Classroom Technology: Google Apps Allow Collaboration and Instruction

  • When Apple computers were first introduced into schools 40 years ago students were able to use classroom technology for both collaboration and instruction.

    Today the classroom technology revolution is run by Google. And the company has made it possible for students to complete all assignments via cloud-based and free technology.

    This includes storing and sharing files, creating and editing Google Docs, slides and forms for quick feedback and interactive collaboration. It also means teachers can plan learning experiences that use the file-sharing capabilities of Google Drive to promote discussion.

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    Google Classroom is your mission control for class,” the company states in its marketing materials.

    Joe Herz, an MA in educational technology, who teaches courses on the use of Google in the classroom, says research shows that students prefer working with technology.

    “[Students] feel more empowered and comfortable producing with tech,” Herz says. “[Tech] allows them to easily revise, research and create. That is not to say individual creativity or group creativity using non-tech is unnecessary. Using the tools is one thing – bringing out one’s best depends on the learner and the instructor’s guidance.”

    There are benefits for students and teachers alike. Files can be posted, shared, edited, collaborated on and accessed when time allows. The storage, sharing and compatibility issues of pre-Drive are gone. File management is simple.

    “The focus shifts to content and creativity and thus more opportunity for student success,” Herz says. “Teachers can effectively encourage and inspire student productivity and success using Drive. They can comment as work is in progress or provide feedback later.

    “Students can collaborate with peers on shared assignments using the same commenting features as well as working on their section of an assignment,” he adds.

    Perhaps the most beneficial Drive feature, Herz says, is the ability to collaborate. Drive allows quick support and guidance to help students meet assignment objectives. Reluctant or troubled students may otherwise fall further behind.

    Google is free. Budget limitations, however, might still come into play depending on the school. The question remains, what is enough when it comes to technology?

    Some classrooms have full sets of tablets or laptops, others only a few. Other schools allow students to bring their own devices. Still others might have computer labs or media centers with computers.

    “There remains a digital divide — haves, have-some, have-very little,” Herz says. “Not all schools have reliable wifi. Teachers must leverage all available tools to infuse Drive usage into their curriculum.”

    For his upcoming course, Herz says he will focus on both using the tools, how to implement the tools and more. This includes a basic understanding of cloud technology — the production of Drive documents, sharing, collaboration, managing documents and application to a curriculum.

    “What hasn’t changed since the first Apple computers in schools 40 years ago is that the tools are still tools,” Herz says. “How to effectively use tools such as Drive to help students learn, display knowledge, communicate and become responsible digital citizens hasn’t changed.”

    If interested in learning more about this topic, click here to view the class description, syllabus and sign up for the course.