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Learning Practice Case Study

Project Overview

Project Description

Write a case study of an innovative learning practice—a method, a resource or a technology, for instance. This could be a reflection practice you have already used, or a new or unfamiliar practice which you would like to explore. Analyze an educational practice, or an ensemble of practices, as applied in a clearly specified a learning context.

Icon for Google Classroom

Google Classroom

Educational Challenge


Media embedded July 17, 2016

Google classroom was released in August of 2014 as part of Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Anyone with a GAFE account has access to Google classroom for free! Google classroom includes access to Google Docs, Mail, Calendar, Forms, and much more. The development of Google classroom came from a push for technology in classrooms in response to the changing needs of students in the 21st century. The push for technology is evident as many schools have moved to go 1:1, or one-to-one, with computers (1 electronic device for each 1 student to have access to digital versions of work and text), there has been high interest in flipped classrooms (watch a video for homework while classwork focuses on projects, questions, and discussion), and even changes in educational policies that call for technology. With this push for technology, it is often difficult to separate "Google classroom" from "Chromebooks" and a variety of other educational tools and resources.

Google classroom essentially serves as a platform to organize a wide variety of educational tools and according to Google, "makes it easy to create classes, distribute assignments, communicate, and stay organized."[1] And from a teacher's perspective by Peter Quinn, "While the arguments may continue about the benefits of technology in the classroom, it is clear that it is here to stay and it's now a teacher's job to ensure the most of it."[2] With that in mind, he goes on to talk about how it changed the way students documented their own progress and increased student preparedness with 21st century digital media skills through the use of GAFE that is free for all through the use of a Chrome browser on both Android and Apple products. As students struggle to stay engaged in the classroom as teachers on the frontline can attest to, the push for technology increases to meet their need for instant gratification and feedback, like that which is available through the digital realm of Google Classroom.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Quinn, Peter. Screen Education. 2016, Vol. Issue 82, p90-94. 5p (Database: Communication & Mass Media Complete)

Educational Practice - Application

So how does a teacher begin? It's very simple and user friendly:

  1. Go to
  2. Click the plus sign, and then "create class"
  3. Name the class and fill in the section (For example, Class name: Algebra, Section: 3rd Period)
  4. Repeat to create for more than one section
  5. Invite students to join your class by clicking on the "Students" tab and either send them an email invite, or share your class code with them.
  6. Once the classroom is created, the teacher can add resources, announcements, assignments and more in this virtual classroom. Teachers have the option of sending out a question, an announcement, and the most common, creating an assignment. The possibilities are seemingly endless:
  • Create an assignment with a set of directions, and students must then create and share with their peers and/or teacher through google classroom or google drive.
  • Share a template created by the teacher that each student receives their own copy of, completes individually and then turns in through google classroom.
  • Create a document that is shared with an entire class that they all have editing power over and can work on collaboratively in real time.
  • Use a google form as an assessment tool, feedback form, or something else creative. The video below demonstrates a wide variety of uses for google forms from formative assessment to getting to know you surveys.
Media embedded July 24, 2016
  • Alice Keeler, a Google Certified Teacher and Author of "50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom" has a teacher tech blog with a variety of resources including 60 Ways Math Teachers Can Use Google Classroom and for all content areas, 20 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom. Learn 35 more ways about how Google Classroom creates a blended classroom, highlights student work, creates a student-centered classroom, increases feedback turnaround, collaboration, and much more from Alice Keeler below:
    Media embedded July 24, 2016


  • As many teachers do, explore Pinterest for even more ideas on how to use Google Classroom from cheat sheets, to essentials to tips for getting started, additional apps to use and more than you can imagine!
  • For some of those tips see the below pics from "46 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom" from Alice Keeler shown above, also available at



So how does a student use Google Classroom? Again, it's very simple and user friendly:

  1. Go to
  2. Click the plus sign, and then "join class"
  3. Enter the class code provided by your teacher
  4. Click on the class to view announcements and assignments, and to collaborate with your teacher and classmates. For more on the basic setup of google classroom, opening and submitting assignments, and much more watch the video below:
    Media embedded July 24, 2016


  5. Students will also be asked to use the collaborative features of google classroom and google docs often. In the top right corner of student assignments there is the option to share and comment. These options are rather intuitive and self explanatory, but for an example, see the video below.
Media embedded July 17, 2016


Underlying Theory

Constructivism Theory

In traditional teaching, the teacher is the one who holds the knowledge and then relays that information to students who are to receive this information. While Google Classroom still allows for this, as the teacher can organize and provide resources, differentiating the material to build on students' prior knowledge, allowing them to assimilate new information and knowledge. However, in the Google Classroom, blended learning approach, students are often the ones helping one another construct their knowledge instead of being led by the teacher. The collaboration among peers on documents while interacting with a variety of resources from videos, to google slides, to peer editing with google docs allows students to build off of their prior knowledge and focus on taking multiple perspectives and reasoning abstractly. Google Classroom offers a balance between the teacher-led and student-led instruction, as the teacher facilitiates the learning, while students derive their own understandings, and reflection.

Social-Cognitivist Theory

The world of online learning can feel very isolating and independent, but "For any e-leaming program to be successful, it has to emulate an instructor's guidance and interaction. This guidance and interaction plays a huge role in establishing a sense of community over the web for the learner given there is no physical setting."[1] The collaborative nature of Google Classroom is one of the greatest benefits of this educational resource. Through sharing documents, building understanding together, sharing new understandings, and receiving feedback students interact with one another and their teacher in real-time to build and acquire knowledge.

Diffusion of Innovation Theory

Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation Theory explains "how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread"[2] and "for a successful implementation of Google Classroom both teacher and learners must have positive attitude towards technology for instructional purposes." which reflets the how, and shows that teacher professional development and buy-in is key. Why teachers and students are introduced to and use Google Classroom can vary greatly, making sure Google Classroom does not just become a replacement for paper, but an enhancement of the curriculum through collaboration is important. Changes to the educational systems may be slow, but changing technologies and initiatives are rapid. It is important to consider how you introduce and utilize technology like Google Classroom with both students and teachers so that it is not too overwhelming and too much too soon, but also not so slow that it is boring and lifeless for all stakeholders.


  1. ^ Desai, M.S. et al. Education. 2008, Vol. 129 Issue 2, p327-334. 8p (Database: ERIC)
  2. ^ ​Iftakhar, S. (2016). Google classroom: what works and how? Journal of Education and Social Sciences, volume 3(Feb).

Critical Analysis

Google Classroom seems to have taken hold and grown in its effectiveness since 2014 when it was first introduced as part of Google Apps for Education. Listen below as students and teachers across the world describe some of the benefits of Google Classroom for them.

Media embedded July 24, 2016

Google Classroom allows for differentiation to meet needs of all learners, and create a student-centered environment. Some ways that differentiation can be applied to Google Classrom include but are not limited to the creation of multiple classrooms for multiple groups of students, modified assignments, student choice in assignments, modified directions and feedback and much more.

Further, Google Docs can improve discussion in the classroom. We all know how important it is to allow students opportunities within the classroom to reflect and discuss their thinking, as Roberts describes of a social studies class, "especially in terms of studying controversial issues, promoting critical thinking, learning democratic values, and gaining content mastery...[and] build[ing] tolerance among individuals."[1] Roberts goes on to explain how the use of google docs in Social Studies collaboration allows all students the ability to work at the same time, have equal access, relieves some of the pressure and stress of student participation in front of peers, provides unlimited space, can easily be saved, and allows student choice in topics as opposed to the typical classroom that does not encourage everyone to participate, with limited space to write, handwriting and spelling issues, and fewer opportunities for student choice and participation. The use of Google Docs within Google Classroom has also been shown to have a positive impact on students' writing abilities compared to students who worked only face-to face. Not only did the research show students enjoyed collaborating more with Google Docs than face-to-face, but that students who used Google Docs had increased their performance more than those students who worked face-to-face. Ornprapat and Saovapa outline some of the reasons why: [2]

 With constructive feedback they got from the student readers, the student writers are able to learn about their writing problems such as inappropriate language use, misspellings, wrong mechanics, not understandable text, and illogical organization. Comments from peers which can be used for reconsidering both ideas and organization can lead to meaningful revisions for the student writers.  ... Students can gain knowledge by comparing two versions of a document hence, increasing understandings of how sentences should be corrected.  While working together, students generate online materials that reflect what they have learned and show connections between their prior knowledge, the course content, and their personal experiences.

Google Classroom has also opened up the door for building relationships between teachers and students as demonstrated in this very moving video of one teacher and her students' story.

Media embedded July 24, 2016

Google Classroom can even bring students on a virtual field trips, something not always accessible in the educational realm today. In the virtual field trips students have access to a wide variety of destinations and the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered, some of these locations include aquariums, botanical gardens, and art museums [3]​. Lastly, It is important to consider privacy, that of a teacher, but more importantly that of a student that the educational system is entrusted with on a daily basis. Through the use of Google Classroom in the suite of Google Apps for Education (GAFE), student data is not collected, sold, advertised, or shared with any entity outside of the district, Mary Bray shares that the school system has full control over its use and features[4]. To see a full list of features and benefits of Google Classroom by Google with details on how it saves teachers time, communication and collaboration, and easy support for administrators, click here, but most importantly, GAFE are free!

While the benefits listed above are extraordinary, there are potential drawbacks in the implementation of Google Classroom as well. One potential drawback relates back to student privacy and safety mentioned above. Although GAFE is safe and keeps student information private, it is important to constantly review implementation and develop policies to support and protect students, like an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), or as discribed by Bray, a Responsible Use Policy (RUP) instead that "broadly defines the responsible use of technology and puts the responsibility for appropriate use of technology on the user." One other aspect of 1:1 initiatives that might include Google Classroom revolve around access. If you are not in a 1:1 setting, or even if you are, it does not mean that all students have access to the internet, nor the time outside of school, which may actually increase the opportunity and achievement gaps if the use of Google Classroom or other internet and technology-based systems is required in education. Although the use of the GAFE are free for educators and students, there are some potential costs to consider. For effective implementation, it is important to keep in mind the professional development of teachers and the allocation and funding needed to purchase the technology that students will use. Is there a technology department in the district that can assist in the rollout of GAFE, is there time and money dedicated to staff and development, what will happen when devices need to be replaced or repaired? If these things are not taken into consideration, the use of Google Classroom may be done in isolation, not accepted or used by all teachers and potentially run out of funds necessary to keep devices current. The obstacles and challenges in use ​are few and far between, as Google Classroom is rather intuitive to use with a variety of help resources for virtually every problem that a teacher or student may encounter. Google Classroom is far more useful and relevant in courses that involve a significant amount of reading and writing, like reading, writing, science, and social sciences, but its' use is a little more forced within the mathematics classroom.


  1. ^ Roberts, Scott L. Social Studies. 2013, Vol. 104 Issue 3, p130-136. 7p (Database: Academic Search Complete)
  2. ^ Suwantarathip, Ornprapat. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology - TOJET. 2014, Vol. 13 Issue 2, p148-156. 9p (Database: ERIC)
  3. ^ Curriculum Review. 2013, Vol. 53 Issue 4, p4-3. 0p (Database: Academic Search Complete)
  4. ^ Bray, Marty. Knowledge Quest. 2016, Vol. 44 Issue 4, p36-41. 6p (Database: Academic Search Complete)

Conclusions and Recommendations

In conclusion, Google Classroom is a great resource that can be used to differentiate instruction, facilitate collaboration, and guide students in taking ownership of their learning. Not only is Google Classroom simple to use for both teachers and students, but the possibilities are endless as demonstrated by the multitude of resources available and ideas for its use across all content areas. There are countless resources available from Google resources and certified teachers, to Pinterest, to Educational Technology specialists that offer a wide variety of ideas through creative collaboration. Google Classroom helps bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world through virtual field trips, and real-time collaboration while fostering skills that students need to be successful in education and their future careers.  Although Google Classroom came to be as a response to 1:1 initiatives, flipped classrooms, 21st century student preferences, advances in technology, and the desire to "go paperless," it is critical that collaboration and communication are fostered through professional development for teachers, course design and constant student input and feedb, otherwise, this technology will not enhance learning, but merely replace paper. All of the benefits of using Google Classroom and the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) are pointless without the devices to to do so. As a result, it is critical to obtain funding, whether that be as a district or building that allocates or raises funds on their own, or seeks out outside funding through grants and other forms of fundraising. The moral of the story: even though Google Classroom is free, you need money and time in order to support implementation