Friday, November 30, 2012

Managing your Classroom with Google Apps

When SBISD became a Google Apps district, we were so excited because it is a great tool for collaboration (and more). It moved a suite of tools to the clouds for easy access from most devices. Teachers and students could share documents, presentations and more without needing to send through email. But, I never really thought about how challenging it might be for a teacher - particularly a secondary teacher with 5-7 classes - to manage classes and student submissions until a physics teacher at Memorial High School mentioned it early last fall.

Managing Workflow
After our discussion, it was clear to see that teachers might want need a way to manage the influx of products created and shared by students. Looking for solutions, I came across Hapara in the Google Apps Marketplace. Hapara has a wonderful interface for teachers and can help manage not only submissions, but offers additional features for managing email, Internet browsing and more! We are currently piloting it with a small group of teachers, but I'm not certain that it will be something we can afford district-wide.

What else is there? Recently, Carrie shared this Free Technology for Teachers written by Richard Byrne post on gClassFolders with me which, while not Hapara, would certainly be a better solution than nothing at all! gClassFolders is a Google Spreadsheet script that creates folders for you for any number of course sections. It creates a series of folders that will assist you with the management of the Google Apps classroom.
The video and this detailed printable sheet do a great job of walking you through the process of setting up your spreadsheets and running the script. I encourage you to spend a few minutes of your time on this post.

If the idea of running and managing scripts is overwhelming for you at this point, then here's another way to manage the workflow. Create and share (view only) a PickUp folder for each section. (If you haven't already added your classes to your Google Contacts, then follow this process. Then, sharing with each class is a breeze.) Then, create another folder for StudentWork for each section. Have each student create a folder with the section/period number and their name (ex: per2-KJustl) and share it with you. Once you have the folders in your Shared with Me list, drag them into the matching StudentWork folder. Then, when students add their work to the folder, you will be able to access it easily.

Here's another option. Holly Davis, one of our elementary teacher also shared that she creates a shared "drop"folder each week and color codes them for her reference. Here's her process:  "I create a weekly folder for each class with the date as the title then homeroom.  Having the date first keeps me organized.  I then color code the folders for each week.  As students share work with me, I drag it into the folder.  When I read, I mark the yellow star and comment.  The yellow star tells me at a quick glance that I've responded to their work."

Project/Product Workflow
It could be that you are just looking for a way to deal with project submissions when offering students choice. You might like a way to collect all of the links in one place rather than receiving a hundred emails from students with their links. Or, maybe you are trying to collect project embed codes so you can embed student work on a blog or website. Think about creating a Google Form! Create fields for student(s) name(s), period/class, project title, and embed code and any other desired information. Then, save as a template so that you can  create a copy for each project and post the link on a class blog or webpage.
Got some ideas/processes for handling workflow of your own? Looking forward to hearing from you!