Do you use Google Classroom? In the district I teach in we have a 1:1 initiative with Chromebooks from 3rd through 12th grade. Since we use Chromebooks it is natural that we also use the Google G Suite for Education which includes Google Classroom. The apps within this system give the students and teachers the ability to communicate, collaborate, and organize. It also gives teachers a way to manage assignments, quizzes, and grades via Google Classroom. I’ve been using Google Classroom for the past 5 years but I’ve never looked at it closely, peeking into every corner and clicking on every option to evaluate its maximum potential for assessment. Today we’re going to correct that problem. As I explore the many parts of Google Classroom, in detail, I’m going to share with you my thoughts on how each feature has potential for being used for assessment. Maybe we’ll discover some useful assessment tools together.

Before we get into Google Classroom itself let’s take a look at the Terms of Service and the Privacy Policy. I thought this would be easy to find but I had to do some searching. After a bit of looking I took the easy route and Googled it, ha! I am aware that the privacy policy keeps some districts from using G Suite with their students even though my district seems to be ok with it. This has implications for assessment because the privacy of student personal information and grades must be protected. Google is clear that some personal information is shared with them including password, username, and email at the very least. It may be prudent to restrict the amount of personal information you are collecting from students as part of an assessment as one way to protect their privacy when using this system.

Stream – When you first open up a Google Classroom the first thing you see is the stream. It is an ongoing list of all announcements, assignments, etc. that have been posted, in the order in which they have been posted. The organization by date gives students a quick view of the most recently posted material so they have to do less digging. There is a list on the left side of the stream with the heading “Upcoming”. This is a list of all assignments that have due dates coming up so, again, students have a quick view of what they need to be working on. Until today I had never really thought of using the stream as an assessment tool but then I figured out that students can be given more than “read only” rights to the stream. In settings the teacher can give students the ability to not only comment on items in the stream but to also post them! This could be used as a formative assessment by asking students to comment on an article with a short summary of what they read. The students could create content to share that shows their learning and other students could comment on it. There are quite a few ways that this could be used. I do see possible constraints for using this as an assessment however. Having students add content, before it has been reviewed by the teacher, could allow inappropriate content to be added to the stream. I work with highschool students and I can see this as a likely problem. I would be more likely to use this with my advanced class than the younger students.

Classwork – If you follow the classwork tab from the stream you see the same listing of materials, assignments, etc. but in a different organization. On the classwork page everything is listed by topic. This is especially useful in the elementary classroom when the teacher is using it for many subjects. Within the classroom page there are a lot of assessment possibilities. Here you can add an assignment, a quiz, a question, and even materials for students to use. They don’t have to be assigned to the entire class either. We can assign them to particular students within a class which makes them more useful for individualization.

  • Assignments – With this feature we can add an assignment of any kind really. There is a title and then open area to give instructions and background information. A lot of things can be attached to an assignment. We can attach videos, links, Google docs, slides, or sheets, as well as Word documents. It can be used to assess in any way that a teacher can imagine because it is completely created by them. Students can attach documents, videos, and audio files when turning in their assignments so there are few constraints with the assessment possibilities here. One thing that I do want to point out is that it is important to be aware that if students are completing these assignments without a teacher looking over their shoulder they will have the entire internet at their disposal. The teacher will want to craft their assessment with care.
  • Quiz Assignments – This feature sets up an assignment with a Google Form attached that the teacher uses to create their quiz. One nice thing about Google Form Quizzes is that if a student has a school issued device the teacher can set the quiz to freeze their device until the quiz is submitted. This means that students can’t use any other part of their device until they are finished with the quiz. The constraints of this feature are that we have to use Google Forms to create the quiz. This isn’t really a terrible thing because there are a lot of awesome ways to create quizzes within that application. We can make multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions with ease. There are also options for rating items on a scale which I just found and want to play with. I think it could be used for an end of lab self-assessment of student products. Look for an exploration of that particular feature soon.
  • Question – This feature kind of speaks for itself. We can ask a question that the students have to answer. It is limited to this particular type of assessment so while it is useful it can’t be used for everything. When it comes to formative assessment this question feature is nice. We ask a question at the end of a lesson and the students answer, and can even reply to each others answers which helps them learn from their peers.

People – Another tab to follow is the people tab which lists all of the students in the class with their email addresses. It also lists the parents who have joined the class to keep an eye on what their child is doing. This is great for communication purposes but can also be considered an assessment tool because a teacher can send feedback to a student using this feature. It is limited in it’s uses for assessment but still has at least that going for it.

After a few years of working with Google Classroom this intense exploration has opened up some new possibilities for using it for assessment. In the coming year I plan to use it in conjunction with Google Sites to create a Hybrid Course Management System (CMS) for my classes. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how we teach so dramatically in such a short time and while challenging I find it to be invigorating. I’m heading in the direction of a Hybrid course because it’s the best of both worlds. It provides the advantages of online learning with the benefits of the traditional classroom (Christenson et. al., 2013). The likelihood that I will only some of my students each day, while the others are learning remotely, also makes it the best plan. That’s why I’m here, looking closely at my options and planning for the uncertain future as best as I can.

References –

Christenson, C.M, Horn, M.B., Staker, H. (2013, May 22). Is K-12 Blending Learning Disruptive?: An Introduction to the Theory of Hybrids. Retrieved from https://www.christenseninstitute.org/publications/hybrids/.

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