Friday, September 25, 2015

Welcome Back with More Google Classroom Features


Welcome back!  It was a short summer and it has been a fast school year so far.  Even though we've been in school for almost a month already, this is my first chance to get back to my weekly blogging.  This has been a whirlwind school year so far but things are finally settling down!

This blog post is actually a topic with some new tips that many of you who already use Google Classroom may be aware of.  However, there are even more new features that I just recently learned about from a colleague of mine, the tech coach at another school, and I think these new features are great and make Google Classroom even easier to use with other tools and sites!

So first, as many of you probably realized as you came back this school year, Google has added a number of new features to Classroom, making it easier to create and share assignments with students, but also to reuse assignments from year to year, which is a question I got A LOT last year from teachers.  In Classroom now, when you go to add content to a class and click the plus button at the bottom of the screen, there are some new options for asking questions and reusing posts.  Ask a question is a new option to start a discussion in class or do a quick formative assessment,  You can pose a question to the class, decide whether students just answer your question or can reply to each other, and then easily grade and give feedback in one place.  It also keeps the discussion stream in one place, instead of cluttering up the main classroom stream.

Along with the question feature, teachers can now reuse assignments.  This means that if you create a new class for each new year or semester, you can easily reuse assignments from last year, including creating new documents for your new students. Also, if you forget to assign a new assignment to multiple classes, you can easily fix that by reusing the assignment, instead of having to create it from scratch again.

Another new feature that has just been added here in September is the Calendar feature.  Each class now has a calendar and assignments are automatically there.  Additionally, teachers and students with multiple classes can view their Classroom Calendar to see all assignments and due dates for all classes at once.  This is an easy way to stay organized for both teachers and students.

And best of all, my favorite new feature to Classroom and one I think will continue to improve, is the ability to now easily add info from other online tools straight to your classroom.  Some online tools, such as Quizlet, PBS, Discovery Education, etc., have a button that allows you to share content from their sites directly to Chrome. So for instance, if I have a Quizlet review I have made, with one button I can share that to my Classroom for students to access. Check out the video below from my tech coach colleague at North for a walk through on how to do that.  
But it gets even better!  Now, Google has also created an extension for Chrome that lets you share any site and content from a site directly to your Google classroom.  So if I find a great resource to use or if I want all my students to access the same website at the same time, I no longer have to write it on the board and wait for them all to type it in, e-mail it to them all, or try and find another easy way for them to access it.  I can just post it to classroom with the extension button and they can all easily access it at once.  It makes things so much easier and faster.  Teachers have the option to Push the link to students and if they also have the extension it will actually open the website immediately, or use it in an announcement or assignment. There is so much potential for this extension!

Overall, the new features in Classroom means it just keeps getting better and easier!  It seems like every time I have a teacher tell me "it would be really nice if I could do this (insert thing they wish they could do) in classroom"... it eventually shows up.  So keep watching for more changes and updates, but for now, using Classroom continues to be an easy and effective way to manage content in the classroom.

Video for Using the Share Button in Online Tools:

Video for Using the Share to Classroom Extension: