We talk a lot about powerful things you can do with Docs, Sheets, and Slides. We have entire e-books dedicated to using Google Apps for Education (GAFE), which is now called G Suite for Education (but let's just keep using the GAFE acronym for now, it's nicer).
However, we’ve made a lot of assumptions about the fact that many of our users are already signed up, logged in, and using GAFE daily. It’s about time we wrote about getting started with Google Apps in the first place.
G Suite for Education is free for schools and offers 24/7 support. And this is important. Teachers deserve free, powerful, trustworthy tools at their disposal so they can test out different processes and workflows with their students. Binding them to lengthy contracts and expensive tools will severely limit classroom creativity.
GAFE is available on any device. This increases the potential for a student or teacher to check in and get to work at any time using whatever device is available. For schools without robust device carts, 1:1 initiatives, or bring your own device policies, it’s nice to know Drive will be compatiable with whatever students have access to at home or through their library.
In short, Google Apps have opened up a whole new way to collaborate on schoolwork. And that’s why it’s worth considering for your classroom, if you haven’t already
The Technical Stuff
You don’t have GAFE but you’re interested in getting it up and running. Here are, broadly, the steps we’d recommend to get up and running.
Talk to your tech director. Could he or she support enrolling a classroom? (FYI. GAFE is free. There’s a talking point for ya. This info might also help.)
Head here to fill out a GAFE signup form.
There is some domain verification that happens during this step that you may or may not want to loop your tech folks in on. Up to you.
This will ultimately create a GAFE admin account.
The Google Apps Learning Center is solid. It’s worth heading over to get the lay of the land before introducing GAFE to your classroom. Lots of tips and tutorials. (And yes, it can be possible to self-onboard here. Connecting with a Google-certified educator won’t hurt.)
To add students to Google Apps, they’ll need existing email addresses. From your admin account, you’ll head to the “users” section followed by “add more users.” You can watch a whole video tutorial here.
Don’t Stop at Docs
If you’ve gotten your classroom working via Google Drive but you aren’t doing anything to create a related workflow or digitally discuss the work you’re assigning, then you’re only halfway there.
GAFE is a foundation. We recommend thinking through a larger system - a communication platform or a learning management tool - that allows you to harness the power of these collaborative tools. One that builds a smarter, stronger assignment workflow and ups your grading game with Google Docs.
More importantly - it’s good to think about tools that will allow for robust discussion and connection outside of class. What’s the best way for your students to work together? How would it be best to manage peer editing and document permissions? What’s the most logical way to build a classwide discussion that supplements the work being assigned via GAFE?
Quickly - we can’t ignore Google Classroom. It’s the free class management component of the Google Apps for Education suite. In this team’s humble opinion (and let us remind you that we’re a GAFE-loving and GAFE-using team) as good as GAFE is, Classroom is not.
Classroom is an assignment and submission machine. It doesn’t take lengths to engage classmates despite Google’s reputation for building such collaborative tools. It doesn't support grading with criteria and standards based rubrics. It's also difficult to keep organized - with it's neverending stream of assignments on the class homepage.
We’re huge Google fans, but when it comes to connecting your classroom, we recommend solutions beyond Classroom. Just keepin' it honest.
When we made Chalkup, we prioritized seamless integration with Google Drive so that educators could continue to use these powerful free tools, layering in discussions, rubrics, and time management tools through the Chalkup platform. We quickly learned how many of our users were huge Google Apps nerds like us. (I mean this as the ultimate compliment.)