Google Classroom is still a few weeks away from its full-scale rollout, but some teachers already have their hands on the work in progress.
The latest addition to the Google Apps for Education lineup is a cloud-based workflow that helps teachers and students communicate, share assignments and get real-time comments and grades. The search-engine giant debuted the app in May, and since then, educators have been test-driving the features. Their experiences have been chronicled in detailed blog posts and videos.
EdTechTeacher created a video walk-through of Classroom's features, showing teachers how they can create a class and populate it with the right group of students. Students can then find their class by inputting a six-character classroom-access code.
The app integrates with Gmail and Drive to keep track of all assignments, with subfolders created for each class. These assignments can be customized and distributed among an entire class roster with a few clicks.
Teachers can watch a ticker in real-time as completed assignments are submitted and can then follow up with grades and comments. Missing assignments are clearly visible, so teachers can immediately reach out to students who are lagging behind.
Jen Scheffer, an instructional technology specialist from Burlington High School, in Massachusetts, has been working with Classroom over the summer, and she said she's excited about starting the school year fresh, with a paperless approach.
Scheffer posted a 15-minute walk-through of the app’s features on YouTube.
"It's clean, it's simple. The slogan right now is 'less teching and more teaching,' and I think that's a great philosophy," she said. "Teachers are not going to have to worry about extensive training on how to get their classroom set up."
In her six-part series on Classroom orientation, Google Apps for Education certified trainer Sarah Woods says that the app is lacking a unified grade book; instead, all grades are nested within each assignment. According to Woods, that omission could spell headaches down the line, when teachers try to calculate all of a student's grades. There is also no interplay between Classroom and Google's Calendar app
Kelly Fitzgerald, an online learning integration specialist for Leander Independent School District, in Texas, has been working with Classroom for just under a month. During that time, she has created a slide presentation that acts like a cheat sheet for Classroom, explaining each feature and button in the app.
Google Classroom is currently available on a trial basis, with a full rollout planned for August, just in time for the start of the 2014–2015 school year.