If you have been overwhelmed by the start of the school year, you are not alone! I have been teaching for 15 years and full-time remote learning is throwing me for a loop. While I am still figuring out all the ways I can make this new setting work for my students and their families, I have discovered a few things using the Google Suite that have made my experience with the remote platform a little more manageable. Here are five tips for using the Google Suite to help better manage your remote learning…
1. Use Google Classroom for Staff Collaboration
This is probably one of things I discovered that has kept me the most organized. In addition to my Google Classroom for students, I created two more- one for myself and my staff and the other for myself and another teacher who I am co-teaching some lessons with each day. Having a shared Google Classroom with other teachers and staff members helps keep everyone organized. Google Drive can become convoluted with shared documents. I am able to put my slide decks in order for all staff to be able to access in a given Google Meet and I can put them in the correct lesson order. Having a staff Google Classroom also gives you a secure Google Meet space that is just for teachers and staff.
2. Utilize Host Settings on Google Meet
This is absolutely essential. Make sure that you switch the settings Check out the lock symbol at the lower left hand corner and you can adjust host control settings. I would highly recommend turning off “Quick Access”. Turning off the “Quick Access” allows you to control who comes into your Google Meet room and you can deny students or parents your don’t recognize. You can deny people from coming into the Google Meet too early. I would also recommend turning off “Send Chat Messages” in order to maintain an orderly Google Class Meet. You as the host will be able to type in the chat box, but students will not. This is a good way to keep the chat box off limits until you can introduce to students and staff how to use the chat box within your meets (only if you do eventually want students and staff to use it).
3. Use the Chat Box for Behavior Management
I can’t take all the credit for this one-it was definitely one of my paraprofessionals who came up with this idea. Using the chat box in Google Meet is a good way to not interrupt your lessons with redirection and it doesn’t put students on the spot. This is something your paraprofessionals might be able to do while you are teaching a lesson, but be advised if you do this, everyone can access the the chat box.
4. Get Your Contacts in Order
The number of emails that I am sending and receiving still continues to blow my mind! Getting your contacts in order and setting up labels using Google Contacts is essential. First, make sure you have all of your student and parent contact information. Then, create labels so that you can create a contact group (mine are “301 Parents” and “301 Students”). After you create contact labels, all you have to do is type your label in an email and all the emails will automatically populate. Another email tip (given to me by a colleague)-in order to avoid forgetting to respond to emails, create a draft reply. Hit reply on an email that needs a response. Just type something in the reply, but don’t send it. It will show up as a draft and will have the word “Draft” in red, making it easy to find in a sea of emails.
5. Think About Maintaining Records Differently
I’ll admit that this is hard for me to do after years of being used to collecting data and giving assessments in person. Sasha’s advice during one of her live webinars was to think differently about data during this time. While we might not be able to collect data in some of the same ways that we were used to, there are still ways to collect data using the Google Suite. You can use Sheets to collect data on whose turn it is next, attendance, or different exercises for Special Olympics. One of my favorite ways to create a record is using a Jamboard. I have a record of the activity we did that day and I can always reference it later. I can also put students’ responses to a question before or after a lesson as a pretest and a post test.
I hope these tips were helpful for your remote classroom and and your students. Share below any tips or tricks you have for making the Google Suite of products work for your students and families. Stay safe and healthy!