Over the past few years the use of Google Classroom at Oceana has spread wildly. Even though almost all students at Oceana use it for at least one class, opinions on the tool greatly differ. Some students love Google Classroom, while others have yet to warm up to it, which raises the question: Does Classroom belong in the classroom?
Google Classroom is somewhat of a school centered “social media” – it’s set up like a typical social media app, with a stream of posts that teachers and students can update with information. Each class has their own separate feed, and teachers have full control over their respective streams. The service works closely with Google’s office suite, and the two are meant to be used together. Oceana teachers use Google Classroom in different ways to better accommodate their specific classes, but most teachers use the service to share important documents and provide an easy way for students to turn in digital assignments.
Although almost all Oceana students are required to use Google Classroom, they do not all feel the same way about it. Some feel that the problem is the way specific teachers use the tool, rather than the tool itself. “I feel like some teachers don’t use Classroom enough and don’t take advantage of it,” says Halle Fernandez Gotico, who uses the service often. While some teachers seem to not be using Google Classroom enough, others are using it too much to be useful. Kerry Clayden claims that posting too often makes Classroom streams a cluttered mess. “Overwhelming the stream (with posts) makes it more difficult to find things”, she explains. She later admits that Google Classroom feels more like a hassle than a useful tool. Both students agree that Google Classroom works well in some classes, but not others, for these reasons.
Teachers usually post assignments on their streams so that students have access to digital copies if they are absent. However, not all students appreciate this access. Christian Metran reasons that “Even If I missed something, I would usually prefer asking the teacher in person instead or another student that is in the same class as me.” Halle disagrees, saying that she feels more independent using Classroom. “It also allows me to look for things on my own instead of asking the teacher for everything”, she explains. Much of this debate is simply personal preference, but sometimes problems are completely out of the students’ hands. Up until recently, some Android users were unable to download the Google Classroom app on their phones. “Opening the app would’ve required me to download a special permissions app, which would’ve given the administration full access to my texts, apps, and everything on my phone”, explains Kerry, an Android user. However, when she tested the app during our interview, she discovered that this message no longer occurs. Luckily, Android users can now use the Google Classroom app, but for students without cell phones (or without storage space for the app) the problem still remains. Most students are not going to check Google Classroom every day on a desktop computer, which makes it difficult for all students to know about assignments if they do not have access to app notifications.
It seems like most Oceana students do not mind the use of Google Classroom school wide, but they have some suggestions for how it can be used better by teachers. Two out of the three students I talked to admitted that they would not use Google Classroom if it were not required by teachers, but instead of being gotten rid of completely, changes should be made in the way that the tool is used. Streams should be organized into sections, with minimal posts as to not make posts difficult to find. Usage of the service should be consistent, and teachers should continue to post important documents all year. Teachers should understand that not everyone has frequent access to Google Classroom, so assignments should be discussed in class before being formally assigned online. It doesn’t seem like Google Classroom is going away any time soon, but it holds the potential to be a vital resource for students. In ten years time will Oceana still be using Google Classroom? Only time will tell.