Ready or not, it’s back-to-school time.
Here we are, folks. Time to buy new backpacks, pencil cases, glue sticks, face masks and vats of hand sanitizer. That’s right, August 2020 hasn’t been your typical back-to-school season, has it? With the U.S. coronavirus death toll approaching 170K and some schools already shutting down within days of reopening, parents everywhere are understandably feeling way more stress than the typical back-to-school “did I get the right size binders” panic.
All across the U.S., teachers, parents and kids got a crash course in remote learning last spring when life abruptly shut down. Several months further into the pandemic, we’re now seeing an array of restart plans with remote and hybrid learning. One thing we can all agree on is that no one wants this to be any more stressful than necessary. Unfortunately, for those who aren’t particularly tech savvy or who don’t have time to learn new apps and platforms, virtual classrooms can feel overwhelming.
We’re happy to jump in and help where we can. Full disclosure, On Now Digital not a software company that typically deals with education-related tools and platforms. However, considering all of the parents who are homeschooling, the spouses who are giving each other haircuts, the offices that are now fully remote, the tech-impaired folks who are ordering groceries online… well, we’ve all been spending a little time outside of our wheelhouses during the pandemic, right? With that in mind, let’s jump in and start discussing Google Classroom, everyone’s favorite LMS.
What is an LMS?
Oh, right. That’s probably a good place to start. LMS stands for “learning management system” and broadly refers to any software solution that helps facilitate online learning. LMS platforms vary a lot depending on student grade level, institutional approach, goals and purpose, and individual administrative or teaching preferences. However in K-12 environments, common LMS functions include:
Uploading completed work
Recording grades and performance
Sharing classroom resources
Why are so many schools using Google Classroom?
There are tons of LMS options, but a lot of schools are simply opting for Google Classroom. Why? Because it’s easy-peasy. It’s part of the G Suite, meaning it works with gmail, Google Docs and Sheets, Hangouts for video sessions, Google Drive for storage … you get the point. Google Classroom uses all the tools that most of us already have and understand, which makes an easy entry for both teachers and parents. Another big selling point? It’s free. And that’s hard to pass by if you’ve ever seen what a typical public school budget looks like. (That said, the school does have to pay to upgrade if they want the ability to live stream.)
What are some tips for keeping my kid on track with it?
Just because you, as an adult and a professional, know how to rock the G Suite doesn’t mean your 7-year-old is prepared. Here are some Google Classroom features you may want to share with you child:
Customize your notifications – If you’ve ever used Google Classroom (or other G Suite apps), you know that the notifications can be a bit, well, incessant. If your child is easily overwhelmed, you may want to cut down on the notifications and just make it a point to look for new posts and assignments daily. You can select which notifications your kid sees by clicking on “Settings,” from the main hamburger menu.
Customize your folders – It can be hard to keep everything straight once school goes online. Your child’s teacher will likely create folders in Google Drive for different materials. You can go to Class > Classwork > Google Drive to access the folders, then open in a new window. From there, you can color code the folders to help keep things organized at a glance.
Take advantage of comments – When you click to “View an assignment,” you’ll see two types of comment options. Underneath the assignment, your child can ask a question that the whole class will see. This is good for general stuff about what is expected. To the right, you’ll see the option for “Private comments.” Your child can use this feature to ask questions only the teacher can see. This is best for specific topic ideas or anything your child is perhaps too shy for the rest of the kids to see.
View all due dates at once – There’s a lot going on in your child’s Google Classroom. If you’d like a quick view of all of the upcoming assignments and due dates, etc, just go to Class > Classwork > View Your Work. You’ll get a handy li’l list that even includes associated attachments and some quick filtering options.
Unsubmit mistakes – Kids often panic when they make mistakes at school. Luckily, Google Classroom allows you to unsubmit assignments if you upload the wrong document or realize you forgot to complete a section after the fact. Simply click on the assignment and look for the “Unsubmit” button on the right. You can remove the oopsie and upload the right version.
Remember key commands – The keyboard shortcut, Control + F (Command + F on a mac) sure has saved many of us a lot of time when searching for a specific word or phrase. This command works in Google Classroom and may come in handy if your kid is frustrated trying to find something specific.
Here are some non-tech tips to keep in mind, too.
Remote learning is a big adjustment for a lot of kids – and it’s definitely not just the tech aspects. Those of us who abruptly switched to remote offices last spring can certainly attest that it’s a big mental shift. Here are a few ideas that may help your child:
Create a dedicated, distraction-free workstation (somewhere away from the home hustle and bustle)
Make sure there is plenty good lighting and healthy snacks nearby
Invest in some decent quality headphones that comfortably fit
Use some paper calendars and/or checklists to keep visible and help little ones who struggle with online views
Contact your classroom teacher directly as much as you need to
OK, parents, let’s buckle up. The start of the 2020-2021 school year is sure to be a bit bumpy, but we can do this!