Google Classroom, a free, new tool in the Google Apps for Education suite, has been released by Google after a three-month preview period to help teachers streamline many administrative tasks so they can spend more time teaching subject matter to their students.
The Classroom feature was announced by Zach Yeskel, Google’s Classroom product manager and a former high school math teacher, in an Aug. 12 post on the Google Enterprise Blog.
“When we introduced Classroom back in May [in limited preview mode], we asked educators to give it a try,” wrote Yeskel. “The response was exciting—more than 100,000 educators from more than 45 countries signed up for a preview. Today, we’re starting to open Classroom to all Google Apps for Education users, helping teachers spend more time teaching and less time shuffling papers.”
The idea of Classroom is to help teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently and communicate with their classes easily with Web-based educational tools that are simple to use.
Through Google technology services, including Google Docs, Drive and Gmail, teachers can use Classroom to create and collect assignments from students without using paper, and quickly monitor which students have or have not turned in assignments. They can also provide instant feedback on student work using Classroom.
In addition, teachers can make announcements and share questions and comments with students in real time with Classroom. The service automatically creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student, as well as lets students know which assignments are due through their own personalized assignments page, according to Google.
“Classroom is available in 42 languages (including right-to-left ones, such as Hebrew, Arabic and Persian),” wrote Yeskel. “It also works well on mobile devices and most popular screen readers. We’ll be rolling out to more users every day, so if you go to classroom.google.com with your Apps for Education account and don’t have access yet, please check back soon. Hopefully, Classroom will help you spend a little less time at the photocopier and a little more time doing what you love—teaching.”
Fontbonne Hall Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., was one of the first schools to use Classroom, according to Yeskel. “Sister Rosemarie DeLoro, who has been teaching for more than 60 years, had never used computers with her students before Classroom was introduced at her school. Classroom made it easy for her to assign digital worksheets to students in her Italian class and provide direct feedback to help them learn.”
Soon, she was even showing the other teachers how to use it, he wrote.
“You can’t stay in teaching and keep going to the old ways,” Sister DeLoro told Yeskel.
Google Classroom Launches to Help Teachers Focus on Students
Changes have already been made in Classroom based on feedback from students and teachers who were using the preview version, according to Yeskel. “For example, we heard during the preview that educators don’t want to wait until an assignment is turned in to collaborate with students. Now, with Classroom, teachers can view and comment on students’ work to help them along the way. We’ve also heard that educators want a simple place to post information and materials about their classes, so we added an ‘About’ page for each course, as well.”
Google frequently adds new features and services to its Google Apps products.
In May, Google Apps unveiled new mobile versions of its Docs and Sheets applications so that mobile users can create or edit documents on their devices while on the move. A mobile Slides app is also in the pipeline, but has not been released. Users will be able to see their most recently edited files when they open each app, making it easier to find files as needed. The apps also come with offline support built in, so users can view, edit and create files without an Internet connection.
In addition, Google promotes a wide range of events aimed at getting K-12 students interested in computing and education. In January, Google announced that it has been organizing after-school programs to encourage young students to dive into technology and come out with useful skills and lucrative careers. Through a pilot program launched in July 2013 at Google’s South Carolina data center, the company has been working with students to encourage their interest and show them some of the cool things they can do in the field of computer science.
In November 2013, Google created a new section of its Google Play store where teachers can find innovative apps that can help them teach their students and ease their administrative responsibilities. The new Google Play for Education section of the Play store was unveiled as an extension of Google Play that’s designed for schools, simplifying discovery of educational apps and enabling developers and content providers to reach K-12 educators in the United States. The store also provided a place for Android app developers to market their own specialized education apps directly to teachers and administrators.
In October 2013, Google again launched its annual Google Code-in, which is for 13- to 17-year-old students, and its Summer of Code 2014 program, which is for college students. The fourth annual Google Code-in 2013 contest brought teen students together with open-source projects. Since 2005, Google has worked with more than 1,200 students from 71 nations through the Code-in programs.