An Open Letter to Google: Classroom Needs a New Marketing Video

Dear Google,

I haven’t even used Google Classroom yet, and already I am highly skeptical.  The video you released to hype your new classroom “solution”, which you tout as a way to “give teachers more time to teach and students more time to learn” is an embarrassment.  Watching the video makes me wonder if anyone at Google actually knows the impact its products have had on educators and students worldwide. Even worse, it makes me wonder if Google wants to be part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Lets start at just ten seconds into the video. Here a young teacher teacher says

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Screen capture of Google Classroom marketing video.

“If a teacher is collecting and handing out papers, they are not maximizing the amount of time they are actually teaching.”

Simple right?  With one click of a button I can hand out a digital worksheet rather than have to ply up and down the rows handing out paper worksheets that it took me 10 minutes to print and copy front to back, collated, with a staple at 45 degrees in the upper left.  Brilliant!  Eureka!  Let’s all celebrate edutopia together!

Wait, what did you say?  Worksheet?  Actually, yes, if I were to make a Wordle of your video it would feature the words “worksheet”, “submit”, “assignment”, “teacher”, “maximize”, and “hand-out”, not necessarily in that order.  This might sell Chromebooks to schools who can’t see the iceberg beneath the waves, but it doesn’t improve schools or help our students become better equipped for a century that needed creative self-motivated learners yesterday.

“Everything I need for the class is in one place.  My worksheets are there my group work is there.”

Part of why I am writing this to you is because, in fact, there isn’t a tool out there that has had a bigger role in helping educators re-think teaching and learning than Google Apps for Education.  I can’t imagine where we would be without it.  I’ve been gushing about it since it was called Writely in 2005.  The Wordle for great schools, schools that have grown, in part, due to your Google Apps would feature the words “collaboration”, “formative”, “sharing”, “social”, “global”, “problem-solving”, “together”, and “student”, not necessarily in that order.

But its not just the script that is troubling.  The setting you chose to depict your Google Classroom hasn’t changed since the Middle Ages.  Eyes forward with laser focus on the teacher, fingers poised on the keyboard, trembling even, eager to record every word of the sage on the stage. Only the medium of note-taking and checking for understanding (I’m being optimistic) has changed; shiny new Chromebooks sit on every desk. Nevermind the expense of that notebook, this setting violates almost everything we now know about learning, the brain, and the future relevance of schools.

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I sincerely hope that this product delivers more than the tepid vision for learning conveyed in your launch video.  I know a great many schools that will get far more out of it than your pilot schools have, but I wonder if your education division is really paying attention to what’s going on in the world of education and what is coming.  Your token veteran in the video says it best.

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“You cannot stay in teaching and keep going to the old ways”

Google, there is nothing new about what you have shown us here.  All you have done is reinforce the old ways with even more rigid technologies. This woman’s quote might just as well be directed at you as much as a teacher handing out the same worksheet with paper, pencil, and textbook.

Now, I am not opposed to efficiency, and teachers truly do need a system to run a paperless classroom.  This is why we adopted Hapara Google Dashboard.  But substituting for paper is not the point, rather its one of the essential conditions for redefining the classroom to be more personalised, global, and collaborative.  Perhaps you should spend some time talking with passionate teachers out there who use your free services day in and day out to do these very things.


Kevin Crouch
IT Director
American International School – Chennai

1 Comment to "An Open Letter to Google: Classroom Needs a New Marketing Video"

  1. Carlna's Gravatar Carlna
    May 14, 2014 - 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I love Google and all the potential is has. In fact I’m not sure what I would do without GAFE, however, your open letter is spot-on. I subjected myself to watching this video not once, but twice. I knew better than to sit alone for the second viewing. I suckered my husband into sitting with me by shouting from the other room, “You HAVE to see this video!” Imagine his disappointment when he read the title, “Previewing a new Classroom by Google” but in an attempt to show his true commitment to me, he cozied up while I clicked, “play.” On at least four different occasions he turned to me and asked, “Is this a joke?,” not at all being factitious. After watching the video we read through this post together. His parting words: “This must be analogous to being a Denver fan watching Super Bowl XLVIII.” Pain and embarrassment

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