program out there that will allow you to organize your materials, share work with students, collect assignments with ease, and allow for immediate and personalized feedback for each and every one of your students.  Another classroom dimension…Google Classroom Dimension

Google Classroom is an excellent platform for teachers to not just organize learning, but to impact learning. At the most basic level, Google Classroom allows you to ditch the copy machine and share assignments and materials digitally with students. It also keeps work flow nicely in check since students can return their completed work with a simple click of a button. If you like to be organized, you don’t want the hassle of students losing papers or assignments on the regular, you want the opportunity to have students collaborate in a controlled environment, and you want to be able to provide personalized feedback to students on their work, then getting up and running with Google Classroom should be on your must-do list this school year.

Here are the basic (and amazingly awesome) features of Google Classroom:

  • Announcements – update students quickly or have them focus on an event that is coming up – let students read the information instead of listening (or not listening) as you make the announcement in class.
  • Assignments – Create an assignment and decide how students will interact with it (make a copy, view only, share a copy with other students). Each assignment is automatically given a “Turn In” button that students can click when they are finished.
  • Calendar  – Create a calendar for each class that is automatically shared with each student. Due dates for assignments are automatically added, but you can also add important dates for students and parents.
  • Co-Teacher – If you co-teach, you can invite your teacher friend to be an admin in your Google Classroom. Both teachers will have the rights to create, grade, and manage materials in the Classroom.
  • Drive Integration – Anything you have created in your Google Drive is immediately accessible when creating assignments, announcements, and questions in your Classroom.
  • Folders – As soon as you create your initial Classroom, Google automatically creates a folder labeled “Classroom” in your Drive. All of your classes will have a subfolder within this folder, making it easy to quickly access materials either from the Classroom view directly, or within your Google Drive. Students will also have this same experience, with a “Classroom” folder immediately created in their Drive the first time they join a class.
  • Question – Creating a question in Classroom will allow you to take a quick poll, spur discussion or get kids thinking about what is coming next.
  • Share to Classroom Button – Google has created an extension that allows you to share any web content with your classroom. If you have found a video, web page, or other web based resource that you want your students to interact with, simply click the extension. You can even create an assignment, ask a question, or make an announcement that features the resource.
  • Stream  – This is where the students will see the entire flow of information; announcements, upcoming assignments, and questions.

Steps to Creating Your First Class in Classroom

  1. Navigate to classroom.google.com
  2. Sign in for the first time – you can use Classroom with your personal account as per a Google update that came out in the spring. However, I would recommend that if your district uses a G-Suite for Education domain, you live within that domain. It will make it easier for you and your students.
  3. You will see a blank Classroom page with a lovely invitation to create or join your first class. Click that plus sign! Obviously, you are going to select “Create Class”New Google Classroom
  4. Name your class – when naming your class, keep in mind that your students might be enrolled in multiple Google Classrooms. Just calling it the school year or something non-specific like your mascot and the year might cause confusion. Creating naming conventions for yourself where you consistently use your last name or the subject you are teaching as the class title will help students.
  5. Your class is now created and ready for you to personalize, add students, and start creating assignments. Your initial class should look something like this, but you can change your theme to one of the preset options or upload a photo to create something more personal to you.Changing your Theme
  6. Personalize the “About” section. You can use this section to upload permanent documentation that you might need for your class (syllabus, homework policy, contact information, etc). If it is in your Google Drive, you can easily add it to your Classroom. You could even create a welcome video using Youtube or Screencastify and post it in this section. About
  7. You will eventually want to add students to your class and you have two options for how to do this.
    1. First, click on the “Students” tab in the header.
    2. If you are a glutton for punishment, you can add students by inviting them to your class. To do this, click “Invite Students” and begin populating the list by typing in their names or emails. The students will get an email invite that they will need to accept before they are enrolled in your class. Adding Students
    3. If you have students that can navigate to the website and type under their own power, the easier way to have them join your class is by displaying the class code on a screen. Adding Students by Code

Creating Your First Assignment

Now that the hard work is done, you can start using your Classroom to teach. When you create assignments in your Classroom stream, you have the ability to attach videos, web links, or materials from your Drive. You do not have to attach any items if you simply want students to create their own materials to turn in to you. If you do attach an item from your Drive, you need to decide how you want the students to interact with it. The options are:

  • Students can view file
  • Students can edit file – this means all students will be working in the same file
  • Make a copy for each student

Options

It all depends on what you want students to do and the level of collaboration you are looking for on the assignment. If you choose “Make a copy,” each student will take ownership of their own doc. No matter what you do, students will be able to access these materials either directly in the stream or in the classroom folder in their Drive.

You can set due-dates, assign the material now, schedule it for later, or save your work as a draft if you just aren’t ready to push out the assignment just. Once you create a due-date for an assignment, it will automatically be added to the Google calendar tied to your class!

Since I know you are just itching to get started, I will bring this lengthy post to a close. However, over the next few weeks, I will focus on a different feature of Classroom so that your classroom experience is robust and fulfilling!

If you would like more information on how to use Google Classroom, feel free to contact me through the Contact link on this blog. If you are a member of the Lebanon City Schools staff and would like to schedule a one-on-one session for training, email me via district email.