With the first day of classes being September 8th, I still have over a week until school technically starts. I am thankful for this late start, for I am still researching Google products (Classroom, Forms, Sheets, etc.) and other educational apps (Verso, Nearpod, Kaizena, and others). The more I learn, the more excited I am about starting this journey into the world of technology. Below are some of the realizations I have made so far, but know that this is a work in progress.
1. Google Classroom is really that good! Google Classroom may be only one year old, but it really is amazing for any subject area. A binder is no longer needed, for any resources I think my students need can be attached under the “About” tab. I create assignments in Google Docs, Sheets, or Forms, and students can complete them in groups or independently and turn them back in for a documented grade. Teachers that create their assignments in Word can convert them into Docs, and Power Points can be converted into Sheets, so what I created in the past is not wasted. Feedback can easily be added to any document, and students can share with one another to revise. Maneuvering through Classroom is easy for the teacher and the student. The best part is that Google is constantly updating Classroom based on feedback it receives, so a lot has changed in the past year. Assignments can now be reused, and there is a calendar function. If you are interested in trying Classroom, check out these links for additional information and tips:
- 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom by Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller, Ed. D.
- Alice Keeler’s Blog
- Google’s Classroom Help Center
2. Writer’s Notebook – The notebook was one of my first concerns. How could my students still keep a notebook of all their writing? That question was quickly answered once I found out Google Classroom creates a “Classroom” folder in Google Drive for each student. As long as I number assignments, students will have all of their writing in a digital folder. If they ever go back to a piece to revise or redo, they can see their revision history. I’ve heard some teachers say that an actual notebook can allow for more. Students can sketch drawings and create lists on paper. Well, a sketch can be done digitally using Google Drawings, and lists are easily created in Docs or Sheets. Or, students could draw a picture by hand and then take a picture of it and add it to a Doc or Slide. The best part of the “digital notebook” is that they cannot disappear. I always kept my students’ writing notebooks in bins in the back of my classroom. I did this so no one would lose their notebooks or forget them in their lockers. Somehow it still happened. By midyear, I always had 4-5 students per class who couldn’t find theirs. This will no longer happen.
3. The Logistical Stuff – Creating a paperless classroom will also help me stay organized with all the “extras” I have to do, like late passes. No longer will I have to remind students to sign in when late. By using Remind (formerly Remind 101), I can send them individual messages saying, “You arrived late today.” Remind keeps a record of what I send students, so after three times I can easily write the required referral. I can also send students a message to act as their hall pass. It is automatically time stamped, so a student could show any teacher they meet in the halls that they do have a pass and who “wrote” it. I can also keep students from roaming the halls because of that time stamp. If a student returns 10 minutes after I let him leave, I can prove how long they were gone.
4. Google Forms Will Help with Assessment and Data Collection – I love using Google Forms. It is easy to create a form, and data collection is instantaneous! For example, on the first day of school my students will be filling out a survey on Google Forms:
I know you can only see the beginning of the survey, but I asked questions about their Internet access, reading and writing history, and left a spot at the end for additional information they think I should know about them to be successful in my class. In the Google Sheets document the data is sent to, I have certain answers programmed to show up in a different color. For example, when a student says she was never read to as a child, the answer shows up as blue to flag it. I use this data to get know how my students view themselves as readers and writers, as well as get an idea of who might need more help finding Internet access, a good book, or coming up with writing topics. It would take way too much time to collect this data if the survey were on paper.
5. Independent Reading Will Not Be Completely Paperless – I have a classroom library filled with thousands of books. (The pictures above only show two of the ten shelves in my tiny room.) I could never make my students all read eBooks, nor would I want to. Some students enjoy reading eBooks, but many don’t. My students will need to bring their IR book to class each day, but that is all they have to bring. During their IR time, I will be collecting data about what they are reading, their page numbers, and conferring. All of this information will be stored in a Google Sheet. When students are ready to complete their midyear reading ladders, I will have the data they need to assess themselves.
So this is where I am currently at. I have my first week planned, but I am not comfortable planning to far ahead yet. I am comfortable with going paperless though. I didn’t come to this discussion over the past month or so. I tested out this idea last year in two different units. Because of the success I saw, I knew I needed to have a paperless classroom. I do, however, still have concerns that I need to iron out throughout the year. I don’t want to be “the Chromebook hog” of my department, so I need to plan ahead and reserve the Chromebooks when I know others won’t need them (I share a cart of 25 Chromebooks with four other teachers), and also the library computer lab or another computer lab. Sometimes I could even use the iPads. I also need to be prepared for that occasion when the wifi doesn’t work and/or there are problems connecting to the Internet. It didn’t happen last year when I tested out two paperless units, but it could happen. I know I cannot plan for everything, but I need to do my best to try. I am so excited for the start of this year, and I look forward to sharing more about what I have learned!