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I surveyed 42 of my juniors for this article. The questionnaire asked them to comment on benefits and frustrations with Google Classroom and Google Apps.
Every student agreed that they felt more connected to students and curriculum by using Google Classroom. Most students said they preferred to virtually collaborate because of convenience, connection to teacher, and accountability. Here are a few of their comments:
-“When being properly used I believe Google Classroom gave us a constant connect with [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"][the teacher] whether we didn’t have school or [the teacher was] absent. This is comforting for students who like to double check their tasks.”
-“You can get feedback from [classmates] quicker without having to deal with the awkward conversation with people you’re not friends with.”Google Classroom allows easy access for the students to work with their teachers or with others students Click To Tweet
-“Google Classroom allows easy access for the students to work with their teachers or with others students. You can see when the other person is on, and work on the project together still even when you cannot meet up.”
-“It provides an easier way for students to collaborate out of school without the hassle of meeting up somewhere. Multiple people are allowed to work on the same document.”
-“Teachers and students all come together and help one another and all the work is saved.”
-“Google Docs (something that I use in virtually all classes) allows more than one person to edit a document at a time, which can lead to more group work, and since the teacher can see who edits or adds what, those who normally slack will have to do SOMETHING, and thus, groups are more efficient and collaborative.”
When asked about any frustrations, students said that they were upset that the school didn’t have enough Chromebooks (we have about 160 devices for a school of nearly 900). Additionally, most students said that they had connection issues on their phones. Another common complaint was Google Classroom failing to notify them about approaching due dates without them visiting the Classroom Page: “My only frustration with Google Classroom is that whenever an assignment’s due date is approaching, I’m not notified, so if I’ve forgotten about an assignment that was due over a long period of time there is a high probability that I won’t complete it. While fully understanding that the completion of the assignment is my responsibility, it would be helpful to be sent a notification that the assignment is due, whether it be the day before or two days prior.”
After speaking to my tech teacher, we wonder if there is a way to link due dates to Google Calendar. Maybe that would solve this problem.
However, when asked about how Google Classroom has affected organizing skills, most students said that they believe they are more organized students than they were last year.
-“Google Classroom is almost like having an electronic planner. All of your online assignments are kept in a safe place and organized by course and due date. It makes keeping track of multiple classes much easier, and it can even be connected to your personal google calendar if you want to keep track of other things as well. Most assignments are now being turned in and created online, and this makes the transition from paper to computer much easier.”
The majority of responses noted that they liked the idea of being able to review their work in future years. Since I was worried about how Google Classroom would affect my grading (I’ve always preferred paper assignments, so I can feel their work), I asked if they preferred paper or digital grading comments. Results: 50% said they preferred paper grading, 43% said they preferred digital grading, and 7% said they didn’t have a preference. Here are some of their comments:
-“I find digital comments very helpful. I’m able to work on my work while receiving live comments on my paper without having to print it off or handing it over to a teacher. That way I have more time to work and better everything I make.”
-“I prefer the teachers grade my work online so that I won’t lose what they have commented, and I can go look back on it whenever I please.”
-“They can let me know where exactly I messed up on and what I need to fix. All these changes are saved to Google Docs as well so they won't go away and I won't forget what I have to fix when I go back into Google Docs.”
-“Honestly, I think a combination of both is most effective. While I understand that feedback given electronically is the easiest and most efficient way, it is also more impersonal. Students sometimes benefit more from having a connection with their teachers, even if it’s something as subtle as a handwritten comment on their papers.”
I believe that my first year with Google Classroom was successful: I didn’t lose a single assignment; no one argued about the date of completion; collaboration was increased, and I felt as if I addressed more of my students’ needs. Instead of requiring a computer to connect to my students, my phone apps allow me to post on Google Classroom with ease. Sure, Google Classroom isn’t perfect; I wish I could differentiate due dates for my IEP and 504 students; I wish I was notified when a student submitted an assignment weeks after its due date; sometimes locating a past item on The Stream is difficult. However, I have just scratched the surface of Google’s features for my classroom, and I look forward to exploring my options in the future.