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Update to Google Classroom is supposed to make homework suck less

Google Classroom redesign

Google decided to get a jump on the new school year by rolling out what it’s described as the biggest redesign yet for Classroom, its suite of education tools that first launched a few years ago and which it’s given a new look and tons of new features.

Ope Bukola, a Google for Education product manager, walks through some of those additions in a blog post today, which include a new grading tool that’s compatible with PDFs and videos in addition to Google Docs, plus the introduction of a new Classwork page. It’s meant to let teachers better organize assignments and questions by grouping them into modules and units.

The new grading tool is supposed to also speed up grading and encourage more “thoughtful engagement” between teachers and students. Per Bukola, “Instructors now have a comment bank, so they can easily save and reuse commonly used feedback. They can also quickly toggle between student files and submissions when grading, without having to open each file individually. The new grading tool works with Docs Editors, Office files, PDFs, videos files, and more.”

After thousands of teachers participated in a beta last month, other updates that are part of the Classroom announcement today include the ability to easily copy and reuse classwork. Google has also noticed that teachers sometimes join each other’s classes to share content and teaching strategies and then quickly get overwhelmed by notifications about activity in a classroom.

There’s already a way to turn off specific types of notifications, and now, you can turn off all notifications for a given class.

For some context around Google’s ambition for its Classroom tools, Florida middle school science teacher Daniel Brennick explains in Bukola’s post that the tool suite has become an everyday part of his teaching — indeed, that he started using it all two years ago. “I distribute a Doc through Classroom, where all kids can work on the Doc together, at the same time. I project it on the board to facilitate quick discussion. It makes sure everyone gets heard, and amplifies student voice.” His school is also making a big push toward more long-term planning, and he’s already starting using the Classwork page to create a visual for himself of what he’ll be teaching.

Google clearly wants to lock in teachers and classrooms and keep a toehold in the education space, and to that end it’s planning even more Classroom features coming soon beyond what was announced today. They include adding materials to the Classwork page, to support sharing and organizing resources like readings and reference materials.

Eventually, any new class a teacher creates will automatically get the Classwork page, and as Google announced at this year’s International Society for Technology in Education conference, teachers are also getting the ability to create quizzes in locked mode, which is meant to keep students focused when taking Google Forms quizzes on managed Chromebooks. Also coming is the ability to create Google Forms quizzes from Classroom, which should streamline the assignment process and save time.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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