I am passionate about helping people move forward. Technology and the Cloud offers endless opportunities to better connect with people and students. It allows us to be flexible with our time so that we can better invest that in making more meaningful relationships with our pupils. It helps us be more time-efficient in a job, teaching, that dictates so much of our time.
The potential homeworks have to impact next-day learning when utilised as a pre-teaching tool is great. Yet, they can often be an after-thought. Consider this, how often have you seen a list of times tables set as a homework? The class has practised the same basic calculations in class all that week and a replica has gone home for children to complete. Some of those receiving children successfully and rapidly calculated all of the times tables set earlier in the week, but still every pupil is given the same list as everybody else.
The teacher had to find the sheet, photocopy it and naturally somebody is going to have to assess and grade that homework. They similarly assessed the identical times tables at the end of the class yesterday where maybe all the class performed admirably and they will assess the same calculations again when the child takes part in a timed assessment at the end of the week. I wonder how the three or four sets of assessment data differ?
How much have the children actually thought in doing that homework? How much will that thinking impact what they will do tomorrow?
I have had the privilege to work with Andy Haig, an NQT in a school in Hertfordshire. In his case study, he outlines the work we have done together in utilising Google Classroom and how he has thoughtfully implemented it so that the thinking and effort the pupil put in at home has an impact on in-class learning.
As an NQT, I am constantly coming across many new learning techniques and resources. I hadn’t heard of Google Classroom before I joined my current school – It was introduced to me during one of my digital enrichment sessions, which the school provides to all of its teaching staff. Since then, I have used it to set homework assignments almost every week. My year 3 class are lucky enough to all have easy access to a computer at home, however there is a homework club available during school time for those who don’t. Because Google Classroom is so versatile, I am able to set the class different types of challenges.
One of my favourite features is that you can assign a single document that can be edited by the whole class. This enables children to see other people’s work and respond to it. One instance where this worked really well was when we were studying ‘The Enormous Crocodile’ by Roald Dahl – I posed them the question: Is the crocodile a callous murderer, or a hungry animal trying to survive? I gave the children some vocabulary to encourage debate and a link to a website about crocodiles in the wild. What occurred was a rich discussion with everyone involved. Some people only commented once, yet others kept coming back to the debate to back up or refute others opinions. I was keeping track of the debate throughout the week and could clearly see which of the children were using evidence from the text or the link to support their views.
One of the children’s favourite tasks is to complete a class story. Again, I share a document with the class, which contains sentence openers that they must use, together with the beginning of a story. The children then must write three sentences each, drawing from details of the story so far, to complete a coherent narrative. Some often contribute two or three times during the week before we read through it and analyse it on Friday.
You can also assign each child an individual assignment or question. This is particularly helpful with pre-teaching activities, such as research or investigative exercises. For example, when we started or new topic of The Rainforest, I asked the children to create a fact file about the strangest fruit/animal that they could find in the rainforest. I attached a digital template for them to use and we created a class book with the results.
It is also very useful for comprehension exercises – I can attach a video for them to watch at their leisure at home, and then attach some questions for them to answer.
I can view and access their work throughout the week, so that if a child has misunderstood something about the task, I can bring it up at school and show them what needs changing. I believe that the tasks provide an excellent chance for children to become more proficient at typing and safely using the internet a tool – What they are exposed to is controlled because I can attach the necessary links, documents and videos.
In my opinion, Google Classroom makes homework more fun and engaging for the children. It generates discussion in class and adds to their learning. I like that fact that it is easy to see who has completed the homework and who hasn’t and assess who is struggling or exceeding with different concepts. I am now learning how to combine Google Classroom with Google Forms, in order to generate data for assessment.