Thursday, December 19, 2013

Using Google Groups in the Classroom

Google Groups is such a simple feature, but it saves so much time and just makes life easier!

To get you started on using Google Groups, here are 3 simple ideas:

1.  Create a shared folder for your class's next writing assignment.

Just create the folder in your Drive.  I suggest using the name of the assignment and adding the month and year if you plan on repeating the assignment with a new group next year.   This helps you to stay organized and uncluttered over time.  

When you hover over the name of the folder, you'll see a little triangle.  Click it.  Then "Share."  And "Share" again.  Invite your Google Group of students to the folder and click "Done."  Make sure to give students editing priveleges.

Your students will see the folder in their own Drive when they click on "Shared with Me."  

In order for the students to add their own work to the folder, they will have to click and drag your Shared Folder to their own My Drive.  Then, when a student is working on their assignment in Google Tools, they can move the doc to your Shared Folder by clicking File>Move to Folder and then choosing the assigned Shared Folder.
This is nice because you'll have all the student work for one assignment in one place.  One word of caution, though: Once students share to the folder, they will have access to each other's work.  While you will be able to see if a student tampers with another's document in the See Revision History (under File), you will want to talk to students about the importance of leaving other students' work alone.  Unless, of course, students are encouraged to comment or collaborate on each other's work, which is a great way to encourage 21st century skills!

2.  Send an email to your class.

I know a teacher who wrote a letter to her students at the beginning of every science unit.  She would get the students ready to learn the content by activating prior knowledge and asking thought-provoking questions about the content.  Shifting these letters into email form would be a super simple way to use Google Groups.  Just send the email to your class's Google Group address.

You can also email students:
  • links to websites you want them to use during a lesson
  • directions for an assignment
  • a YouTube video you want them to watch on their own at home (it embeds right into your email)

3.  Use Google Tools as a "Virtual Copy Machine."

If you have a document that you would like students to use as a template or a graphic organizer, you can "virtually copy" the document so that each student can edit it in their own Google account.

Say you want each student to fill out a Character Map in Google Docs (Lorrie Applebey has created a ton of graphic organizers like this for Google Tools.  Oak Park teachers should have them in a "Graphic Organizers" folder in your Drive).  

First, you would share the doc with your class's Google Group.  When students open the document under "Shared with Me," they will click File>Make a Copy and rename the doc to something unique to the student.  I usually have my students put their first name and the name of the assignment as the title of the doc.

Now students can fill out their own character map and you should still have the untouched original for use with another class period.

There's a million other things you can do with your Google Groups student accounts, but here's a good start.  Have fun!

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