September 16, 2017

It is that time of the year again. With the schools in the northern hemisphere getting ready to start their new school year, Google is spoiling all of us with new updates to Google Classroom (and some to Google Forms as well).

Before we look at this year’s updates, let’s see if last year’s Back-to-school updates lived up to their promise.

Topics

As I predicted this was a game changer. Instead of posts, notes and worksheets disappearing into the abyss of the feed, students can now find a particular post with ease. One thing I did realise over the year is that the learners do not necessarily know that the topics are there (they are a bit hidden on mobile devices) so remember to point it out to them.

Annotating pdfs

I am not a big fan of annotating pdfs. While it looked cool at the start, I soon realised that annotating pdfs bring nothing to the table that completing a worksheet on paper did not do. I am a firm believer that if it doesn’t add value to your classroom, you should not bother with it. To be honest, it is actually irritating me, when I send students a Doc to complete they annotate it instead of opening it in Google Docs and completing it properly.

Email summary to parents

As I explained in last year’s post we trailed this feature for a while. My principal and I received summary emails from our demo account for several weeks, before we made the decision not to activate the feature for the school. While I believe that it can add value, especially in a primary school, it does not fit with the vision we have for technology in our school. We want Classroom to be a place where both teachers and learners can post everything that is of importance to their class. The majority of these posts are of no interest to parents. If Classroom would give me the option to decide if a post should be added to the parent’s email, I might reconsider this.

Update 1 – Single view of student work

Having just had parents evening, a feature that allows you to pull up all the work by a student for the whole year will make a teacher’s life a lot easier. To find a student’s work all you have to do is click on the student’s name under the STUDENTS tab.

Update 2 Р Transfer ownership

It seems like somebody at Google spend a lot of time thinking about ownership this year, with the addition of Team Drives and now this. Or maybe they have realised how often school keep accounts of teachers who have left, active, just so that they do not lose access to the classes (and other files) that teacher owns. We have coped with teachers leaving by adding co-teachers to their classes, but this just makes it less messy.

Other Google Classroom updates

Not every thing has to be game changers, being able to display the Classroom code full screen might not change my life, but it will make signing up classes so much easier. The same goes for being able to rearrange the order of the Classes. It might not be necessary, but it makes working on Classroom a bit nicer.

The one addition I am reserving my opinion about is the ability to pre-create Classes with the School Directory Sync. While it might make things easier for teachers, it adds a lot of work for the administrator. One of the reasons why we chose Google Classroom as our Learning Management System was that it required no set up beforehand. Google’s strong suit is the fact that each teacher can set their own classes up in no time, which share the workload.

More Google updates.

What do you think about the new updates Google added?

Do they add value or not?

What other features would you love to see?

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