By Viraj Shankar
This year, the Tech department implemented a major change in the student-teacher interaction by implementing Google Classroom. But it has also proved to be one of the most controversial decisions that OES has made.
Google Classroom is a tool that can be used by both students and teachers, where students can turn in their work online, and teachers can post their assignments, as well as update students on changes to the schedule. In theory, it seems like a great idea, as it can offer students more clarity on their assignments, and potentially save many students from turning in late work. However, since it’s debut at OES this month, it has received mixed reviews from students and teachers alike. To get a more comprehensive view of how OES, as a whole, feels about the Google Classroom system, I conducted several interviews with each of the academic departments. Here’s what I found:
In the History Department, I talked to Katrina Levin, who feels that Google Classroom has helped streamline her calendar agenda. She explained that while Google Classroom was initially challenging to grasp, she has not run into too many problems. She noted that it has been difficult to assess students work online, as many history assignments can not use Google’s Turn-In feature. She also states that the gradebook was extremely flawed in its design, and hopes Google can create a more useful grading tool in the future.
Debby Schauffler and Rick Rees, both English teachers, echoed some similar concerns. They were also frustrated with Google gradebook, with Debby exclaiming, “It’s really funky!”. Rick, while commending certain structures within the tool which has helped him stay organized, also voiced concerns with the Stream feature. He felt that it was easy for students to mix up assignments, especially since the most recent assignment does not always show up first under the Stream tab. Many in the department said that they felt that the tool had amazing potential, but that it was not fully there yet.
I was able to get some additional information from science teacher, Rob Orr. He believed that Google Classroom, so far, hasn’t solved any of the problems that had existed before it was introduced. He stated that while he assigns most of his Physics class work on Google Classroom, he still has students turn in printed assignments. Rob also pointed out that 9th graders have had much more experience with Google Classroom than any other grade in the Upper School, thus, the switch for them has been fairly smooth. Nevertheless, Rob finished by pointing out, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks! (mostly)”.
Gowri, a Geometry and Algebra teacher in the Math department, explained, “Google Classroom has been one of the most user friendly system for students…. its simplicity has actually worked very well for my students. For geometry, I am able to arrange my materials in chapters and it is easy for me to post relevant videos and handouts, which has made for easy navigation for students. I am pleasantly surprised that I am praising Google Classroom so much over more sophisticated systems I have used in the past.”
In the language department, I was able to talk to Dana, a Spanish teacher, who noted, like Katrina, that it was really hard to pick up at first. She also seemed to think that the tool had been a little bit forced, as it was only introduced during the last weeks of August (for the most part). She noted that most teachers in the language department would not use Google Classroom for conversation, as they still rely heavily on students speaking in class in order to gain a better understanding of the language. She also added that Supersite, which is used by many language teachers, can interfere with the online grading system that was created by Google and shared the frustration that other teachers had with the Online Google Gradebook.
So, what’s the general consensus? Most teachers think that, with time, Google Classroom will get better. There seems to be a universal dislike for the current Google gradebook, which will hopefully become a more useful tool in the future. Most students seem to think that the system has been fairly effective, though many are still frustrated by the potential complications that can come with teachers assigning homework on Google Classroom. Hopefully, Google will continue to make this tool more effective so that OES students can use it to improve their learning experience.