Teaching with Google Classroom – first impressions

This morning there was an email in my Inbox telling me that I have been invited to take Google Classroom for a test drive … exciting, eh? Here are some first impressions.

Setting up a class is relatively straightforward. After I signed in, I was guided through the intuitive process of setting up my first class. You first need to give your class a name and you can also define it even more by adding information about the section you are teaching.

Create a class

The class is then created for you and you are greeted with the Google Classroom interface, i.e.


Google Classroom comes with a number of cool templates that is easy to change by clicking on Change Photo (bottom right of the header image).

I think the user interface is quite intuitive with the classic ‘hamburger’ in the top left taking you to a screen that shows all of your classes or gives you the ability to create a new class. ‘Stream’ is the ‘social’ part of your course and contains all of your class activity (assignments, announcements, etc) and ‘Students’ gives you the ability to add, remove or email your students (as long as you have Google Mail activated).

It is easy to add new assignments and it is simple to add all of your resources to an assignment since Classroom integrates tightly with Google Drive. You can set a due date for an assignment and upcoming assignments are easy to see at the top of the sidebar on the left.

I team teach Technology in a modern learning space with @stevevoisey and @philippaisom. We have been able to use ‘Stream’ with great success in our class today, i.e. posting teaching tips and assignment information for all students as the lesson progressed. Students had the ‘Stream’ open in their browser (most of our students have tablets).

Probably one of the most exciting features of Google Classroom is the ability of students to ‘Turn In’ assignments. In typical Learning Management System fashion, students are not able to change what they have submitted after they have turned it in, even if it is a Google Docs / Sheets / Slides document. Classroom accomplishes this by changing the students’ submission to ‘Read Only’ for them and transferring editing rights to you as teacher. But wait, there is more! After you, the teacher, has graded the assignment, you can ‘Return’ it to your students. This time you lose your editing rights and the students regain their ability to edit their documents – a great feature for a feedback and revision cycle. It also mimics what usually happens in a classroom anyway – very exciting!


Will try to keep you updated on what I discover. To lifelong learning!

Cross post from http://barendblom.blogspot.co.nz/2014/07/teaching-with-google-classroom-first.html

Christian education and change

Christian education and change

Christian educators are people who understand and embrace change, we are people that constantly evaluate and critique our practice because it is a fundamental part of our worldview, i.e. we never arrive while here on Earth since God is constantly working out His salvation in us, perfecting our relationship with Him by teaching us holy worship that brings glory to God.

If you are a Christ-follower and a teacher, let’s dialogue about this.

To lifelong learning!

Blogger app for iOS

iTunes Store

One of the teachers from Year 3 and 4 at Elim Christian College, Emily, introduced the Blogger app for iOS to me just now. They are thinking of using it as a tool to showcase students’ learning. Initially the team was thinking of using Google Sites for this purpose, but posting to Google Sites isn’t as simple and intuitive as using the Blogger app – especially when most of the students in the class have iPads.

Abdul Chohan, the director of Essa Academy, talks about educational technology needing to be simple and reliable. This tool definitely fits the bill. The app itself has a simple user interface that is intuitive to use, with little distractions – ideal for a year 3 and 4 class.

New post in Blogger app

Writing a post

Can you think of more ways to use this tool? Please comment.

To lifelong learning!

Cross post from http://barendblom.blogspot.co.nz/2014/07/blogger-app-for-ios-simple-and-reliable.html

Online learning vs blended learning

Ronnie Burt wrote a great post on July 23 entitled “Why today is my last teaching online …

It resonated with my experience as an online teacher, and I decided to comment on his post as follows.

Hi Ronnie. Thank you for the post. I have also been an online teacher, and I have to be honest: despite teaching for a great organization, I have gotten the same kind of feedback from every group of students I have taught.

You write “The measures of success are often wrong – learning experiences are far more important than a checklist of standards and objectives” – interestingly, my organization (intentionally or unintentionally) encouraged us as teachers to try to give the students a great learning experience. I think the course I have taught has succeeded fairly well in achieving this goal, and I have to commend the course designers for the idea. I taught oceanography, and the course was sold to the students as a virtual trip aboard a virtual vessel with me as the captain. The students even addressed me as “Captain”.

You write “Relationships, connections, and networking are minimized in the rushed online world” – I have encouraged students in my online course to get in contact with each other via social media, especially since they located in different geographical locations, but online relationships are not the same as face-to-face relationships. I would say 80% of my students identified and saw this as a negative characteristic of online education.

Differentiation and personalized learning is lost in the pre-created curricula and assembly line experience of most distance courses and MOOCs” – I fully agree. There were times where I knew the content had to be adjusted for certain students but I was ‘not allowed’ to change it (and I partly understand why not). Now I have to say that the online teacher can create individualized experiences for students in an online course by responding to their individual needs with the appropriate media, but it takes an incredible amount of time to prepare these additional materials – much more than responding to a student’s individual needs in a face-to-face situation and competing with the time my other responsibilities at a brick-and-mortar facility was demanding of me.

Motivation and engagement suffer through isolation – we’re seriously becoming ok with virtual science labs!?” – this is the number one complaint of all of my students. The online learning environment is not a representation of most of our students’ day-to-day life experiences. In fact, the (high school) students in my influence sphere who have tried a fully online education have found it so stressful and isolating that every single one of them have left it after a while hoping that they never have to engage in an online class in high school again. By the way, in principle I am not against virtual science labs when they are performed by highly motivated students since I believe that they do a commendable job of teaching students the thinking processes of scientific experimentation. However, I do believe a ‘real’ lab is a better learning experience.

The subject matter (and the learners’ needs) should drive instructional strategies, not technology” – great observation – I know this to be true for the integration of any technology in the curriculum, but I have never subjected online education to this critique. When you do, I think it is a “fatal blow” to the idea of fully online education.

Online education has helped me improve as a teacher though, and I am a ardent supporter of blended learning. I do think that blended learning is the best pedagogical use of the workflow improvements and enhancements that online learning brings to the table.

To lifelong learning!