Today I wanted to share something new that I am trying. I teach a variety of independent childbirth classes in my community, including a seven-week series class. For many years, I have established a Facebook group for each of the series classes. With ever-increasing concerns about privacy, I am trying a new system this series, using a free platform called Google Classroom. I am hoping that it will meet the same goals, make my life easier, and serve the families in my classes well. To read all the Building Your Birth Business posts in this series, please follow this link.
I have been using Facebook for building community in my classes. Every series I teach has had their own closed Facebook group for the class. We use it as a place to have families connect, a way for me to share resources and links, a spot for folks to ask a question or to ask for resources between class nights, a method to share birth stories and introduce us to their just born babies, pictures and all. The groups have been robust, everyone participates, lots of support is asked for and given and after our reunion, I make many of them admins, turn the group over to them to continue to use and turn off notifications for myself. They know if they want me for anything they should tag me, as I will no longer be following anymore. When I look back on 2018, I have noticed that as the year progressed, fewer people join the groups, the groups are overall less active and the group community less robust after the reunion ends. I just started a series last night, and less than one-third of the class joined our class Facebook group. This is very different than several years ago. Several people expressed to me that they have chosen to not use the Facebook platform anymore over privacy concerns.
Truthfully, I have had the same thoughts. I have removed Facebook from my mobile devices (phone and iPad) and can now only access it on my laptop. WIth this current poor response to my invitation to form a community, I realized I needed to find a different method of pushing out resources and materials and giving the students and myself a way to connect. I now have a Google Classroom site dedicated to this new series. In just the two hours since the invite went out, more than half the group has already responded and joined and several have even commented and shared resources of their own.
All that is needed to set up a Google Classroom is a Gmail account, which can be established by anyone for free, and a way to access the internet. You set up a "classroom" and can customize it with an image as a header or a theme from some preset themes available. You are given a code to share with students, and they can join through that code. There is a stream where people can post comments and reply, and where you can also share links, images, and documents. In the classroom section, you can create topics (I created a topic for each week of class) and you can share material associated with each week under that. Alternately you can have the topics be pregnancy, labor & birth, newborns, postpartum, etc. Design it the way you want and in a way that makes sense to you.
You can control how you are notified of new material that goes up, choosing to receive emails or not. There are mobile apps for iPhones and Google/Android phones which makes it easy for your students to access the "classroom" on the go.
I work so hard when I am teaching to connect families to each other and build their community, as well as increase their confidence during the childbearing year. I know how important it is to have a village, and connect with other new parents who are experiencing similar things and understand what someone might be going through. Being a new parent can be lonely and isolating on a good day. When things are bumpy, it is very, very difficult to manage things. It is important to create a space where families can connect with you and each other. I am not yet sure that Google Classroom is that space, but I am more convinced than ever that these connections will be happening less and less on Facebook as more and more people move away from this platform due to privacy concerns.
I have created an "S&S Let's Play with Google Classroom" Test Group that I invite you to join. You can join here and use the code t42vo28 when you click "join class" in the upper right. Introduce yourself and play with all the features. Let's try it out, share links, pictures, create resources (they can be just fun ones, no need to share anything proprietary) ask questions of each other to figure out how we can best use this platform for our students and learn together. This is not official, just a place to try our hand at Google Classroom. If you are a Classroom expert, please join and help us newbies! Also, I would like to share one of my very favorite resources for tech in the classroom. I have gathered all of Richard Byrne's Google Classroom tips from Free Tech 4 Teachers here.
What platforms are you using to create community and share resources for the students in your classes? Let us know in the comments section below.