Back to school season is in full swing and Google is using it as an opportunity to release a bunch of new features and changes for those of its products geared towards educators. Google Classroom has been updated with question-driven discussions, reusable posts, calendar integration, and more.
The first change mentioned, the addition of question-driven discussions, makes it easy for teachers to host debates or check-in on how their students are progressing with the learnings. Questions can be posted to a class wherein students leave their answers and then respond to their classmates’ answers with their own opinions and insights. If the teacher isn’t looking for discussion, that can be toggled off, as can the ability for a student to edit their answer after submission. Other settings include the option to add a due date or attach a piece of content, like a YouTube video or Sheets presentation, for the students to refer to when answering the question.
The next feature is a small one that should reduce friction in the process of reusing old content: Teachers can now reuse old assignments, announcements or questions from any class they teach or co-teach. Why throw away last year’s assignments if they worked so well? Posts which are reused can be edited before they go live.
The last major addition to Classroom announced today is the automatic creation of class calendars. Want to keep track of all the assignments you’ve set a due date for, and maybe add a field trip or two (yes, please)? Classroom can now keep all of this up to date without much effort on the part of the teacher, and these calendars can be viewed from within Classroom itself or from Google Calendar for those who prefer that. New events can be manually added to the calendar.
Finally, there are three smaller changes that should make the lives of teachers a little bit easier. You can now move any post to the top of the stream, create assignments that don’t have due dates, and both teachers and students can attach Google Forms to posts.
“All of us on the Classroom team have been deeply touched by the teachers in our lives, who inspire us in the work that we do,” said Google’s Will Phan in a blog post regarding the changes. “For me, that’s my brother Tuan, an English teacher at the Chinese International School in Hong Kong. We make these products for you. And we hope these new features will help you kick off another incredible year of teaching and learning.”
Google Classroom is a product under Google for Education that enables teachers to “create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and communicate with their classes.” The space includes many players like Blackboard, Edmodo, and Schoology, all vying to become the connective tissue between students and teachers in classrooms around the world.
Another product popular in education, the Hangouts communication tool, received its own dedicated website just last week.
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