When we think of education technology, we tend to focus on the way it impacts students: accessing resources, working on group projects at a distance, and so on.
But what about teachers? Although technology promotes independent learning, there is no such thing as a classroom without a teacher, and EdTech affects educators as much as learners.
What people outside the teaching profession may not realise is that lectures are only a small part of the job: what happens in the classroom is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg, the result of many unseen hours of grading assignments, planning lessons, sharing ideas—all of which can be made easier and more effective.
Teachers should not work in isolation but establish professional and personal relationships with other educators in their school and beyond. Teacher collaboration has existed since before the dawn of EdTech and teachers and administrators are aware of its importance: cooperation between fellow teachers improves their emotional well-being and allows them to brainstorm fresh ideas to keep students engaged.
Back in the day, teachers could not communicate with colleagues all over the world or share information about their students’ strengths and weaknesses quickly and easily: in short, technology has eliminated a lot of the limits and challenges that used to make teacher collaboration a difficult, little-used strategy.
With the advent of online communities and shared data sets, teachers can be more connected than ever, learning from one another and comparing notes about their students to identify the areas in which they are struggling and provide them with better, individualised lesson plans. Email and video conferences can also enable teachers to give students additional help outside school hours or reach out to those who cannot be physically present.
A new kind of classroom
Imagine a class where learning material cannot be lost, instructors and students can exchange instantaneous feedback, more than one teacher can provide input on the same course for a multidisciplinary approach, and parents are constantly informed about their children’s activities.
This is not the beginning of a science fiction story: with tools such as Google Classroom, it’s a reality.
With Google Classroom, any teacher with a G Suite email address can access a free, powerful online tool that will make their teaching experience faster, more efficient and paperless. Here are a few examples of how Google Classroom can revolutionise your lesson plans:
- Assignments: you can assign work without the need to print it and hand it out, set a due date that will appear directly in your students’ Google Calendar, and never lose any completed work, which will be automatically saved in the Google Drive folder for the class.
- Announcements: any important news about the class can be posted on Google Classroom so that no one in your student list will miss it.
- Material: you can add studying resources in the form of files, external links or videos, providing an enhanced learning experience that goes beyond your textbook.
- Instant feedback: you can send back grades and comments as soon as students hand in their assignments, cutting down on the waiting time between work and evaluation and helping them improve.
- Active discussion: Google Classroom is not a platform where students have no voice, but a place where their questions and comments can be heard. Discussion on Google Classroom is both engaging and safe, as you can easily manage the debate by restricting students’ ability to post if they behave inappropriately.
- Adult involvement: you can add a colleague as co-teacher so you can work together on the class and keep guardians in the know about your activities and progress through email summaries.
Teachers are only human
Of course, even with the best education technology has to offer, instructors will inevitably have to deal with the human side of teacher collaboration: it can prove difficult to establish common goals, manage conflicts in a professional manner, or even find the time to reflect on the students’ progress and struggles and work out solutions together.
But with a plethora of tools to make work less time-consuming and facilitate communication, teachers may be only human, but they have an unprecedented amount of support to overcome their challenges and form a true, worldwide community.