Google Classroom has become an increasingly popular platform for teachers and educators, especially in the midst of the transition to remote learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though Google Classroom has – up to this point – been regarded as a tool for teachers to work with students, we are reinventing Google Classroom as a tool for instructional coaches. Google Classroom is an all-inclusive tool for coaches to communicate, connect and support their teachers as we continue on this remote learning journey.
What is Google Classroom?
Google Classroom can be thought of as a one-stop-shop for students and teachers. Google Classroom is an easy way to seamlessly integrate all of Google’s G Suite tools used for teaching and learning, especially in remote and asynchronous environments. Some teachers were initially interested in Google Classroom as an organizational system to rid their desks of paper clutter, but this program has proven to be significantly more robust than just being a virtual filing cabinet.
How do Teachers use Google Classroom?
Though teachers first began using Google Classroom as a means to go paperless, this learning tool has gained popularity because of its functionality and ease of use. Teachers most often use Google Classroom to streamline how they manage their classroom resources. From the syllabus to the final exam, teachers can store all their lesson content, assignments, and additional resources all in one place for students. Because Google Classroom integrates with other G Suite tools, there are several benefits to using this platform. For example, when assignments are posted in Google Classroom, the Calendar app recognizes the due date of that assignment and will automatically post the assignment to the calendar as a reminder for students to easily keep track of when their work is due.
Teachers also love the ability to digitally organize, distribute, and collect assignments or other course materials via Google Classroom. Teachers can easily post the same assignment to multiple classes at the same time, or assign something to individual students that require differentiation or additional support. Any assignment or material posted to Google Classroom can be reposted to future classes, which saves teachers from reinventing the wheel each year.
Google Classroom also allows teachers to communicate with students via announcements and discussion boards, which can help keep students organized and on track. Teachers can set various permissions that allow students to comment on announcements or simply view them depending on the needs of the class. Parents can also receive notifications from Google Classroom about what assignments have been posted and what assignments their student may be missing, which helps to support an open line of communication for all stakeholders.
How can Instructional Coaches use Google Classroom?
Tip #1: Organization
Though Google Classroom is typically considered a one-stop-shop for teachers and students, it can be a great resource for instructional coaches as well. When I first began coaching, I had resources all over the place and my solution to that was to print everything out and make a binder that I could share with the teachers I was coaching. While the binder was a great way to keep everything in one place, those resources were only accessible when the binder was in my possession. If I wanted to look up a resource at home or refer back to meeting notes, I was unable to do so without the binder. Another downside to the paper binder was that when things changed, as they always do in education, those resources became outdated and unusable.
As an instructional coach, Google Classroom can replace your paper-based organizational system, for a more complete resource hub. Google Classroom can house all the materials, announcements, videos, and resources you want to share with your teachers. You can make a different classroom for each teacher you are coaching, or one classroom for everyone which would allow teachers to collaborate with each other as well. Regardless of which method you choose, Google Classroom will help instructional coaches organize all of their coaching materials for teachers. Even better – these classrooms remain active and available for teachers long after the coaching cycle ends. Teachers do not need to fear that resources will go away once the cycle ends, and can refer back to their meeting notes, videos, or discussions at any point throughout the year.
Tip #2: Announcements & Communication
As an instructional coach, there are often times you find a cool new tool or think of new ways to implement instructional strategies, but you’ve already had your meetings with teachers for the week. Usually, I would send an email to the teacher with my findings, but if you’ve ever seen a teacher’s inbox, you know it is very likely that those emails go unread or get buried somewhere. Google Classroom would allow you as an instructional coach to post announcements for teachers that would draw attention to whatever resources you are sharing at that time. These announcements also help teachers keep coaching related materials together, instead of having a folder in their email in addition to a folder on their drive, and then some random papers printed out too.
Announcements would also be a good way for coaches to send reminders to teachers about when you are facilitating coaching meetings, campus training, and other professional development opportunities. Announcements, especially in collective classes, could be used to highlight and celebrate the awesome things teachers are doing in their classrooms as well.
Tip #3: Giving and Collecting Feedback
Similarly to the ways in which teachers provide and collect feedback from students, instructional coaches can use Google Classroom to provide and collect feedback from teachers. Maybe you want a teacher to try a new strategy in their classroom, Google Classroom would allow you to create an assignment for that teacher to remind them of the task that needs to be completed. You could ask teachers to reflect on a particular lesson or activity using discussion boards or even assign a coaching survey through Google Forms to collect data about the coaching cycle. Using assignments and discussions within Google Classroom allows the teacher to tangibly keep track of and complete tasks while also providing the coach with opportunities to provide feedback. Just Google Classroom allows teachers and students to communicate asynchronously, Google Classroom can provide the same opportunities to teachers and coaches.
Tip #4: Scheduling
Another benefit to using Google Classroom as a coaching tool is the integration of other G Suite products like Google Calendar. Coaches can create a collaborative calendar with the teachers they are supporting and schedule things like meeting reminders or tasks that need to be accomplished. Oftentimes coaches need teachers to answer some questions, reflect on their lesson or prepare a challenge to be discussed – all of which can be posted in the Classroom as ungraded assignments so they will show up on the teacher’s calendar as to-do items. This can help teachers keep track of their participation in coaching, as well as where they currently are in their coaching cycle.
Google Classroom has long proven itself to be an impactful tool for teachers to use in their classrooms, but now has an opportunity to serve instructional coaches as well. Google Classroom is an easily accessible, intuitive tool to facilitate continuous communication and support between instructional coaches and teachers despite challenges of time and physical space.
Megan Purcell is a Digital Learning Specialist and Certified Dynamic Learning Project coach in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD located in Carrollton, TX. She enjoys working with teachers to help them elevate their teaching through the use of impactful technology tools and strategies. Megan holds a masters degree in Educational Technology, which she earned overseas at the National University of Ireland in Galway, in addition to being a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator and Apple Teacher. She is a former high school English teacher who loves learning, technology, and helping make life easier for her teachers. She believes that every student should have access to current technology in order to develop 21st century skills necessary for participating in a global society.