Category Archives: GAFE

What is Google Classrooms?

Understanding the need for Google Classroom

As teachers and school districts attempt to deliver more digital content to students, they need a digital medium to do this. Unless you work with technology on a daily basis, you probably use email to send links to webpages (URLs) to friends. You might also use Facebook, Twitter or some other social media.  Just a few years ago, many tech savvy high school and junior high teachers were using Facebook to communicate with students. Companies such as Edmoto and Haiku became popular for communicating lessons and worksheets with students. This platform for organizing digital learning content is call a Learning Management System.  Online learning courses use these platforms, but as digital learning is become integrated into the regular school building, the need for these virtual LMSs are becoming a necessity. In the fall of 2014, Google launched Google Classroom as a means for teachers to share and collect assignments from students, thus joining the LMS competition.

What makes Google Classroom so appealing is the ease in which it integrates in the Google Apps for Education Suite that many schools have deployed.  If a school has deployed Google Apps for Education, they have supplied the students with Google accounts which provide access to Google Classroom and many other apps, such as Google Drive and Google Scholar. However, unlike some of the other apps, Google Classroom is only available to GAFE accounts with in a school’s domain.


Understanding Google Drive

If you are new to Google Drive, think of it as a hard drive in space (the cloud). Students and teachers can access their programs and files from any computer that is connected to the internet. This is very powerful for students because they can work on something at school and then continue to work on it at home. For busy families, this means students can complete work from just about anywhere that has internet access. Google drive allows users access to programs like docs (word processing), sheets (spreadsheets), slides (presentations) and drawings (color pad), just to name a few.


Google Drive – Google Classroom Connection

When Google classrooms is connected to a google account, a folder is created in Google Drive for that account. The folder will be called “Classroom.” Students can have many classes within Google Classrooms. Any “class” will have subfolders within the “Classroom” folder. When teachers create assignments in Google Classrooms, then can pass out “papers” to their students. These “papers” will have the students name on it and the file name the teacher has associated with it. When the student edits the paper, the teacher and the student can see the changes by going into the folders. All of this collaboration takes place because of Google’s ability to share files and folders.

This can provide a wonderful opportunity for teachers to provide clear and concise feedback to their students. Additionally, if parents are logging into their student’s accounts, they have access to their student’s work, teachers comments etc. No more lost assignments!

Parent Involvement

I recommend parents review their student’s accounts from time to time. They should explore creating files and using the apps alongside their students.  Students can create other folders outside of the “classroom” folder. These folders will not be a part of the shared system of folders and are private to the student, unless the student shares them. Take time to create and work with your student. Be a part of their technological learning.  Many parents say, “My kids are my tech teacher!” Studies show that the best learning comes when we teach. Let your kids be your teacher! Kids love it!


Why Google Classrooms?

Watch Google’s Promo Video for Classrooms


How to log into Google Classroom from Home

My Kids has GAFE



My student has GAFE? Is it contagious?

Whether you are a teacher or parent you might not have heard of GAFE (long A, silent e). It stands for Google Apps for Education, and it is sweeping the nation.  A school/district creates google accounts for their students, which gives them access the basic Google apps such as email, documents, slides, and spreadsheets.  While anyone over 14 can create their own free account, these basic programs can help districts narrow the “digital divide” between families and schools, by providing quality resources for FREE! However, just like with free apps there can be a few things to watch out for.

With these Google accounts, students have access to word processing programs and other important software. Even students as young as second grade can learn to type and use the presentations feature to present digital information.  Also, these accounts allow schools to manage devices like Chromebooks and tablets which students find very helpful.

While there is great debate about the benefits for students under 3rd grade spending too much time digitally, and not enough time with a pencil, scissors and glue, most people will not argue that as students learn to author lengthy paragraphs, writing skills improve.  When students use digital editing tools such as Google docs to plan and revise their writing, skills improve exponentially.


Ask Questions

So, if you have been notified that your student has a Google account and you are not sure how you feel, consider talking to an administrator. Ask a few key questions:

  1. How do I get my student’s log in information?
  2. Are my students in a Walled Garden? (*For more information on restricted domains*)
  3. What is your Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)? (AUPs vary by district: some provide a simple sentence asking about internet access and others have a clearly defined policy.)
  4. Does the Acceptable Use Policy clearly address cyberbullying and the discipline actions?
  5. Is there a plan in place to emphasis digital citizenship?
  6. Does the district scan all documents for offensive words and phrases? What are they? What actions are taken when these are discovered?
  7. What web filters are in place at the school?

Walled Garden: A google word for a sub-organization where the users in this organization can only email within the domain (the other users with in the sub organization or the parent domain). Generally, this is a good thing for young children. This means that Suzie cannot email you or Grandma. Fortunately, it also means that strangers cannot email your children.  Even in a walled Garden, you want to keep an eye on your child’s email account. Other students can email your student, if students are collaborating this is a great opportunity for 21st Century learning. It also means that other children can share inappropriate links to websites you may not want your child to see. These sites maybe filtered at school, but maybe not at home or any other public location.

AUP: A document stipulating appropriate uses for using the school network or the internet. The document will often contain clear guidelines regarding inappropriate behaviors and the consequences.

  1. Set up their account on your mobile device and review it often. Whether they have gmail or just google drive, monitor their account.
  2. Android : how to set up additional Google accounts
  3. IPhone: How to set up additional Google accounts.


Take advantage of the Google Account: consider a Chromebook, where you can set up your student as a supervised user, then you will have access to their web activity at home.

Be involved

Like everything in your student’s life, it is important to be involved. Ask to see what they are doing on the internet. Chances are that they can’t wait to show you. Also consider the Keyboarding Without Tears app if your students are not receiving instruction in keyboarding.


Coming up soon:

Fourth Grade National Parks Pass Activity