Introducing Classroom, a new tool in Google Apps for Education

How Google's new Classroom tool can help teachers be organized, more efficient
By: | Issue: August, 2014
January 30, 2015

Google Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education provide districts with cloud-based tools that are easy to implement and manage, that are affordable and reliable, and that enable student collaboration, communication and content creation from anywhere, on any device, at any time. In the fall of 2014, Google will introduce Classroom, a new free tool in Google Apps for Education. Classroom weaves together Google Docs, Drive and Gmail to help teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and communicate with their classes with ease. Classroom also enables students to organize, complete and turn in work, and communicate directly with their teachers and peers.

Maggie McCloud
Google for Education Team

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. On the Google for Education team we’ve adopted this mantra: learning for everyone, anywhere. We want to create tools that are useful in all corners of the globe and that are accessible by anyone. Google Apps for Education is the base for all of the Google for Education solutions. It includes Gmail as your email service; tools such as Docs, spreadsheets and presentations for content creation; Drive for storing folders; and a variety of other tools to help keep your class organized and to help students collaborate. Because Google Apps for Education is web-based, it means the apps are available from any device with a web browser. They are also great for collaborating, because multiple people can be creating and editing these documents at the same time. Over 30 million students, teachers and staff are using Google Apps for Education in more than 180 countries around the world. Seventy-four of the top 100 U.S. universities use Google Apps, including seven of the Ivy League schools. And it is completely free and without ads.

Classroom is a new tool coming to Google Apps for Education. Classroom started over a year ago when one of our product teams realized that we needed a solution that really worked for classes and for teachers. We saw a lot of teachers basically gluing together different pieces of Google Apps for Education to make it work for them. Assignments shouldn’t be difficult to assign. People had these large flowcharts on construction paper explaining how to create a Google Doc and turn it into the teacher, or they would create a Google Form and students would share the links. It was all over the place. In addition, if they weren’t doing things digitally, teachers were receiving tons of papers from students, lugging bags of papers back and forth and having to hand-grade everything. To solve these problems, we worked hand-in-hand with a large group of teachers to create Classroom. Classroom lets teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently and communicate with their classes with ease. Classroom weaves together Google Docs, Drive and Gmail to help you create and collect assignments paperlessly. An assignment workflow allows you to generate an assignment and send it to your students, and they can work on the assignment and turn it in right in Classroom.

It also improves communication with students. There’s a communication stream in Classroom where teachers can make announcements or kick off class discussions. Once a student has turned in an assignment, teachers can give direct real-time feedback. Finally, it helps teachers and students to stay organized. When you create a class in Classroom, a folder in Google Drive is automatically created for that class. Anytime a student works on an assignment and turns it in, the assignment is automatically filed in the correct class folder and the corresponding assignment folder. Teachers can then review student work easily, and pass it back to the student if needed. Classroom also helps students keep track of their workÑon their assignments page they can see the due date for everything.

Nicole Marinello
English Teacher
Fontbonne Hall Academy (N.Y.)

Google Classroom truly inspires teachers old and new. It helps to build a better teacher. Fontbonne Hall Academy is a 76-year-old all-girls private college-preparatory school in Brooklyn, New York. We’re dedicated to empowering young women, based in the traditions of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. In early October when Google presented us with the opportunity to test Classroom, we jumped right in. We’re a small institution, with under 500 students, and we knew that in order to say we were empowering young women, we needed to put technology in their hands.

Next year we’re implementing a one-to-one program wherein all the incoming freshman will be receiving Chromebooks. And the sophomores, juniors and seniors have already jumped in with the Bring Your Own Device program. The students have learned to appreciate and utilize the power of technologyÑit became something that was a tool for their education and not just for their social life. Google Classroom works well on every platform. We had students using it on phones, tablets, laptopsÑanything and everything that connects to Wi-Fi can access this program and work well. That’s really important when you’re in a school with a BYOD program and not all the students have similar devices. Classroom is an amazing tool. It helps to organize everything, and it’s simple and straightforward. The faculty at Fontbonne ranges from teachers who have just finished their bachelor’s degrees to Sister Rosemary, who is fantastic at 82 years old.

Classroom is easy to use for all of us. This is our little catchphrase: less tech-ing, more teaching. How easy is it to get started with Classroom? I can create a class in under five seconds. It’s easy for the student, too. Because it’s so intuitive, they don’t get caught up in saying, “Okay, what do I click next? Wait, let me write this down. Hold on, what did you say?’ They are able to look at the screen, assess what needs to be done, and then go after it. Instead of us holding a student’s essay because she was absent for two or three days, she can get that feedback and maybe turn in a revision immediately. It doesn’t matter if she’s in class that day or out for the weekÑshe’s still able to access that information. It helps students organize their work, too. They are able to complete and turn in assignments on the same page. It shows them how to appropriately communicate with their teachers and their peers, and that’s an essential job skill to learn.

There are shy students in every classroom across the country. Some people just aren’t outspoken, or they are anxious to share their answers. A great function of Classroom is that you can have class discussions digitally. Maybe that student who was anxious now participates, and they get their thoughts out there. What I like to do with these students is pull them over after a digital discussion and tell them, “Hey, that was great. You should really raise your hand.” I’ve had students, because of this experience, start raising their hands in class when they hadn’t before; students who deal with a little bit of anxiety are overcoming that and jumping into class discussion. Moreover, Classroom helps students become more active global citizens. It removes the boundaries that the four walls of a classroom instill. If there’s a school in the South learning about To Kill a Mockingbird, they may have a different perspective on the tone of the text than we do in the Northeast; maybe I can have a Google+ Hangout with that classroom and we can discuss the different perspectives. It starts to make the world a little smaller.

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