Friday, January 29, 2016

Why was I afraid of Google Classroom?

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by Carmen Wright, Elkhorn Elementary

This whole “Google Classroom” talk among experts had made me feel uneasy. There were many podcast dedicated to this topic.  Many conferences have two or three sessions on Google Classroom.  It felt like everyone was using it but me.  I was a bit afraid to implement “Google Classroom” in my own classes. Why?  What’s the big deal you say? Or maybe you have not heard of Google Classroom.

What is Google Classroom and why should I care? In a nutshell, Google classroom is a web-based platform that allows the teacher to connect with their students in a straightforward manner. It gives teachers a simple way to create, collect, grade, and return assignments paperless using Google Apps. I’ll confess, I have attended several workshops on “Google Classroom” in the past, but as with many workshops the information does not always stick.

As one of my many New Year’s resolutions, I decided to try a few new activities in the classroom to shake things up. Google Classroom was at the top of my list. This whole “Google Drive this and that” platform does not come natural to me (yet). I sometimes can’t find documents in Google Drive (which I’m told I can not lose things in it) it's in there somewhere I'm informed by experienced Google people. Google Drive becomes fuzzy when I have to share documents with others and it becomes even more fuzzier when I have multiple Gmail accounts to manage. I think my documents know how to hide well from me.

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“The Google” world is still evolving for me. I admire those teachers who have taken the plunge and have successfully implemented Google Classroom. I, on the other hand needed extra help, and extra help showed up in the form of Edmund Lynch, WUSD Technology TOSA. Edmund helped me implement Google Classroom. He was calm and had a positive demeanor. Edmund stayed for almost two class periods. I was able to set up two classrooms that day, a Robotics Elective and a Math Lab. For my elective class, I shared with my students an activity that Melissa Oliver had taught in one of her many workshops, Google Maps. Student pinned their favorite city and country they would love to visit. All my students were very engaged with this activity. For my Math lab, I created a slide activity called “Math Gone Wrong”, where student would find the error and write a few sentence regarding it.

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Why was I afraid? Maybe because I don’t understand everything about Google Drive. Maybe part of me was afraid of losing the personal conversation I have with my students everyday. Will they all be so immersed with the devices that the human contact diminishes. The start of a New Year gave me new energy to realize that it’s okay, it’s another tool I could use in the classroom to assist my students in their learning. I understand that I don’t have to do it alone and I don’t have to do all of it at once. I'm feeling more comfortable using Google Classroom.  My classroom is not paperless but I have reduce the amount of paper I use to assign engaging activities.  I'm not an expert but I will suggest to others that it's okay you do not have to be afraid.

We have an awesome Tech Team here at WUSD. I would highly recommend Edmund to visit your classroom and demo or assist you with any technology schoolwork. The whole team Kim, Melissa, and Edmund are very approachable and are our biggest cheerleaders. They understand our hesitations but they also understand what future tools can be used in the classroom to help our students learn. They enjoy working with teachers and our students. It’s a win-win-win for our students in this district.

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