A new tool designed to help teachers do less busy work and more teaching has educators wondering if this is the social learning platform they've been looking for.  

Google announced in a blog post on Tuesday, May 6, that a tool called Classroom is available by invitation only in Apps for Education. The company says Classroom will help teachers create and collect assignments, communicate better with students and stay organized.

Educators reacted on Google+ with enthusiasm, cautious optimism and a desire to see what it was really like. Chris Bell, the district coordinator of instructional technology for Saddleback Valley Unified School District in Southern California, said it looked pretty lightweight, but he was looking forward to trying it out. Chief Technology Officer Aaron Slutsky asked, "Is this the LMS [learning management system] I have been dreaming about? I sure hope so!"

Slutsky wondered if this could be the social learning platform that could help his North Carolina school district, McDowell County Schools. He has been searching for a social learning platform that combines a social network with teacher assignments, is designed for a blended environment and is easy to use.

Traditional learning management systems (LMS) don't cut it for K-12 schools because they're designed more for fully online classes, he said. They're complicated and don't integrate well with the tools that districts like his are already using.

Edmodo comes the closest to the type of social learning platform that Slutsky is looking for. And while it does integrate with Google, it can't integrate as deeply as Google can. That deep integration is important for his district, which uses Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education.

"I've been wanting Google to do an LMS for a long time that surrounded their tools, so I'm very interested to see their take on it and what it's going to look like," Slutsky said.

Google avoided the word "LMS" in its announcement, but its product appears to do some of the same tasks as existing learning management systems from companies including Blackboard, Desire2Learn and Moodle.

Schools can apply now to preview the tool and will be able to try it out in a month. By September, schools using Apps for Education will be able to access the tool as well.

This story was originally published by the Center for Digital Education

Tanya Roscorla  |  Managing Editor, CDE

Tanya Roscorla covers education technology in the classroom, behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Experimenting in the kitchen, cooking up cool crafts, reading good books.