(This post was presented during a live workshop presentation at the 2018 ABSPD Institute at Appalachian State University.)
If you are a teacher like me, you are constantly looking for a way to help your students be more engaged in their learning. Let me tell you a little about my history with Google Classroom.
A little over two years ago, a student came to me and asked me why we were not using Google Classroom. She had read an article about a chemistry instructor using it on campus, and she wanted to know why we, in Adult Education, were not on the boat with the rest of the college. To be honest, I was floored. I was partly impressed that my student was so motivated to learn, and I was partly embarrassed that I didn’t know more about this product being used on my own campus. I took the initiative to set up a meeting with that chemistry instructor. He graciously showed me all he knew and pointed me to the guru, Alice Keeler, to learn more. I became curious and I started to play with creating classes.
Courses launched in January 2016 for Adult High School English 3 and 4. Then courses launched for High School Equivalency in math, social studies, science, reading and writing, and digital literacy. The courses were tested by over 100 students and time was meticulously calculated and averaged for reporting and getting the courses approved by the State.
When you are considering any form of online learning, you have two major questions to answer. While Google Classroom had wonderful answers to the first question, it presented problems for the second.
1: How are my students going to access it?
Google Classroom offers free access to their platform online and through a free mobile app. Students can access their work on their phones and do their work on their phones without the need of a computer. The app does require internet access so they will need to work with their data plan and/or in a wifi area.
At first, students could only access Google Classroom through .edu accounts. These emails are made automatically for all active students of our college, but they are also deactivated every semester that a student is not actively enrolled in. It takes time to find the accounts, set up passwords, and enroll the students. If a student takes a semester off and their account is deactivated, we have to start all over with the enrollment process.
There is talk that Google is now opening Google Classroom to non-edu accounts. I have not seen that work yet, but it could resolve the access issue if students could use their existing Gmail accounts instead of ones set up for them by the school.
2: How are we going to track their time using it?
Google created the tool and gave it to us for free, but they do not plan on entering the game of telling us dates and times that students log in to do their work. The bottom line on this issue is to either use an external time clock or experiment and test your times and get them approved by the State for proxy time. While you may have a physical time clock for your program, that cannot work for students logging in to work remotely. What we did was test and submit average times for proxy approval to State. In 2018, we finally got our approval.
Here is the document we submitted for approval that includes detailed descriptions of how the courses were created, the outline for each course, and the time allotted for each assignment in each course.
WCCs Google Classroom for ASE Learners_updated 09-16-16.docx
What Got The Ball Rolling for Approval
During an auditor’s visit from State, I was asked to show the auditors what I was doing with Google Classroom. The people were highly impressed and asked me if I would be willing to share my work with other schools. Of course, I said yes. 😉 A few months down the road, I was invited to present during a Webinar. I shared this presentation.
We submitted the document “WCC’s Google Classroom for ASE Learners” for approval and, two years later, we finally have it! In April 2018, Arbony Cooper, Adult Education Coordinator of Integrated Technology and IEL/CE Programs for College and Career Readiness at the North Carolina College System Office, wrote my director to say our program has been approved for use starting July 1, 2018 and the information has been submitted to the NCCCS Compliance Review team.
This means the hours as specified in the document above are approved for use in North Carolina for the courses as specified! This is a BIG leap forward in Adult Education. It was approved for our program at Wayne Community College, but I see no reason why it could not be used for any other program in the state. I would reach out to Ms. Cooper for clarification if needed.
How do I Create Classes Now?
Now, when I want to use Google Classroom to teach a course, I create it following the approved outline and allotted hours earned. I create a new course and post assignment using priorly approved content and/or content equivalent that meets the standards and time requirements of the approved lesson. I schedule each assignment to be at least a day apart so they will show on the reports. I also include the approved time in the assignment title so the time will show on the reports. I can adjust the due dates as need be for my course, and use the reports generated by Google to suffice for the end of course reporting.
How do I Handle Reporting Now?
If I am using Google Classroom in combination with other courses in Odysseyware–another platform I create content in–then I create custom reports and update them weekly. For assignments completed in Google Classroom, I give credit for the approved time according to the report submitted to and approved by the State. At the end of the course, I will present my custom reports as well as the Google Classroom reports as proof of the time recorded during the term in Web Advisor.
What are some helpful resources for learning more about Google Classroom?
In addition to the links above, I recommend starting with the source itself–Google–and reading all they have to say about Classroom, apps that work with it, and their other interesting projects here.
Next, I recommend reading blogs from teachers that are currently using it. Alice Keeler is a go to in the industry. She is a big supporter of technology, blended learning, and flipped learning. She believes Google Classroom should be used to connect and interact with students. You can read more from her on her blog at http://www.alicekeeler.com/
I’ve created a YouTube playlist of several videos that teach more about Google Classroom and how to use it. There is also an introductory version of my presentation for students. You can access my playlist here.
How can Google Classroom help prepare students for College and Career?
At Wayne Community College, we have asked businesses in the community what they see most lacking in their new hires that are also our students. The overwhelming response was that they were very well trained for their jobs, but lacked soft skills like responsibility, teamwork, professionalism, and showing up to work on time. Transitioning from Adult Education to College, I have asked professors what they see most lacking in their new students. The overwhelming response was that they are not prepared for the online learning environment and the level of discussion and collaboration that they will be required to do there. Google Classroom can help with all of this.
I find that the best way to better soft skills with students is not to teach it directly–like lessons about time management–but indirectly–in the level of expectation we expect from them in their existing classes. In my classes, grades (in Adult High School) and practice tests (in High School Equivalency) are dependent on their attention to their work, class attendance, and participation. Many of the student assignments involve teamwork and a professionally organized presentation. If students play around, leave early, or don’t do their work, their ability to practice test and/or earn good grades will suffer for it. Furthermore, all students are required to enroll in Remind, a free texting app, and let me know if they are running late or going to miss a class. When they notify me, I arrange for work to be available online to make up for their missed time. If a student misses more than four classes, they can be dropped from the course. All of these requirements raise the bar of expectancy for my students; most of them will rise to that level. Having high expectations on them now will help them be better employees and students in the future.
As far as preparing them for online learning in college, I like to do this through the applications I have them use for student assignments. Not all students have computers, and those that do are not always equipped with expensive software programs. I like to stick to using mostly the Google Suite–Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, Open Docs, etc.–because I know students will need to be familiar with them for college and career and they have free access to those programs with their Gmail accounts. In addition to familiarity with collaborative tools, students need to understand how to make constructive feedback comments on discussion posts. To help them learn this, I use the questions feature in the Google Classroom environment to host discussion boards. I also teach a lesson on blogs and how to respond to them using my own blogs and those of a few trusted friends.
What can I do for course content in Google Classroom?
Google Classroom makes it easy for you to use any type of information that you want to use to build a course. You can link websites, upload YouTube videos, insert docs from your Google Drive, insert self-grading tests from Google Forms, and more. What is super cool now, is that several web content sites are joining in on creating content that will add directly to your Google Classroom. My favorite for this is Khan Academy
You can find a lot of good material in other places too such as OpenEd, EdPuzzle, Ted Ed, and several other apps mentioned on the Google Apps for Education website.
Here is a list of some of my favorite content sources based on subject area:
English and Writing
Test Prep & Transitions to College and Career
In addition to all of the websites and information linked here, I hope you will consider my blogs as a resource for course content. Sign up to follow this website, and be the first to see new content post specifically for teachers of adults on Whitman’s Academics. Consider following Bairn’s Bard for original children’s stories and Rebecca Whitman for inspirational non-fiction and commentary.
Users are free to use the content from any of my blogs for educational purposes as long as the use credits Rebecca Whitman as the author and links directly to the online blog for use. Content is not to be printed or copied without the express written permission of the author.