Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Google Classroom - First Look!

I posted a BLOG at the beginning of August about Google giving us a drop date for Classroom.  I've had some time now to play with it and get a solid impression of the product... here are my thoughts!

Google's new LMS (Learning Management System) would, on the surface, look to be an entree into the market in which products like Blackboard, FinalSite and Moodle have been the traditional heavyweights.  If you think that, you'd be wrong.  It plays much more in the space of something like Haiku or Edmodo when it comes to overall functionality... but let's talk about that a little.

For those educational institutions that are using Google Apps for Education (And if you aren't, you should ask yourself WHY... and have a reason).  But, if you are, you can request to have the App added to your suite and then it's easy to hop right into Classroom just like any other Google App.

Once you are inside Google Classroom and classes have been set up, the interface should be very familiar to you.  It is a similar clean, organized look and feel to other Google Apps.  It works via a class stream of information very similar to Google+, and everything that happens within the class will show up in the stream.  When something is assigned, turned in, graded, comments added etc -- it all shows up in the stream for the teachers.  The student view is slightly different and carries a little less information in it.

You can set up your class with information about it, upload a syllabus and post announcements just like you'd expect in any kind of system that hopes to help you organize your classes.  You can grade based on just about any scale you'd like, as long as it is a whole number.  No 89.5's here.  It is easy to take an assignment and grade it, and have it show up to the student as a newly graded assignment.  However, this is largely where the grading features stop.  A number of grading features are missing out of the box including timed-release of assignments, take-home exams, online assignments and several others that you'd expect to see in a full featured LMS such as Blackboard, Moodle or FinalSite.  But... keep in mind this is just the initial release!

The current layout of the stream and how it works contains all the information a student would need, but it is very much like Twitter or Facebook... if something is a few hours old you may have to hunt for it!  FinalSite has a similar issue with their FinalSite Social plug-in.  A student gets assigned something first period, doesn't check their stream until sixth period and ends up having to scroll through assignments, returned work and sporting event updates to find it.  It is imperfect -- and I'd expect will be refined over time in all products.  One thing to note is that there is a great deal of integration between Google Classroom and Google Drive.  This is a boon for teachers who need that little bit extra to help keeping the classes they have running on Google Drive working smoothly!

This pretty much sums up Google Classroom.  Quick, right?  I know.  It is a product still growing... it looks good and clean, but lacks a lot of features found even in Haiku.  If you are currently using something like FinalSite LMS, Moodle or even Whipple Hill you might not want to make the switch to Google Classroom.  But, for a school that is using Google Apps for Education and does not currently have a standardized LMS -- Google Classroom is something worth looking into!

Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

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