Let's be honest, who hasn't at least heard of "Boo"gle... er... Google Apps? Most everyone has heard of them, but do we all know the powerful potential for enriching education that they bring to our classrooms? Let's begin with what Google Apps are, a suite of communication and collaboration tools, or apps, developed by Google. They are accessible through any web browser connected to the Internet and store the information created by the apps within the "cloud." There are tons of apps available in the suite including the one we're using right now (Blogger), but for this post let's contrain our discussion to the five main apps in the suite which are Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs, Groups, and Sites. Other tools in the suite will be discussed in future posts.
Here are some places to start your foray into Google Apps:
- Create an Account (for anyone that doesn't have a Google account already.)
- EVSC Google Apps Login (All EVSC teachers have an evsck12.com account.)
- Gmail Login (if you are a Google Apps for Education user you will need to use your full email address to login)
COLLABORATION AND SYNCINGSince all of you will undoubtedly share a plethora of terrific ideas for using Google Apps in the classroom, I thought that I would comment on two of the most basic and important features of Google Apps, namely the ability to collaborate and stay in sync. With regard to collaboration, what Google Apps has accomplished is a paradigm shift from the solitary or one person focused work of crafting documents to a new paradigm of collaborative creation and review. Now up to 200 people can view my documents simultaneously. (It would have taken me a long time to print and share that many copies under the old paradigm!) What's more, up to 50 people can edit that same document simultaneously, a feat that simply could not have been accomplished previously.
What this means is that the document creation software that many of us grew up with is no longer the best tool for document creation anymore. In our classrooms this means that students can work in groups and everyone can be in the document creating and editing at the same time. Documents can be shared instantly with groups of people, and those people can interact with my creation easily and efficiently. Notes no longer have to be individual; with Google Docs a master set of class notes could be made simultaneously by the entire class. It could also contain pictures, videos and links to supplement the ideas and content presented in class. I'm sure all of you will share some of your ideas on how to use the collaboration features of Google Apps in the comments - the possibilities are tremendous, especially when you add Calendar, Groups and other apps to the mix!
We can take this idea of collaboration beyond the classroom however. Imagine creating your common assessments with Google Docs. Now everyone has the most current edition and editing can be a collaborative experience. One common set of PLC notes can be kept in sync between all members and shared with administrators who can view the notes when they choose. Data collection can be accomplished with Forms and everyone can have instant access to the results. These are just a few ideas - share yours!
My other favorite feature of Google Docs is the ability to stay in sync. I'm sure that just like me you have multiple computers on which you work. When you add in laptops, tablets and smart phones it means that there are a lot places that document I need right now could be saved other than the device currently in front of me. With Google Apps my work is stored in the cloud, and the most up-to-date version of everything is available on all of my devices. With the new Google Drive I can also have access when there is no Internet connection. Everything in my Drive is synced to my computer and editable in the Chrome browser, even when there is no Internet available. What a great feature for those students without a dedicated Internet connection at home. Now they can have the collaboration when connected, but retain the ability to edit and create when accessing the Internet isn't feasible.
Thoughts On Sharing...
by Jerrad Gleim
- Sharing is simple and you can do it while you're working on the document or from your Docs list. Simply push the Share button at the top of your screen and start typing in the names of people you want to share. You can set their rights to Editor, Comments Only, or View Only. Google Docs will even send them an email letting them know the document is being shared to them. It's that easy!
- Are you worried about people accidentally deleting information? Google Docs has Revision History so you can always restore the document to a previous date and time.
- As you're editing a document, you are able to see a list of individuals who are viewing/editing the document at that moment. The user list also has a chat feature so you can communicate live while you work.
- Did you create a document, spreadsheet, or presentation using another program? No problem. Upload it to Google Docs and then share it.
- Do you want to share the information in a doc on a web page? No problem. Google Docs can help you to share a web link with users and even allow you to embed the doc in another website so as the document changes, the website stays up to date.
- What Software is on the Netbook? - http://www.evscicats.com/elearning/netbook-programs.html
- Google Tools Class - Online class that teaches you the basics of Google Apps. Have option at the end to receive certificate for completing the PD.
- Flubaroo - An assessment tool that you can use with Spreadsheets - very useful when you have kids fill out a survey form.
- Google Apps for Education Lesson Plans
- Google Apps Education Training Center
- Google Apps Learning Center for Users
- Google Apps Tips and Tricks
- Quick Reference Sheets and User Help Center
If you use Google Apps already what impact has it had on your classroom? How can you further extend the use of Apps to engage your students and enrich your curriculum? If you do not use Google Apps presently, in what ways might you envision it being used? For everyone, how could Google Apps make things easier for teachers? Consider not only your classroom but your department, building and district as well.