A much cleaner Classroom leads list of latest updates from Google

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Tech companies exhibiting at the ISTE annual conference in Chicago this week were rolling out new products and revealing partnerships left and right, but for Google, the announcements practically required a table of contents.

The tech giant — whose presence in the U.S. education market dwarfs that of most others — launched 12 new or updated features to Google for Education during the biggest edtech show of the year.

Most notably, perhaps, are the introductions of a “Classwork” page within Google Classroom and a locked mode in “Quizzes” in Google Forms.

Some teachers now use Classroom so much that the volume of content they’ve posted has made the platform difficult to navigate. Classwork will provide an added layer of organization in Google Classroom that helps teachers and students sift through their assignments and find what they’re looking for faster than ever before.

“Classroom was becoming unwieldy and hard to organize and differentiate,” said Jonathan Rochelle, director of product management at Google for Education and co-founder of Google Docs and Google Drive.

“Unwieldy” wasn’t going to cut it for Google Classroom, a tool that was created to make life simpler for educators and has “always been about the basics,” Rochelle told EdScoop in an interview at ISTE.

Classwork will be available for students and teachers to begin using this fall when they head back to school.

The locked mode in Google Forms has had the “most positive reaction” of the 12 announcements, Rochelle said. Many teachers approached Rochelle at the show and told him, “‘Oh, my god, it’s like a godsend,'” he said.

By clicking a checkbox, teachers can enable the locked function, which is intended to eliminate distractions while students are taking a quiz by barring them from other windows and tabs.

When engaged, locked mode will also prohibit students from accessing or searching the internet — a point that educators bristled at on social media.

“In the 21st century the Internet exists. It won’t go away. Locking down Chromebooks to avoid this is lame. #ISTE18,” Alice Keeler, a teacher with 130,000 followers, wrote on Twitter.

Megan Baker, the principal of a Texas elementary school, responded to Keeler on Twitter, saying, “I’d rather kids know how to search for the correct info and gain that knowledge than just make a guess! This is our world. Information is at our fingertips. It’s what we do with that information that’s important.”

Google has also announced the Acer Chromebook Tab 10, which runs the same operating system as Chromebooks but in tablet form. The price for that, including the Stylus, is $329, though schools that buy the Tab 10 in bulk can get the devices for a lower price, a spokesperson for Google for Education said.

The tech company also announced new virtual reality experiences, an interactive whiteboard for education called Jamboard and updates to the CS First curriculum, among other things .

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