Digital Classroom using Google Drive and gClassFolders

gClassFolders is a template and set of scripts created by Bjorn Behrendt that works with Google Drive.  It provides teachers with the ability to automatically generate folders to publish information to their students using a “View” folder, as well as collect information from their students using “Dropboxes”.  It is easy to setup, provides built-in organization for your class related files, and eliminates the need for teachers and students to “share” individual items with each other to distribute or turn in assignments.

Before continuing with the instructions below, I’d suggest reviewing the 3 minute video below, created by Dee Lanier from edutechserve.com.  It shows the process in action.

Running the gClassFolders Scripts

  1. Go to your Google Drive.
  2. Click drive_create_button then From template… as seen below.
    gclassfolders_1
  3. Make sure you are in the “Public Templates” tab (“A” below) of the template gallery (if you aren’t, click Public Templates) and search for “gClassFolders” (“B” below), then click Use this template (“C” below).
    gclassfolders_2
  4. A new Google spreadsheet will open containing the following columns:
    1. Student Fname – student’s first name.
    2. Student Lname – student’s last name.
    3. Student Email – student’s D155 email address.
    4. Class Name – the name of your class.
    5. Period (Optional) – the period of the class.
      Note: I’d suggest using this to provide easier organization.  If you are using periods, you’ll have sets of student dropboxes organized by period, but a single “Class Edit” and “Class View” folder.  This way you can place items you want to distribute in a single “Class View” folder, and all periods of a given class will have access to those items.  If you want each period of the same class to have different “Class View” and “Class Edit” folders, then you should create a different class name for each period (e.g. “Bio 1st Period”, “Bio 3rd Period”, etc.).  In that scenario, you wouldn’t use the “Period (Optional)” column.
    6. Teacher Email or blank if you – assuming you are completing this process for yourself and are logged into your D155 account, you should leave this blank.
  5. Enter one row of information for each of your students. (as seen below)
    gclassfolders_5new
    Note 1: Because there are columns for class name and period, you can run this process one time for all of your classes..
    Note 2: In the future, I will be creating a post on how to export your student names and email addresses from Skyward.  That will save you the time of entering them manually.  Alternatively, you could use a Google form to collect first name, last name and period from your students.  Assuming that form is set to collect their email automatically, you would then have all the data you need for this process in a Google spreadsheet, which you could then copy and paste into this spreadsheet.
  6. When you have all your student information in the spreadsheet, click the gClassFolders menu, then click Sort Sheet. (as seen below)
    gclassfolders_6
  7. You will be prompted to verify your intent to run the script (as seen below).  Click OK to continue.
    Note:  This is a 3rd party script (not made by Google) and requires you to grant it access to make folders in your drive.  This window is making sure you understand that.  I have run this script several times and it is widely used by teachers across the county.  I feel comfortable running this script personally, but you should read this and make sure you feel comfortable before proceeding.
    gclassfolders_7new
  8. You will receive a message stating “Now you can run the script” (as seen below).  Click Close.
    gclassfolders_7b
  9. Because the script wasn’t authorized when you clicked “Sort Sheet” the first time, the original action never completed.  Now that the script has been authorized to run, once again click the gClassFolders menu, then click Sort Sheet.
  10. A small yellow banner will show up near the top of the screen to inform you that the script is running, then again when the script has finished (as seen below).
    gclassfolders_8
  11. Now that the information has been sorted (if any sorting was necessary), click the gClassFolders menu, then click Create Folders and Shares (as seen below).
    gclassfolders_9a
  12. You should see another yellow banner informing you that the script is running (as seen below).
    gclassfolders_10
    Note: This step will take longer than the sort script.
  13. When complete, you should see a popup box (as seen below) informing you that the folders are now shared with your students.  Click OK.
    gclassfolders_11
  14. You’ll then see a final banner notifying you that the script is complete (as seen below).
    gclassfolders_12

That’s it!  You’ve successfully set up “Share” and “Edit” folders for each class you specified, as well as student dropboxes for each student, separated by period.

Understanding What You’ve Created

gclassfolders_13

In your drive, you’ll find a folder named after each class.  Using my example, I have one folder called “Google Drive”.  Each folder will contain three sub-folders:

  1. Student Dropboxes – this folder will contain a sub-folder for each period you specified (if used).  Each period will contain a folder named after each student.  Students will be able to put items into this folder on their drive, and you’ll be able to see and edit those items when you access this folder from your drive.
  2. (class name) – View – All members of the class will have view level permissions to this folder.  This where you would place your syllabus and “hand out” type materials.  Anything you move into this folder (or create in this folder) will be instantly viewable by all the students in your class.
    Note: Remember, if you elected to separate your classes using periods, all students from all periods of a given class have access to this folder.
  3. (class name) – Edit – Anything in this folder will be editable by all members of the class.  This folder was created to facilitate group work, however I would recommend avoiding the use of it in our setting.  Every student in your class (or all your periods of the same class if you are using periods) will be able to edit any item in this folder.  If you don’t foresee a need for this folder, you can simply delete it.  It will no longer show up in your students’ drives.  To delete it, drag it to the trash as seen below.
    Note: If you don’t see “Trash” as one of the options on the left side of your drive, click the More link at the bottom.  This will expand the items in this column to include the trash.
    gclassfolders_14

star_smallTip: I’d suggest using these folders to facilitate your own organization of your information for each class.  In my example, I could put all my items related to my “Google Drive” class in my “Google Drive” folder.  I could even make additional folders to organize my things (handout folder, assignment folder, etc.).  As long as the information isn’t in one of sub-folders created by gClassFolders, the items will be private to you.  You can take a file from this parent directory and move it into the “View” folder for that class on as-needed basis.  The students will instantly have access to the information.  Then move the item back to your private folder when you don’t want them to have access to it anymore.  You can update the files as necessary, using the same process to “hand out” the information the following semester.   This allows you to stay organized in a per-class manner without having to maintain two separate folder structures for your classes.

Training Your Students

Students will automatically have access to their dropbox folder, as well as the “View” and “Edit” (if you decided to keep it) folders for the class to which they are assigned.  These items will show up under “Shared with me” in their Google Drive automatically.

To allow for easy access to these items, I suggest instructing your students to do the following:

  1. Go to their Google Drive.
  2. Create a new folder by clicking the CREATE button, then clicking Folder (as seen below).
    gclassfolders_15
  3. Type a name for the folder, then click Create (as seen below).  In my example, I’ll use “Google Drive” since that is what the class is called.
    gclassfolders_16
    Note: Have them name this folder in a way that is most easily identifiable with this class for them.  This could be by subject, period, teacher name; every student could use something different – this name only serves their own organization of their drive.
  4. Click Shared With Me (in the left column of the drive interface).  This will display items that have been shared with them (like the folders you made for your class) in the right column of the drive interface (as seen below).
    gclassfolders_17b
    Note: On the left side of the drive interface, they may need to expand the “My Drive” item.  If expanded, the small arrow to the left of “My Drive” will be pointing downward  and the folder they just created will be listed.  If not expanded,  they should click the arrow expand their drive (as seen above).
  5. They should then drag and drop each of the folders that were created by you using gClassFolders (their dropbox, the class “Edit” folder, and the class “View” folder if you elected to use it) from the right side of the drive interface, onto the folder they just created on the left side of the interface (as seen below).
    gclassfolders_17

Each student will now have a folder that corresponds to your class located directly in their drive.  They won’t need to scroll through “Shared with me” each time to access these items.  In addition, they can put their work for your class in the folder they created themselves (the one they dragged the other folders into), applying the same organizational tip to their work that I provided above to you.  You, as the teacher, won’t be able to access any of their items unless they put them in the dropbox; they have an organized space to store their work for your class until it is ready to be submitted, and to archive it after it is complete.

Finally you’ll need to lay out your expectations of them.  They’ll need to know that when you say “I put it in the view folder” that they can simply log onto their drive from any device and view the item or items you’ve put there.  In the scenario where they are handing things into you, you’ll need to give them the expectation that they need to have their submission in their dropbox by a certain date and time.  You can then easily traverse the dropboxes by class, then by period, then by student to evaluate and grade their submissions.

That’s it for gClassFolders!  Please leave a reply below or stop by and see me if you have questions or need clarification with any of the concepts discussed here.

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