Friday, September 2, 2016

Using Topics in Google Classroom

One of my biggest annoyances with Google Classroom has been the lack of search. Students and teachers were forced to scroll through the entire stream to find an old post.

This frustration has been [mostly] resolved through the addition of the new “topics” feature of Google Classroom. 

Topics help group related classroom information. Announcements, questions, and assignments can all be tagged with a topic.

Key points:
  • Only the teacher can create a topic
  • Only one topic is allowed per post
  • Topics are automatically listed on the left side of the stream for both teachers and students.
  • Topics CAN be renamed and deleted the teachers

The topic feature can be very helpful and powerful if used wisely. Here are some key ideas to consider:
  • Limit your topics - the more you have, the less useful they are.
  • A topic should be broad enough to encompass a significant number of classroom announcements, assignments, etc. If there is only a couple of posts, it’s probably not a topic.
  • Plan your topics early.
Setting up your topics:
  1. Create an announcement
  2. Add a title (doesn’t matter what it is, we won’t be posting it).
  3. Create your first topic.
  4. Save the announcement as a draft.
  5. Click the drafts bar in the stream and edit the annoucement that you just saved as a draft.
  6. Create another topic.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 until all of your topics have been created. When complete, delete the draft announcement.

Developing strategic topics

Not sure how to use topics in your classroom? Here are some ideas to consider
  • Create a topic for each subject area that you teach during the day. This is especially helpful for elementary teachers.
  • Create a topic for each unit in your course.
  • Create a topic for major assignments that require multiple parts, steps, instructions, announcements, etc (e.g. a research project).
  • Create generic topics: classwork, homework, announcements, resources
How are you using the topic feature? Do you find that it is effective at organizing the classroom stream?

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