By Viraj Shankar
There are learning curves to anything and everything we do. – Asha Appel
A few months ago, I wrote an article on how the OES community felt about Google Classroom. However, in doing so, I mainly interviewed teachers and students on how they felt about the tool. Classroom was a major stepping stone for most of the community, so the results were mixed. However, it was brought to my attention that a deeper survey of the motives, intentions, and methodology behind this tool needed to be addressed. To get more information on the reasoning behind implementing Google Classroom, I turned to Asha Appel, the OES Upper School Head, and Ed Cecere, the OES Upper School Technology Coordinator.
While meeting with Asha, I touched on multiple subjects surrounding the implementation of Classroom. Many, as mentioned in my previous article, have expressed frustration with the Google Gradebook, but Asha pointed out that Google Gradebook and Google Classroom are two very different things. The expectation for teachers was simply to get a basic grasp of the tool and to use it simply for posting assignments. The basic idea behind the implementation of Classroom was to streamline the homework process and make it easier for students to view all of their assignments in a centralized location. Finally, Asha acknowledged the challenges that some faculty were facing with learning the tool, and is optimistic that as teachers become more familiar with the tool, the Classroom experience will be a valuable one.
When asked on what prompted the switch to Google Classroom, Ed explained that, “Previously, teachers were using a really wide range of tools and systems to both communicate with and submit/ receive stuff from students: Google Sites, Gmail, paper, verbal in-class announcements, shared docs and folders in Google Drive, etc. This was a lot for students to have to think about and manage, and Classroom offered a chance to pull all this together into a layer that sat atop all our Google Drive data… Students now have a single place where they can see what’s going on in their classes…”
And while Classroom has tremendous benefits through its efficiency and centralization of content, Ed noted, “it’s not perfect!” He explained that Google Classroom, while still requiring teachers to transfer their data and procedures onto the Classroom, gives a lot of freedom in customizing their teaching style and process. Unfortunately, this can lead to a slower implementation of the tool. Furthermore, Google, as Ed pointed out, “is a big company, and can take a while to get around to addressing issues when they come up. They’re also on their own schedule for releasing features, which means we don’t always know ahead of time what’s going to become available to us.”
Both Ed and Asha had a positive disposition when commenting on the future of this tool here at OES. Ed said that Google Classroom will hopefully, “continue our efforts toward always considering, (and improving based on), the student experience in our school.” He stressed that when OES considers new tools, they always implement them in hopes of focusing students on learning, and making learning an easier and more fluid process. Asha believes that the tool has the “capacity to do a multitude of different things”, and that the ability to use Classroom as a vault for all school-related work will continue to make the OES learning experience more comprehensive.