Thursday, September 21, 2017

Amazing Mobile Features of Google Classroom

Most Google-using educators already know that Google Classroom is a great tool for managing class assignments, collaboration, discussions and more. However, as much as you may think you know about Classroom, there are several awesome features for you and your students that you may not be aware of.

In addition to the normal web-based version of Classroom, there is also a Google Classroom mobile app. Many times when we think of mobile app, we think of a simpler, watered-down version of the full program. However, that is not always the case, and certainly is not true for Classroom. In fact, there are several awesome tools and features that can only be accessed if you and your students are using the mobile version of Classroom. Five of these features include:
  • Digital handwriting
  • Taking pictures
  • Recording videos
  • Content from other apps
  • Notifications
To learn all of these powerful mobile features, see below for my recorded video training, detailed written directions, links, and other resources.  See how you and your students can take Classroom to the next level with mobile!


Video Training (1 hour)



Session Slideshow



Installing the Mobile Apps

In addition to using the regular web-based version of Google Classroom at http://classroom.google.com/ you can also use the mobile version of the program. The mobile version can be used on:

  • iOS phones and tablets
  • Android phones and tablets
  • Modern Chromebooks that are able to run Android apps
If using Google Classroom on a phone or a tablet, you can add the mobile app using the links below:
If you would like to use the mobile version of Classroom on a Chromebook, you will need a few things:

  • First, you will need a modern Chromebook that supports the use of Android apps. You can see a list of which Chromebooks currently support Android apps here: Website link
  • Next if you are using your school G Suite account, you will need your school Google admin to make changes in the Admin Console to enable and approve Android apps for the school Chromebooks. You can find the direction here: Website link
  • Or if you are using your personal Google account (not a school G Suite account), you will need to go into your Chromebook settings to enable the Google Play Store for your device, so that you can install Android apps. You can find the directions here: Website link

1) Digital Handwriting

One of the most powerful features of the mobile version of Classroom is the ability to add handwriting to a document using the annotation tools. This can be a very useful feature for both teachers and students. First we will take a look at how the handwriting tool works, and then we will explore ways this could be used in school.

  • From the Classroom mobile app, open an existing Google Doc or PDF, such as an assignment file.
  • With the file open, click the pencil icon in the top right corner to switch to annotation mode.

  • Use the tools at the bottom to hand write on the Document. 
  • These tools include a pen, marker, and highlighter.
  • Each of the writing tools can have different colors and thicknesses selected.
  • There is also an eraser tool to remove annotations, as well as a selection tool to move annotations.
  • As needed you can use two fingers to pinch and zoom in the Document to move around.
  • When done making your annotations, click the save icon in the top right of the Classroom app.
  • If the original file was already a PDF, Classroom will save the annotated changes to the same PDF file, overwriting the original.
  • If the original file was not a PDF, Classroom will create A PDF showing the content of the original Doc along with the handwritten notes you have made.
  • If needed you can add more handwritten annotations by opening the PDF and going back into edit mode.

The option to annotate isn't limited just to existing files. There certainly could be situations where a student prefers to hand-write their response. The mobile version of Google Classroom allows students to create a blank PDF for any assignment they have received.

  • From the assignment screen, the student would click the "Add attachment" link.
  • Next they would choose "New PDF".
  • This will create a blank PDF that is automatically attached to the assignment and shared with the teacher. The student can now hand-write on the PDF to complete their work.

The ability to hand-write on a Doc or PDF can be used in several ways:

  • For teachers this can be an easy way to leave more natural, handwritten feedback on student work. When grading a student writing assignment, the teacher can switch to annotation mode to write in suggestions, feedback, proofreading marks, and other helpful annotations.
  • For students this option can be a great way to do work that normally is difficult in a digital format. For example, math can be a challenge to do on a computer when needing to write special math symbols or create graphs or draw diagrams. Using the annotation tool, students can write out their math problems by hand, or draw diagrams and pictures as needed for work. Of course this would also extend to other subjects for anytime students need to, or prefer to, write something by hand.

2) Taking and Inserting Pictures

Another benefit of using the mobile version of Google Classroom is access to the camera on your device. Devices such as phones, tablets, and Chromebooks almost always have a built-in camera. Thankfully the mobile version of Classroom lets you take advantage of that so that teachers and students can take pictures and add them to assignments, announcements, and more.

Here's how:

  • If you are a teacher creating an assignment, announcement, or question, or if you are a student creating a post, you can click the "Attachment" button, which looks like a paperclip.
  • If you are a student completing an assignment, you can click the "Add attachment" link below the assignment.
  • Next click "Take photo" from the menu.
  • This will activate your camera (Note: you may have to give permission)
  • In the camera preview window there are options to turn on a grid overlay, or to set a timer if you wish.
  • When ready to take the picture, click the camera button.
  • You will now get a preview of the image taken and can choose to insert that into Classroom if you want.

Being able to take and insert pictures in Classroom can open up a lot of options for students. For example:

  • Sometimes the product a student creates for their learning may not be something that can easily be turned in. Perhaps they have built a model, or painted a picture, or created some other physical product. Using their camera they can take a picture of what they made and turn that in through Classroom.
  • Another fun activity can be to have students take pictures when on a field trip or when completing a learning scavenger hunt (like find geometric shapes around the school). Students can take pictures and submit them through Classroom. All of the images will be collected nice and neat for the teacher in the assignment folder. (Tip: Use the Chrome extension DriveSlides to easily create a Slideshow out of all the submitted student photos.)

3) Taking and inserting videos

Just like you can take pictures with your device, the mobile version of Classroom also allows you to record videos. Teachers and students can then share that video through Classroom as part of an assignment, announcement, or such.

Here's how:
  • If you are a teacher creating an assignment, announcement, or question, or if you are a student creating a post, you can click the "Attachment" button, which looks like a paperclip.
  • If you are a student completing an assignment, you can click the "Add attachment" link below the assignment.
  • Next click "Record video" from the menu.
  • This will activate your camera (Note: you may have to give permission) and open the recording window.
  • When ready to record, click the video camera button, record your video, and then click the "Stop" button.
  • You can now play back the video you have recorded.
  • Finally click the "Check" button to insert the video into Classroom if you want.

Being able to record and add videos through Classroom can be useful in many ways:

  • Teachers can record messages to post as an announcement in the discussion stream. This can be a great way to make the message more personal, help connect with the students, and share important information with the class.
  • Teachers can also record a video to provide more detailed directions for an assignment. This can help provide additional clarification for the students, especially for younger students, or for those who learn better by hearing information.
  • Students can record a video for many activities including to show how they solved a math problem, to explain their answer to a question, to practice fluency in a world language, to give a short speech, to play an instrument or practice their solo, or much more.

4) Sharing content from other mobile apps

One of the benefits of using apps on a mobile device is how well the apps can be integrated with each other. It is common for a mobile app to be able to share and receive content with other mobile apps on your system. The same thing is true for the mobile version of Google Classroom. 

A teacher or student can use other apps to make videos, images, animations, and other creations, and then send those products over to Google Classroom to be shared or attached to an assignment. This opens up many creative possibilities for students to demonstrate and share their learning with powerful apps. 

Although not every mobile app is able to send content to Classroom, many are. Below are a few example mobile apps that can share content with Google Classroom:
  • Google Keep
  • Snapseed
  • Motion Stills
  • Explain Everything

Although each app may behave differently, in general the process for sharing to Classroom works as follows:
  • Create your product in the mobile app of your choice.
  • Look for and tap the option to share. This may be a menu item that actually has the word "Share" or it might be a sharing icon.
  • You will now get a list of other apps that are compatible with receiving the file.
  • If Google Classroom is one of the options you may choose that.
  • If you are a teacher you will be able to choose if you want to use this file to create an assignment, announcement, or a question.
  • If you are a student, you will be able to choose if you want to share the file as a new post, or if you want to attach it to an assignment to turn it in.


5) Notifications

For a final benefit of using the mobile app version of Google Classroom, we will take a look at notifications. Normally in the web-based version of Classroom you can choose to receive email notifications when there is a new post or assignment, work that has been graded, comments that mention you, and so forth.

This may work well for most teachers, as we are in the habit of checking our email as part of our normal jobs. However, students are not as apt to check email, so it can be much easier for them to miss new information in Classroom.

Thankfully if the students use the mobile version of Classroom they can also get vibration or sound notifications on their phone or other mobile device. This may greatly increase the chance that students will see the new assignment, find out their grade, or get reminded of an upcoming due date.

To get notifications in mobile Classroom, do the following:
  • Click the menu button in the top left corner of the Classroom app.
  • Choose "Settings" from the drop-down menu.
  • You can now toggle on the device notifications for "Vibration" and/or "Sound".

Conclusion

Over time, mobile devices have become increasingly powerful, and the apps they run have gained more and more features. Now mobile apps are often very similar to full desktop or web-based programs. In some case, they have even more features. This is certainly the case with Google Classroom.

To get the most out of Classroom, consider using the mobile version along with the traditional web-based version. There are many excellent features to help engage your students, provide feedback, be creative, and allow students to express themselves and their learning more fully.


Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1

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