Learning Management Systems

Google Unveils Collaboration Features for Classroom and Docs

Google has updated its free learning management system and added new capabilities to its productivity suite.

According to a blog post by Ritcha Ranjan, product manager for Google Docs, Google Classroom, the company's free LMS, now comes with a "Share to Classroom" Chrome extension that lets teachers share a given website with everybody in the room at the same time, no matter what type of device they're using.

One teacher who tested the extension found that it dramatically cut down the amount of time students spent getting to the website she wanted them studying. In a Google for Education blog post, Catherine Davis wrote, “I typically write the URL on the board, then walk around to help each student who misses a capital or underscore or backslash. My students get frustrated, I get frustrated, and before I know it 10 minutes of precious teaching time is lost." The former grade-school teacher, who now serves as the director of academic technology for Los Angeles high school Pilgrim School, explained that the Chrome add-on allowed her to "open a website and 'push' it to [her] Google Classroom students so the page opens immediately on all their devices."

Google Docs, which includes word processing ("Docs"), spreadsheet ("Sheets") and presentation ("Slides") capabilities, now includes the following new features:

  • A "history of changes" feature allows user to see a revision history of a changed file and to open up earlier versions to find out who in a group of users has made what changes.
  • The three programs now have pre-made templates that can set files up in a specific format. For example, Sheets can be set up as a calendar form, team roster or gradebook, among other looks. Slides templates include lesson plans, book reports, science projects and student certificates.
  • A new "explore" option in Sheets provides a way for users to create charts and drill down into data, a function that the company said could be used to find data patterns.
  • A research tool in Docs for Android allows users to do Google searches without leaving Docs. They can then copy text or images to the document by tapping the “Insert” button.
  • A voice feature is now part of the Tools menu in Docs for Chrome. When that's turned on, the user can record ideas or compose text without using the keyboard.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.