I’m head of the school newspaper this year (very exciting!), but after the first meeting I felt completely overwhelmed. The kids had a lot of ideas and they couldn’t wait to get the first paper out. I loved their enthusiasm, but I was worried about how I would make it all happen. I knew that with my busy schedule it would be nearly impossible to hold meetings every week and I also knew I didn’t want to be tracking down rough drafts from students in three different grades (I was already doing enough of that in my own class!). So, I began the search for an easier way. My first thought was Google Docs, but then I stumbled upon something even better: Google Classroom.
A relatively new platform, Google Classroom allows me to post announcements, create assignments, set due dates, comment on student work, and keep track of who has been an active participant. It’s everything that’s great about Google in one spot.
So, how does it work?
After you create a class, Google Classroom generates a code which allows students to join using their gmail account. Once it’s all set up, you are able to communicate with students, both publicly and privately (similar to writing on someone’s Facebook Wall versus messaging them), post assignments, and create announcements. For Newspaper club, I created documents using Google Docs for each column (debate, sports, advice, etc.) and then linked them to an assignment in Classroom. From the student point of view, they simply click the link and are taken to the document. At first I felt all this linking was an unnecessary middle step, but now I see the benefits. For instance, there are only about four students working on the debate column, but many others offer input, compliments, and constructive criticism in the comments section of the assignment. This way, the document is solely for the team itself, while the comment section is open to the entire “staff”.
Why do I love it?
As I previously mentioned, I was a bit cautious about Google Classroom, but now I couldn’t be happier. It has been so nice to see students discussing ideas with one another and to monitor their work and give my own feedback – without waiting for a face to face meeting (there’s even a mobile app!). It allows students to work on their own time (with a deadline in mind, of course), to hear from peers, and to connect with me. In a matter of days, Google Classroom was able to create a strong sense of teamwork in my newspaper club – which I don’t believe would have been possible with any other platform.