To ‘Classroom’ or to ‘Brightspace’; That is the Question

Google Classroom has been introduced this year, allowing teachers to jump right into ‘blended learning‘ with minimal setup involved.

Do I show Google Classroom and not Brightspace?

I oftentimes cannot make a decision as to what product is best for the teacher. There are so many products to choose from now (Brightspace, Edmodo, Wikispaces, Classroom) that it confuses teachers even more.

Typically in my role, teachers make requests for help with a tool for – blended learning. When Desire2Learn’s virtual Learning Environment (vLE) first came out, that’s all it was known by – a Learning Management System:

Hi Peter, Can you come in and help my class get setup with blended learning?

Good morning Peter, can you set up my LMS?

The notion of blended learning has evolved so much over the last four years that I try to not get caught up in the confusion myself. (vLE’s; LMS’s… Why do they need to keep changing these things?)

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At the Nipissing-Parry Sound CDSB, we provide and support two products in this category: Brightspace and now Classroom.

There are definitely two major factors to consider when deciding to bring your classroom online: the product itself (Brightspace or Google Classroom), as well as the pedagogy behind using such powerful tools. The biggest question I hear from teachers now is:

How do I know which tool to use?

As mentioned in my previous post, we have made our first steps in ‘Going to the Cloud’ by offering students and teachers access to Google Apps for Education (GAFE). This excitement for those who knew what it was; but for those who did not – it caused confusion:

I already have email, why do i need Gmail?

Are my files safe in the cloud?

Google recently introduced Classroom this year for the K-12 market. This is in my opinion a more minimalistic version of a vLE tool, as it is both simple to setup as well as organize and collect assignments digitally from students in conjunction with Google Drive.

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Brightspace on the other hand, is a more robust vLE, offering many tools to use, from accessing Ministry-provided content, homework solutions, as well as a their very own ePortfolio. Many teachers are online with Brightspace as it has been around for four to five years as part Ontario’s e-Learning Strategy, and every year more and more teachers are signing up.

Given these two differing products, until I meet with teachers and hear exactly what they want an online classroom to do, I try not to let them make a decision beforehand as to what tool they should use. So far, I’ve setup two classes with Google Classroom this year. After meeting with these teachers, I decided to introduce it to these classrooms as a pilot as they were both new to blended learning. Aside from some minor technical issues (laptops/network not working properly) – the students and the teachers love it.

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I must say; I think Google Classroom may be what the niche market of teachers who may just want to assign and collect assignments digitally. For the organizational factor alone (it makes folders and files for the students in their own Drives as you go), this could be a game changer. There are still many teachers that have not yet tried the whole blended learning thing yet – for a number of reasons. I think that Classroom could be their answer.

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