As we "pivot" to e-learning over the last couple weeks, I continue to lament what a shoddy platform Google Classroom is.
I remember when we first "pivoted" to Google Classroom so many years ago. I was happily hosting my classes on a combination of Moodle and Wikispaces when my school's enthusiastic technology coach started hounding me about Google Classroom, subtly deriding the modular, clunky, unintuitive platforms I preferred.
Eventually, I relented, moving my classes to the platform and choosing an appropriate banner for each of my 5 classes. My main issue with Google Classroom then and now is the stream interface. I get why the stream caught on as the primary vehicle for so much that happens online, why it's appropriate for many applications. With Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, I can understand posts disappearing under an endless cascade of new moments, reactions, updates.
With education, I just can't.
I don't care that you can organize and view the information in all sorts of different ways. The primary metaphor will always be the stream, the waterfall, the avalanche, and there's something wrong with that metaphor when it comes to education.
On second thought, the stream isn't really even a stream; it's stratification. Picture a hapless mastodon blundering into a tar pit, buried over millennia until tectonic activity, erosion, or excavation lays the record bare. Unlike the mastodon—who will battle opportunistic packs of scavengers on the surface for days on end before dying and descending toward oblivion—the post usually suffers a quick and inconspicuous demise.
What was my working metaphor with Moodle and Wikispaces? With Moodle, it was a series of rooms in a solidly built house, refuge from the raging tempest of the larger internet. Students would work their way down the hallway of my courses, entering rooms, discovering the various clues and opportunities I had placed there ahead of them. It was not unlike the scavenger hunts we created as kids with one clue leading to the next. A single line leading to some goal or treasure. Since some of these rooms linked to places outside of Moodle, you could say there were doors or windows or Narnia-like portals to other dimensions. The difference was that you needed to return to the "real world" more frequently; there wasn't any time for lingering in any of those other dimensions. Wikispaces was a little more open, but still very architectural, solid, a stay against confusion.
Looking back, I see the shortcomings. I can see how my INTJ-Architect personality finds ways to "enclose" teaching and learning. Like a designer in the movie Inception, I have a penchant for building maze-like dreams in which to trap my targets. All that said, I don't think the stream or stratification is the answer. I don't think learning should disappear under the sediment of a neverending present. As I peek in on what our teachers are doing during e-learning, I have no sense about where we are going. What's the future? What are the outcomes? What's the larger learning trajectory?
Google Classroom never asks or answers these questions. Perhaps I ask to them too much, draining the present moment of its meaning and value. If the stream metaphor can be used at all, maybe it's that we all float down the stream together in inner tubes.
Perhaps we can loosely link arms or push apart as we meander in interweaving currents.