Google for Education is a set of digital products from Google. The tools are designed to be used for hosting and distributing digital documents, communication and collaboration through cloud-based technology, and can assist teachers, students, researchers and organisations – at all levels. Google for Education products include the collaboration platform G Suite for Education, the Classroom service, the Chromebook devices, and Google Cloud Platform – a tool for storage, machine learning and management of big data.
There are a number of digital learning platforms on the market, and more will undoubtedly appear. In English they are generally referred to as LMS – Learning Management Systems. As a former student, I have experience of the Norwegian product itslearning, and, even though the platform is used by many educational establishments, I have to admit that I don’t find it particularly attractive. Itslearning requires licences and a fixed sum per extra GB, which can soon become expensive. As I have become familiar with Google Classroom, I’m wondering why it’s not used more in Norway. Could it be because up to now Google has devoted few resources to promoting it? Or do Norwegian environments have a bias against foreign solutions?
Below I want to discuss Google for Education, and in particular Google Classroom, in a little more detail to show why the tool should be considered by more schools.
What is Google Classroom?
In brief: Google Classroom is not a standard LMS in the sense that it is a total solution for administering online courses and students. I would describe it as an attempt to integrate various Google products into an overall solution, thereby creating a lightweight LMS. This user-friendly tool has been developed by Google in close collaboration with teachers with the aim of making teaching more productive, collaborative and meaningful. Classroom is simple to configure and can be integrated with G Suite for Education.
Why should a school consider using Google Classroom? Well, there are a number of good reasons:
- The most obvious reason is that it’s free to use, and is included when you register for G Suite for Education. Most other systems cost money both to purchase and to run. Other free products, such as Moodle, require the user to find a server to install the software on and to provide a competent individual who can take care of maintenance, upgrades, storage space, backups, etc. With Classroom, Google takes care of all that – free!
- Learning is in the process of becoming more collaborative. Students solve tasks by working together, both in groups and digitally on the internet. Google’s solutions for collaborative editing of documents in real time are the best on the market.
- If you are in the system editing a document or spreadsheet, you have access to the Explore tool, which incorporates AI and Google Search into your work flow. There’s no need to open new tabs in the browser to search for things, this can be done direct from the document you are working in. In addition, Explore can suggest graphs that may be of interest based on the data in your spreadsheet.
- No reason to demand that students must have Microsoft Office, for example, or that they must have a specific operating system. With Classroom, teachers and students can work when and where they want – on any device. Since the tool is in the cloud they have access to all assignments, material, etc. from any computer or mobile device.
- Save money and protect the environment – with a digital classroom you reduce paper consumption, as there is less need for copying of sheets and exercise books.
Simplifying everyday life for teachers
Having an overview of students, teaching material and time is naturally the most important consideration for a teacher. Assignments and other material in Google Classroom can be reused and improved from year to year. Marking can be carried out either by using your own system in a spreadsheet or making use of an available add-on. Marking in Classroom provides a good overview of students’ progress and makes it easy for the teacher to differentiate assignments based on the students’ individual skills. Parents can receive updates on a student’s activities by email.
Easier for students
For students, it’s easy to know what needs to be done, as they only need to log into one place to keep up with what the class is doing, and it means students don’t need to carry as many books to and from school. Each class has a flow of events like a newsfeed, where assignments and instructions from the teacher pop in. In addition, students don’t have to spend time downloading and uploading documents. The documents are on Google Drive and are edited in the browser.
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