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Googling it the Google Way - the Magic of Google Classrooms

This blog post is inspired by my recent encounter with the amazing Google Classroom [1].  Initially I thought it will be similar to a traditional classroom set up. On exploring I was able to get a deeper insight into the marvelous features the classroom has to offer. This  can help you flip your classroom. From organizing content for various courses to assigning work to students online, commenting on the homework , collaborating in real time etc are some of the tasks that make this online classroom a dynamic interactive learning experience for all learners. The blog explores each feature below in detail.

Though its easy to login to your #Google Classroom using either your personal google for education account or GSUITE for education account set up by school. You can choose to login to your class by various methods either directly through web browser by going to classroom.google.com or by choosing from the GAFE through Gmail. Once your in the classroom[2] you have two options either to create a classroom or join a previously created class by someone else. On the right side of the welcome screen you see a plus sign , once you click on the sign a drop down menu appears with the above two options listed as either Join or Create.

To join a class or enroll in a class, there are two methods, either your teacher has sent you an email invite to join the class and you accept the invitation or your teacher has shared a join code to use while logging in to your classroom.

Now the first best part what I loved about this online classroom is it not only let's you define, but design and create your own classroom. Now imagine this as a whole school with several classes, or different schools with one class each or one class with several groups based on differentiation, or a training program comprising of different courses, the opportunities are endless with #Google Classroom. You get to choose so choose wisely! Based on a particular objective.

Now your in the class and it's finally created. You start to create sections or classes. Important thing to remember is the name you assign to your classroom or section, make it precise, meaningful and relevant. 

Next best thing about the Google  Classroom is the ease of adding co teachers in your classroom, each classroom could have different co-teachers and they will not be able to access other sections unless you give them access to by adding them in the classroom. You could add or invite an expert into your classroom who could co-teach with you, assign content, give feedback to students etc

Another thing that I really like is the ease of assigning tasks to students and the variety of tasks that could be assigned to students. You get to choose the students from your class to assign a particular task, or assign the task to all students in the class.  Something which is very difficult in traditional classroom setup. You could also reuse the same assignment in another class, no need to create again.

These can be an interactive tasks designed in Google docs , #Google Drawing [3], sheets etc where each student gets an individual copy to work on, you could also create a mind map in Google docs and share with the whole class for brainstorming on a topic, whole class inputs ideas at the same time in the same document, you could share a video from YouTube and post questions related to it in the classroom and keep it open for discussion (let students comment on each other's posts to encourage discussion and sharing of ideas) , or share a document for analysis (may be a news report, weather report, key findings from a research project etc) make sure the document shared is view only purposes and no edit allowed. You can also share links of various websites and students could directly access the websites from the classroom, these could be related to interactive story writing , practice math concepts, reading and writing, drawing, grammar, brainstorming, mapping etc.

Another very interesting thing that the Google Classroom offers is integration with outside resources like #KhanAcademy, #mathgames.com , #Flipgrid and many others. You could directly link your classroom with the these resources and assign content to your students.

I have been working on an initiative titled "Technology for a Cause - Enhancing Skills Empowering Kids" focused on providing meaningful technology experiences to underprivileged kids to enhance various skills  including numeracy, literacy, creativity etc. The initiative is now extended to two schools namely #SOS Children Village Peshawar (an orphanage) and #Ranaa Child Welfare Foundation (school for street children) in Peshawar. It gets difficult to be present at both schools at times. I thought of using Google Classroom to reach kids at these schools and get them engaged in meaningful experiences using technology.

I have set up two classrooms in Google Classroom , one dedicated to #Ranaa and the other to #SOS kids. Both get different assignments based on their knowledge and skill set. I tried a whole class activity with kids at Ranaa, where they were supposed to come up with five rules for their online classroom. We used a template made in Google Drawing, each student was able to edit the same document at the same time. In the end the whole class came up with 5 rules for online classrooms. In a second activity they were assigned practice exercises from Khans Academy which they accessed from the Google Classroom, using same login credentials. I have tried assigning work to different groups of students and it works perfectly well. I have marked students assignments and returned them back to students with grades assigned and feedback in the form of comments which makes my work much easier.

Though this still needs some more exploration, I am sure Google Classroom holds a lot of potential for students, teachers, schools, educators etc. This can be used to reach deserving students living in rural areas (provided they have internet access). Google Classroom is accessible on mobile phones too, app can be downloaded from the Google Play store. Teachers can use these to mentor students, use to flip their classrooms, give ownership of learning to students, trainers could use this to design online PD courses, schools could use this for teachers online PD opportunities and much more, the application is endless.

The only concern I have at the moment is regarding the students email address used to login to Google Classroom. In order to access Google Classroom, teachers need to create student accounts (13+ is the required age to own a Google account). Though I have managed to create students ids, this concern remains and a solution needs to be worked out soon. Also students need to be made aware of the importance of online safety.

Amidst this I have thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience along with the kids. Now its your turn to dive in and explore the super amazing world of Google Classroom !

 Happy Reading :)

Reference

1.Google Classroom | Google for Education." https://edu.google.com/k-12-solutions/classroom/. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018

2.Google Classroom - Creating a Class - YouTube." 3 Aug. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1X6KixZjIA. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018

3.Google Drawings - create diagrams and charts, for free. - Google Docs." https://docs.google.com/drawings/. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

Regards and prayers

Sheeba Ajmal

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