WestSide Story

Google Classroom vs. Unified Classroom

Eli Sorensen

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In a world of newsfeeds, photo streams and information organized in simple, chronological order, it’s a wonder that so many teachers are being encouraged to move towards a more convoluted, juvenile way of doing things. In a world where the Google Suite is a neatly put together puzzle, and has been since the beginning, it’s a marvel that we’re now being told to use Pearson’s own answer to education in the digital space: Powerschool Unified Classroom.

For years, teachers have utilized Google Classroom to manage the submission of digital assignments, which shouldn’t come as a surprise in the slightest. We are provided with Google accounts, and advised to use Google products to complete most online schoolwork – and for good reason. Google, a multi-billion dollar company, fueled by endless amounts of dollars, research, and development, has created a collection of products that work together like a well-oiled machine. In addition, the sheer amount of software that Google users have free, immediate access to allows us to approach any problem or assignment from a variety of angles, nearly guaranteeing that if a teacher needs something done, it can be completed with the help of Google. In short, Google’s integrated Suite is almost a one-size, fits all solution for the average user, which is why, the more complicated, primitive option in a district full of “average users” makes the least practical sense.

To call the Powerschool Classroom “Unified” is an inherent misnomer – yes, we can log in just fine using the Google account provided by the district, but this is about where the connection to the majority of our computer collegiate ends. Sure, assignments completed and  stored on our Google Drive may be submitted through Unified Classroom, but they aren’t truly “handed in” as with a physical assignment. Once submitted, documents sent to teachers on the Unified Classroom can still be edited by students as they see fit – meaning even if Powerschool displays something turned in “on time” it may have been altered, even after the due date. The digital classroom should mirror and enhance the experience found in the tangible one – normal, physical assignments cannot be altered after being handed in, and this should carry over to the digital world. Google Classroom locks editing after an assignment is turned in, thus preventing the issue outright.

While Unified Classroom does connect graded assignments with your letter grade more seamlessly, allowing a grade to be entered once on Powerschool rather than additionally entered on Google Classroom, this is a small perk that is outweighed by the convoluted navigational system employed on the Unified Classroom platform. Sure, it is much easier for teachers to assign a score to completed work, but with Unified Classroom’s system of units, lessons, assignments, and class periods, all squeezed onto one continual homepage, its menus become convoluted and difficult for students to quickly navigate, undermining the few minutes a teacher may save entering grades by requiring additional instruction just to fully utilize a brand new platform.

Joy Sorensen, a parent of a Skyline student, has had her own personal issues with the Unified Classroom. “It’s so much more complicated,” she said one morning. “I tried to login the same way that I always have, and it didn’t work. I had to call the district, and the woman on the phone had to lead me through the whole process. I can do it now, but it still takes a lot longer than it used to.” She explained further that she has heard similar gripes from other parents. If parents are also having problems, it seems that the “more advanced” and “convenient” solution is anything but.

At the end of the day, Google Classroom is a platform that most D91 students (and teachers) are familiar with and have much more experience using. It’s simple to navigate “stream” view prioritizes the most recent content, separated by class – the way it makes sense. This means anything – an assignment, reading material, or the notes from class that day – are the first thing students see when they log on to Google Classroom. Fewer clicks saves more time, alleviating unnecessary stress and frustration and streamlining the educational experience on the world wide web.

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Google Classroom vs. Unified Classroom