Google Classroom Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Google Classroom has been live for a few months now and I have been using it in my classroom since the middle of August. There are a lot of really awesome features of this teaching tool, but a few areas that could probably use improving.

If you are unfamiliar with Google Classroom, here is a two minute synopsis of this teaching tool:

And here is a 3 minute read on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Google Classroom.

Basically, Google Classroom serves as a central hub for any online communication you have with your students. It allows the teacher to post announcements and assignments in a variety of formats. Students can turn work in directly through Google Classroom and teachers can give feed back all through the same system.

I really think that Google has changed my craft as a teacher for the better. The products are easy to use and allow teachers the autonomy and flexibility they need to engage students in dynamic and constructive learning activities. — Paul Lepore, 8th Grade Social Studies, Felix Festa Middle School

The Good

First of all, there is much to like about this program. It is simple, organized, and efficient; yet it has plenty of bells and whistles to keep the geeky teachers happy.

Easy to Use:

Google Classroom is very intuitive. I showed up the first day of school (August 18th) and a colleague told me that Google Classroom had gone live. With no training, I had both of my teaching subjects set up, and I was posting assignments in Classroom the very next day. I have learned more since that second day of school, but within less than an hour, the average computer user will be able to understand the program enough to implement it in the classroom.

Another great thing about Classroom is that it automatically creates folders in the teacher’s Google Drive AND the student’s Google Drive. For example, I created a class called World Geography, and in my drive is a folder called “World Geography Fall 2014.”

Notice to the right of the folder it says "Classroom" instead of "My Drive"

Notice to the right of the folder it says “Classroom” instead of “My Drive”

Paperless!

There really is no reason this tool can’t help a teacher to go paperless. I will touch on testing limitations later in this review but once a teacher gets used to grading from a computer as opposed to paper – voila! Paperless. One of my colleagues was in the beta program of Google Classroom before it went live, so he has been using Classroom since late last Spring and his classroom is completely paperless except on test day. I will say grading on a computer takes some getting used to and I am still faster at grading an actual paper. Eventually, I will hopefully laugh at the thought of grading “papers.”

With Classroom, all the students’ assignments are in one spot for commenting. This is more seamless than if I had just shared a Google folder with all the same resources. — Heidi Bernasconi, 12th grade Marine Biology teacher

Bells and Whistles

After talking with several teachers, these seem to be the favorite features of Classroom:

  • Classroom automatically creates files for the teacher and student. If students create the document within Classroom, it is an easy and seamless process — no more email sharing!
  • It is easy to attach a computer file, Drive file, or even YouTube clip right into an announcement or an assignment

    This is what the assignment box looks like empty.

    This is what the assignment box looks like empty. The paper clip is for attaching files, the “Drive” symbol is for any Google suite file, the play button is for YouTube and the chain link is to link a site to the assignment.

  • On the main streaming page, Classroom lets you see how many students are still working on the assignment and how many have turned it in.due google classroom
  • If you use percentages for grading in your classroom, the grading options are really sleek and easy to use.
  • Teachers really like the backdrops :)

    I guess mine are cool too?

    The variety of interfaces are really nice!

  •  You can set different levels of email notifications.
  • One cool feature I learned from a tutorial but I have not implemented: the teacher can post pictures and the students can post comments to a point inside of the picture. I can see this being useful in a variety of subject areas.
  • And you can now directly communicate with your students from home, your phone, anywhere with internet access.

I love the easy access to most of my work right from my computer or phone. It organizes all of my work into different sections and I don’t have to worry about keeping track of papers! — Grace, Freshman, Fontbone Hall Academy, Brooklyn, NY

My Favorite Part!

I had to be out of school this past Tuesday for a professional day and I absolutely HATE writing substitute plans. I was a substitute at one point and I understand how awful it is when a teacher does not write great plans. So I do my best to write GREAT plans. Sometimes I think this takes more time than if I were just there actually teaching. But I no longer have those problems. THANK YOU Google Classroom!!!

Sub plans have never been easier. Every assignment can be added and collected right within Classroom. Being a sub has never been easier :)

The Bad

Most of the issues I personally have with Google Classroom will likely get worked out as the tool is continuing to develop. But one issue I have is I can see the potential for teachers to use it too much and get away from actual teaching — my UGLY keep reading.

I am not sure if this is a "bad" but it is worth noting that your students will have to have a Gmail account.

I am not sure if this is a “Bad” but it is worth noting that your students will have to have a Gmail account.

Student Sharing

I have run into some glitches when students attempt to share their completed work with fellow classmates. Sometimes it has made me the “owner” of the assignment (pre- and post- “Turn In”) and I have to approve sharing options. This can be a hassle when you have 80 or so students. There may be an easy fix for this but I have yet to find it.

It’s very efficient and makes it really easy to share study notes; before only one of us had the paper copy, but now we all can use the same resources to study. —Lindsey, 8th grade student

Grades by Points

I use a total point system in all of my courses. And the only options a teacher has in Google Classroom for assigning points is in the following increments 1, 20, 50, and 100. If you use percentages then grading is great but these number increments do not work well with my established points system. And Classroom does not replace your grade book. At this time Classroom does not integrate with any on-line grade book.

Bugs

Keep in mind Classroom is still very new and it still has bugs to be worked out. Most of the issues have been minor but I have heard other teachers talk about a few strange glitches. The strangest one to affect me is one of my student’s finished assignment ended up on my Stream page, which is the main page where students go to get their assignment. When students logged in, instead of seeing their daily bellwork, they saw this student’s assignment from the day before. No one can figure out how she managed that one.

Poor Integration

Other than integrating with YouTube and Drive, Classroom really doesn’t integrate with Google Calendar, Sites, Blogger, etc. For my organization and teaching purposes, it would be GREAT if Classroom started integrating with Calendar. I have not tried to use Google Forms in Classroom yet but I hear it works well. This may be a great way to submit quizzes; however, students could easily go to another window and look up answers — not that they would do that.

The Ugly

Lazy Teacher

A teacher could design a course entirely on Google Classroom. Put a computer in front of each kid and tell them to begin and essentially never have to TEACH again.

I like to think none of my colleagues would short change their students like this but sadly I have heard of teachers (none in my building) that already do this — without this awesome tool to enable them.

This really hit home with me after writing those sub plans. I could do this every day. I would the most productive teacher ever! But would I really be a teacher? Good teaching requires direct interaction, relating to students, and differentiating instruction. Google Classroom really can’t replace actual Teaching. But it sure can make a great teacher more efficient and organized!

Conclusion:

Google Classroom is a great tool. Google has some bugs to work out and I would love more flexibility in assigning points, but honestly I think this is the way of the future. Who doesn’t want to use less paper?

I am currently using Classroom four out of five days in my teaching. If you are already using Google Drive, then this will be a wonderful tool to make your communication and organization streamlined and simple.

Are you a teacher currently using Classroom? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section.

And if you are not currently using Classroom but want to share your opinions or ask questions PLEASE let me know!

If you would like more information here is an interesting Case Study done by the Clarkstown Central School District.

Comments

  1. I defied too soon. I would love to intdrgrate Google Classroom.

  2. poorteachers says:

    It really is great. I am using it for all of my reading assignments, a large portion of my bell works, and several classwork type assignments. Eventually, I will be almost paperless.

  3. Thanks for your easy to read review. As a secondary teacher new to Google Classroom, I find it brilliant. I started using it at the start of the year.I wish I had earlier as I have previously wasted so much time using Google Docs to manage student work by setting up a repository for their individual folders (1 working folder and 1 assignments folder per student – which I collated into a whole class folder), which students had created and shared with me (this process would take an entire lesson and more). My students all used google docs to do collaborative work and present it on slides etc, which was great. I’d also share assignments which they’d do. No problem.

    Once set up, the issues came with managing it all. This was caused by confusion among at least 50% of the class about what work was to be shared and how. Example, they would unnecessarily share work with me resulting in a bulging inbox filled with many notifications. Assignments would be submitted in the wrong folder or without the correct title, sometimes it would come as attachments and not via their ‘assignments folder’. The sharing and editing became nightmarish – some would remove me as a shared person, adding others with editing rights etc. etc Keeping track became hugely time consuming. I gave up and reverted to 2 types of hand in – sending by gmail attachment and paper hand in to keep things easy and time saving. Most students reverted to using their paper workbooks.

    Now, with Classroom, we have one place and all assignments are automatically given a name, it is great for students and me. It is such a streamlined system. The flow of work is kept in one place for all to look back on. Brilliant for simple management and best of all the students like it. If they like it, they’ll engage with it. i allow students to choose their form of note taking, in a book or on a device, but all assignments are set in our google classroom (which they all have so easily joined).

    What I would greatly appreciate in this programme for each class is the capability to set up a whole class mark book. For each student, I could record their grades for each assignment and have a space for important comments about areas they need to work on to improve their skills. I could isolate a student’s assignments history and share it with them and their care givers and be able to print. Currently, I am keeping written records and am also figuring out the export option.

    I’m not enarmoured with digital technology. I’m too busy enjoying the outdoors, reading books and being with family. But I am keen to use digital technology in my classroom connecting with students. Google Classroom has made life so enjoyable because it is a straight forward streamlined programe.

    • poorteachers says:

      Hey Jackie, thank you so much for your reply and thanks for the awesome compliment. I tried other Google Drive options as well, email, a digital dropbox, and a combination of the two. And you are right Google Classroom is so much easier. It does take some training of the students and it is still a very new application so I expect it will continue to improve. For example, since writing this review, you can now archive classes and you can change the points to be whatever suits you (just type the number in the box instead of picking from their pre-selected numbers.)

      I love your ideas for improvement. I wonder if there is a place that teachers can submit ideas?

      Good luck and thanks again for your kind words.

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