Google Classroom: College pilot

The Media Studies department at City and Islington Sixth Form College is one of the first areas of the College that is taking part in a Google Classroom pilot. Further teachers will be taking part across the College after the Christmas break.

We are now a month into it and I wanted to spend a bit of time reflecting on how its gone so far, in particular focusing on the challenges and unexpected benefits of using it.

I think the biggest challenge has been for the teachers who had never taught with it before, which probably sounds rather obvious.  Introducing a new way of teaching part-way through the first term was a bit risky, but I’d taken the staff involved in the pilot through training in June and they had all practised using it, getting used to launching assignments and marking and returning work.  One of the team had used it extensively during her PGCE training year and so had an excellent knowledge of it, which was really useful to us all.

There are pedagogical challenges of moving to this learning environment too; one of the great things about Google Classroom is the opportunities it offers for collaborative learning, but this means that materials and activities need to be written in a way that allows this.  We are the second year into the new A Level and so I felt now would be a good time to move to GC as we were re-writing all our schemes of work after evaluation from year 1 anyway, and as we are still so new to the specification we could do a full-re-write with this with GC in mind.  It does require you to think a little differently though but we are all becoming accustomed to it now.

The final challenge that I am noticing is that teachers need to be organised and remember to launch the materials for their lessons before the lesson begins – this is somewhat of a challenge for a few of the less organised of the department.  As I was responsible for setting up all the classroom streams, I can see exactly what everyone is doing and when.  It’s useful to have an overview of all the classrooms as the head of subject.

The main unexpected benefit of GC is that no-one can lose any work!  Gone are the days of students losing memory sticks, word not saving, or the email with the work not arriving in the teacher’s inbox etc etc.  Google Docs, which is where their work is saved (and which the teacher can see), automatically saves as you go along – in fact, it doesn’t have an option to click on ‘save’ – it just happens like magic.  Students can revert back to old versions of essays and can see where changes have been made.

The wonderful thing about GC is the way that you can mark and return work, and the marks are automatically copied into a Google Sheets spreadsheet.  You can provide comments on the work that students can respond to; you can suggest changes that students can accept or delete.

We have only just scratched the surface with the capabilities of GC so far.

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