Google’s distance learning program has become one of the most used and interesting globally.
Coronavirus changed the lives of many of us but most of all it changed the lives of children and young people. In fact, for two months now, schools have been closed, the rules have changed and teaching, with all the necessary difficulties, has moved into the homes of children and teachers, filtered by computer screens and the speed of internet connections.
A not entirely new way of learning and teaching but unexpectedly becoming central in recent times. The instrument of the moment could therefore only be Google Classroom, the suite of programs and services designed by Mountain View to bring teachers and pupils together. Does the program replace classroom lessons worthily?
What it is
In general, Google Classroom is nothing but a program that facilitates distance learning by offering a series of sharing possibilities and a total synergy with the classic functions of the Google world. Available free for six years and already widely used by many teachers, the program has become the most used by teachers in these pandemic times. Its functions allow you to assign exercises, tests and questionnaires, store didactic material in a shared space, share videos and exchange messages quickly and quickly.
A unique code is enough for the pupils of their class to create a “private environment” quite similar to that of the school walls, accessible only to the teacher who created the room and to the pupils to whom the code was sent.
With a Google account in a few minutes of configuration, you can take advantage of the service, accessible from a PC or smartphone via an application. Inside, students can check the deadlines of tasks and checks, be updated when new content arrives, receive grades. Maximum also the possibility of communication, both between pupils and with the teacher, inevitable the possibility of making video lessons.
Six years of history
Announced and previewed for selected users on May 6, 2014, Google Classroom was initially designed for members of the program G Suite for Education. Initially, even after the official release, the app was linked to paid G Suite members. A strategy that lasted more or less three years: in March 2017, the service was opened to any user with a Google account, also giving non-G Suite members the opportunity to participate in lessons or create new ones.
A major update of the program was launched in 2018, with new work sections, improved assessment interface and new features for students and teachers. Today Classroom, in addition to its 78 illustrated themes, offers full compatibility with Google Drive for archiving and sending documents, with Gmail for communications, with Calendar to manage deadlines and alerts and with various management and file creation programs such as Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.
Total compatibility with Hangout to manage a more immediate communication between the components of a class and to create real video lesson sessions.
The spread of Classroom was certainly helped by the undeniable ease of use of its services and by their degree of familiarity with users’ habits. Having a Google account means knowing already many of the services at the basis of the functioning of your school program: the strength of the app is in fact its strong synergy with the Google galaxyperfectly integrated inside. Drive is used to store documents and lessons, Hangouts for video lessons or chats, all without having to pay absolutely anything, with maximum compatibility with many apps and without any type of advertising.
A differentiated service, different in the setting between teachers and students, but which shares the same work tools with maximum compatibility. Basically it is enough to have a minimum of familiarity with the various programs of the Google suite to be able to use everything with maximum effectiveness. A simplicity of purpose that had brought Classroom to the center of the scene even in unsuspected times and that has now made it essential to carry on the didactic work in lockdown times.
Teachers, students and parents
The teachers represent the nerve center of Classroom: from their page they can manage the various classes they have created, with the possibility of sharing materials, assigning tasks and checking the progress of each work assigned to their students. Through the calendar you can manage appointments or deadlines and organize group meetings. The studentsfor their part, in addition to participating in collective activities, they have numerous possibilities to complete the tasks assigned to them. These can be managed quickly and intuitively, with the possibility of choosing which app to use to complete the work according to the request of your teacher.
Once completed, everything can be uploaded and will be displayed by the teacher, who will have full control of all the papers and the relative deadlines. Also interesting is the possibility for parents to monitor the class of their children through the function, always filtered by teachers, to have access to an email system in which to be updated on the progress of the work, the lessons held and more general information on the progress of the class. In short, a school microcosm in all respects.
The evaluation system
One of the most appreciated functions of Classroom is certainly that of evaluations, with the possibility for teachers to provide feedback on students’ work. The voting schemes are numerous, with options to attach files to the assignments, the possibility of monitoring the progress of each student, also making comments, changes or annotations in real time. Once their work has been completed and sent, teachers have the possibility of returning them with notes and corrections which in turn allow the pupils themselves to correct where they have gone wrong.
A real-time evaluation and correction system that allows you to follow step by step the processing of everything you want, correcting errors in the bud and with the possibility of interaction during the performance of activities difficult to replicate in normal conditions or with traditional methods . A possibility of no small importance and certainly a positive aspect in an emergency situation like this and that, if exploited properly, it could make Classroom a very useful tool even alongside the more traditional teaching.
A school for everyone, even from a distance
Over the years, however, many criticisms have been made towards Classroom, starting with a lack of openness to services or files external to the tools provided by Google and to a limited number of verification tools such as quizzes or automatic tests. There have also been accusations in the not exactly transparent management of user data, which is very valuable since it is almost always a question of minors or children.
Google has always reiterated its attention to privacy but the storage and archiving of student data remains one of the hottest topics that revolve around the program. Despite this, the great utility of the service for students and teachers is undeniable; it is essential, in fact, that teaching continues at all costs and that education does not stop even in conditions like these.
All programs that help distance learning are therefore fundamental, even more so if integrated with applications that many of us already use every day like those of Google. It will be essential that these tools become more and more commonly used even in normal conditions, because they are useful for improving a teaching and school too often anchored to the past. At the same time it will be It is essential to protect all parties involved and ensure that these instruments do not become discriminators or amplifiers of differences.
Not everyone, in fact, has the ability to access certain tools or fast connections that allow you to use them and not everyone is able to better understand all the functions. Giving equal access and use to all will be essential for an online teaching model to work and be sustainable in the future. Having the best of tools in your hands is useless if it cannot be used to the best of all sides. And this, in a delicate world like that of education and school, we must never forget it.