Google Apps Summer Camp: Classroom – NEW

Over the past few weeks, I’ve highlighted Google’s Apps for Education and how teachers are incorporating them into their classroom curriculum. The free suite offered by Google has proven to be a very popular addition to many teachers’ toolkits. And many GAfE educators have created innovative solutions to perceived workflow problems by using Google Apps with their students. However, in the midst of this Google Apps Summer Camp series, Google decided to make using their tools in the classroom a lot easier, announcing a new addition to their GAfE suite, Google Classroom.
Classroom was designed to help teachers “create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and communicate with their classes with ease” through establishing a learning management system that integrates Docs, Drive, and Gmail.
According to Google’s blog, the Web tool giant has been working with “more than a dozen pilot schools and universities to try out Classroom and provide feedback.” And so far, the feedback has been good.

Clarkstown Central School District in southern New York was one of the pilot organizations selected by Google to test Classroom. In late 2013, Google approached CCSD about trying out their new product, and the Instructional Technology team “liked what they heard.” A number of educators in the district soon became “alpha and beta” testers, using Classroom as part of their regular curriculum.
Heidi Bernasconi, a 12th grade Marine Biology teacher who used Classroom with her students in the testing phase described the new app as “an extension of the class.” She really appreciated being able to “contact individual students about their assignments [and] found that students have done more work with Classroom . . . [with] fewer questions about their grades and less confusion about assignments.”
Applauding Classroom’s support of classroom organization, Bernasconi said, “With Classroom all the students’ assignments are in one spot for commenting. This is more seamless than if I had just shared a Google folder with all the same resources.” For her, she found that “giving students immediate feedback made them more responsible about signing on and checking Classroom for their grade and any comments she had left them personally.”
Fontbonne Hall Academy, an all-girl college-preparatory school in Brooklyn, also partnered with Google to pilot Classroom with students. A school who had recently made the decision to go GAfE, Fontbonne was asked to roll out Classroom midway through the year in the fall of 2013.
“Even after just three weeks of use, educators began to experience benefits from Classroom and Google Apps for Education.”
Jenna Caufield, a World History teacher at Fontbonne enjoys how Classroom enabled “every student to participate in class.” Classroom gave Caufield “another way to make sure that students’ voices were heard.”
Science teacher Laura Barton also appreciated the improved workflow that Classroom offered her and her students. She said, “By allowing students to submit their work with Classroom, I can keep track of my sections, view grades easily, and mark assignments during any free time I have, without having to carry stacks of paper around.” For her, Classroom “has made this process so easy and convenient.”
Students took positively to Classroom too. At CCSD, Lindsey, an 8th grade student, said that Classroom is, “very efficient and makes it really easy to share study notes . . . now [her classmates] can use the same resources to study.”
Similarly, Grace, a Freshman at Fontbonne Hall, loves “the easy access to most of [her] work right from [her] computer or phone.”
Both Clarkstown Central School District and Fontbonne Hall Academy plan to continue with Classroom as an integral part of their content delivery and learning design.
Interested teachers and professors can apply to preview Classroom now. Google claims that, “Based on the requests we receive we’ll be inviting a limited number of educators to try it.” However, Classroom is slated to be released to any school using Google Apps for Education by September.

Dave Guymon

Dave Guymon is a public online middle school teacher, edtech blogger, and the author of If You Can’t Fail, It Doesn’t Count.

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