5 Google Classroom Pro Tips for Its 5th Birthday

This fall marks a special occasion for those of us who use G Suite for Education: The fifth birthday of Google Classroom.

Classroom’s launch in 2014 was fortuitously timed for me. It happened the same year my innovative school district piloted 1:1 Chromebooks in 8th and 9th grades. I was struggling with my career at the time. It is no exaggeration to say that Google Classroom and those Chromebooks saved my education career. Instead of wasting my time dueling with the photocopier, I easily created and delivered lessons in the cloud. Working in Classroom and what was then called Google Apps for Education was so much fun. I couldn’t help constantly tinkering with lessons in my free time. One month into using it, I wrote this ebullient blog post about Classroom.

Let’s celebrate five years of Google Classroom with five pro tips to get the most from this tool.

Tip 1: Facilitate Student Creation

Google Classroom makes it easy for teachers to have students work in pre-created Google Drive files. However, it is much more powerful to ask students to show what they know by adding or creating a digital file of their choice. Watch this video to learn how to do this with the “+ Add or create” button in student assignments.

Students see this + Add or create  button in every Google Classroom assignment. It allows students to add a Google Drive file, web link, or uploaded file to the assignment. Students can also use the button to create a new Google Doc, slideshow, Google Sheet, or Google Drawing.
The +Add or create button students see in every assignment.

I argue that button is the single most important in Google Classroom because it gives students choice.

Tip 2: Facilitate Student Collaboration

Google Classroom has made facilitating collaboration easy ever since its inception with the “Students can edit” button for Google Drive attachments in assignments.

A screen capture of the three options for Google Drive files in Google Classroom assignments. They are:
- Students can view file
- Students can edit file
- Make a copy for each student
Consider using this setting when adding Google Drive files to assignments to facilitate collaboration.

Using G Suite without taking advantage of its collaboration features misses the point. This video demonstrates just how easy it is to get students collaborating using Classroom.

Of course, having a class of 30 students collaborate on one file is probably too much collaboration in most cases. Good thing Google Classroom has a solution for that as seen in our third tip:

Tip 3: Differentiate for Students

Classroom was turning two-and-a-half when it dropped a feature that was sorely missing: the ability to differentiate assignments and content for students. Teachers are asked to differentiate to meet students’ needs. Google Classroom makes this super easy with a simple drop-down menu. Watch and use this easy but powerful feature!

Tip 4: 👩🏾‍🏫 Emojis in Topics

Topics are a great way to organize content in one of Classroom’s big improvements over the last five years: the Classwork page. However, since Google updated Classroom to resemble its updated material design there has been an issue with the Classwork page: it is a lot of isolated text and white pixels. Students need visual cues to make the page more appealing. Enter emojis.

My suggestion is to start each topic with an emoji from GetEmoji.com. Try to keep it to a single emoji and leave them out of assignment titles. Too many emojis is overkill. Thank you to my former colleague Lindsey Blass for introducing me to the idea of using emojis in Google Classroom topics.

Tip 5: Integrate the Good Stuff

Google Classroom enables sharing Google Docs, Drawings, Sheets, and Slides so students can view them, each get their own copy, or, as noted in Tip 2, edit them.

Docs, Drawings, Sheets, and Slides. I get it. Those four will always be part of many assignments. Having said that, Classroom can do so much more.

For example, Classroom can share a Google Jamboard (web) (Android) (iOS) jam with students in the same “Can view,” “make a copy for each student,” and “can edit” ways. Google Jamboard is such a great tool for brainstorming and free-form collaboration. Use it with Google Classroom!

I hope to see Jamboard added to the “Add or create” menu mentioned in Tip 1 in the not-too-distant future.

One other great tool to integrate with Classroom is EdPuzzle. It synchronizes so that teachers see their Classroom rosters in EdPuzzle. This is a great way to keep track of who has done what in EdPuzzle. An extra tip: when a new student joins your class, add them in Google Classroom. Then click EdPuzzle’s “Import students” button because EdPuzzle does not automatically import students newly added to the corresponding Google Classroom.

The "Import students" button in EdPuzzle.
Have a new student in Google Classroom? Then press this button in EdPuzzle.

For more information about EdPuzzle-Google Classroom integration, please read EdPuzzle’s How do I connect my Google Classroom to Edpuzzle? guide.

For more ideas for tools to integrate with Google Classroom, have a look at Google’s Apps that work #withClassroom.

What do you think? What are your pro tips for Google Classroom on its fifth birthday? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney.

Does your school, organization, or conference need professional development to help teachers make the most of Google Classroom? Have a look at some of my offerings and connect with me on Twitter.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

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