COVID-19 Proofing Your Teaching Plans for the Fall of 2020 School Year: Unveiling the Platform!

When I left you yesterday, my mission was to go out into the internet and find a platform that we could use to secure a way to launch our Fall 2020 school year. The whole purpose of looking for an online platform is to take away the uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen this fall. Am I making classroom plans? Am I going to need online plans? If I am online, what am I going to do? If there is a peak of COVID-19 and we have to work from home are my plans going to greatly disrupted again?

I did not realize that there are so many platforms available. The platforms that I ran across were Canvas, Schoology, Brightspace, Edmodo, Moodle, Blackboard, Sakai, and Google Classroom. Many contained similar features, but some stood out.

A couple of these platforms I had experience with prior to this mission. The first platform that I had ever been exposed to was Blackboard. The company started making its way into my consciousness during my Masters program in college. Many of the professors would use Blackboard as a way to “blend” a class. If we had a class that was scheduled for three nights per week, the professor utilized the platform to assign a paper and my peers and I would share our documents online and virtually speak to one another about the topic at hand. Another platform that jumped out at me was Edmodo. A fellow teacher at my school had used Edmodo as a way to communicate, and disseminate information to his students for years. This particular teacher actually held an inservice explaining Edmodo to our entire staff. I remember thinking during the meeting, “when would I use an internet based platform?” – The joke is on me!

After reading ratings, and feedbacks from teacher, after teacher, and getting a little help from an unexpected source, I have settled on Google Classroom as my pick. Yesterday I stated that I had eight criteria that I would be using to make my decision. The criteria were: Accessibility, Communication, Engagement, Collaboration, Feedback, Time, Differentiation, and Cost. As I read through many of the feedback articles, it became clear that many of the platforms have similar features, but what stood out about the Google features is that young people are familiar with the apps. This fact became very apparent when I asked my daughter, who is sixteen years old, for her opinion. Hana was quick to point out that the Google Slides, as well as the other apps, including Docs, and Sheets are easily opened on her cell phone. Where many of the “old technologies” are not as easy to pull up. She went on to explain her teachers use Google Classroom, the convenience of having the apps for free, and that her classes meet online in real-time using Google Meet every week. Of course, the word “free” to any teacher gets our attention, and as she pulled out her phone to show me at what ease the apps were used, I was sold.

I hope you join me throughout the coming weeks as I break down the Google Classroom, and figure out how we can use it to COVID-19 Proof our teaching plans for the fall of 2020.