Who’s Making the Rules in Your Google Classroom?

Like many educators, I plan to integrate Google Classroom into my instruction for the 14-15 school year. Specifically, I’ll be using Classroom with my Digital Literacy students at Burlington High School. In addition to it’s integration with Drive, one of the features in Classroom I am excited about is the ability to have online discussions with my students, especially since digital communication directly correlates to my course curriculum. Currently, there is no way to moderate student comments in Classroom, which may make some educators nervous, however establishing expectations of conduct when communicating in Classroom is an excellent lesson in digital citizenship which can be applied to any and all content areas and grade levels. As tempting as it may be to simply hand a list of rules and expectations for communicating in Classroom to my students, I decided to give up control and have the students create the rules. Here is what they came up with:

Use complete sentences
Be responsible for your own actions
Appropriate language
Use proper punctuation
Listen to other people’s ideas
Don’t use abbreviations in online conversations
No racial or sexist comments in conversations
Listen to everyone’s opinion of a topic and ask questions
Say something that is meaningful to the topic
Try to improve other people’s ideas. Offer advice.
Go off each others ideas
Show respect to others online. Don’t judge people by their ideas.
Try to contribute to discussions
Listen to others ideas and consider them don’t always think yours is the best
Use emojis only to help express your feeling and show your tone in your voice
Have an open mind
It is okay to respectfully disagree with others opinions

I’m quite impressed with what my group of freshmen created. Their homework is to take the current doc and format it so that it can be embedded into the course blog and shared with a global audience. Excited to share that next week!

I decided to take the lesson in digital communication to the next level by asking students to compile a list of phrases they could use to express their disagreement with their classmates in an online discussion or debate. Below is what they brainstormed during yesterday’s class:

  • Good idea, but maybe we could try something else first
  • I respectfully disagree with your opinion 
  • Great work, but I have another idea that would fit to the topic better
  • I see what you are going for, but I don’t completely agree with it. How about this….
  • That was a good point, but I don’t really agree with that 
  • I think your opinion is a bit different than what I think, maybe you should consider hearing my opinion

Clearly, my students took this assignment seriously. I’m glad that I decided to step aside and let them take the lead by establishing the norms for our digital classroom. This approach provides my students with a greater sense of empowerment. I know that they feel valued and trusted, and that their opinions, thoughts, and beliefs matter as a result of this assignment. Furthermore, this exercise in digital citizenship is laying the foundation for how to communicate in digital spaces beyond the confines of Classroom. The skills they develop communicating through Classroom will transfer over to when they begin blogging and sharing their ideas with a global audience. Additionally, since most (if not all) of my students will one day be taking an online college course, it’s important to teach them about digital etiquette early in their high school careers. Fortunately, they will get a great deal of practice having online discussions not only in my class, but in all of their classes. All Burlington teachers will require some form of online discussion at one point or another during the school year, whether it be through Classroom, Edmodo, Canvas, a blog, website, wiki space, or even Twitter. I believe the experience gained communicating and collaborating online puts Burlington students at an advantage over their peers coming from school environments where the integration of technology in the classroom is not as prevalent or valued.  

The added benefit of this lesson was that it was my students’ first exposure to collaborating in Google Docs in real-time. I posted this assignment in Classroom and selected the option “students can edit the file.” The process went smoothly and sparked a more in-depth conversation about conduct in a digital space. And although we are only four days into a new school year, I already feel a sense of community with my students and I think they feel it too. Creating a positive classroom culture and building a sense of community, both on and off line, is essential. It’s something I always focus on as a new school year starts. Before delving into curriculum, I want to make sure my students feel comfortable with each other and with me. So today, we put our devices down and we played the name game and my students loved it. Overall, it was a great first week back to school. I’m glad I took a risk and took the time to let my students be in charge and make the rules. What will you be doing this year to empower your students? I’d love to hear your ideas and strategies on how to let students take the lead! 

BHS Digital Literacy Fall 2014

BHS Digital Literacy Fall 2014

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One comment

  • I love the list of disagreement phrases. I also made two courses on Google Classroom. I like the ease of the LMS, however, would love the following two features:
    (1) Being able to log in both as teacher and student in the same classroom
    (2) Being able to reorganize the sequence of material in the “About” section (this label, by the way, is too generic)

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