There are hundreds of ways you can use google apps in the classroom to enhance instruction. Google has built multiple apps that are not only useful as productivity applications, google apps can also be used as learning applications to help you disseminate information. It’s entirely possible you are using Gmail for your own personal email or perhaps your entire organization uses it if you have signed up as Google Apps for Education account. Google is all about giving you tools to find information and really that is all education is. You teach students math or English or the history of the world, but the most efficient teachers not only disseminates information, but they teach the students to teach themselves.
In this age of information and how technology changes at an ever increasing rate, being able to self-teach is going to be more and more crucial to the success of individuals. So why not use Google to help instill these skills in students.
Using Google Apps in the Classroom
Teaching Search Skills
If you ask Google the correct phrase, then you have a high chance of immediately finding an answer to your question. This has become the norm to just Google It. It has become a household term and everyone understands what you mean when you say that phrase. This is a lot different than having to go to the library and go over hundreds of card catalog records, then go and find a book you think may have your answer, only to find it does not and you must start again. Some educators do not want students to search as they are afraid they may cheat but guess what they are searching for the answers anyway. After all, what is more important, memorizing all these facts or just knowing how to find the answer?
You can search for so much more than just articles, there is a wide array of Google Apps, that will allow you to search for just about anything, from images, to specific types of files. Just about everyone knows how to find images through Google Image search, but did you know each search type has an advanced search where you can narrow down to specific file types. You can get to the advanced search by clicking on the gear icon on the Google home page. Google advanced search lets you narrow your search and teaches students to use all the features to make their search activities more efficient. Google is a great search engine, but the more specific you can get with your search terms the better answer it will provide.
Using Google Advanced Search in the Classroom:
As you can see this search box is much more useful than the standard Google search box and can let you narrow your search to only relevant websites. Notice the language option; that function could be helpful in a Spanish class to get students to find articles written in a language such as Spanish. This brings us to another useful Google app for the classroom.
Google Translate – Google translate has single handly made the world a smaller place. Students are no longer constrained by information that may not be available in their native language but can consume information in almost 100 different languages. Now while not all languages translated with Google translate will be 100 percent accurate its is pretty good. You could create an assignment where your students search for a specific topic in another language and then use translate to convert to English or convert from English. Then have the assignment for the student to correct any errors. There are a hundred other ways you could use Google Translate in your classroom, it just requires a little imagination.
Google Earth – Google Earth is probably one of the coolest applications to come out of Google labs. There is really no explanation needed on how to use, Google earth in a classroom. You can search by latitude or by city, country and a slew of keywords. You can literally bring the globe to your students with a click of the mouse. I’ve personally spent hours searching around the world and then zooming in to see what a particular part of the world may look like. For example, take a look at the Google earth image of the Great Pyramid below. In just a couple of minutes, we have a real picture of this beautiful landmark and also have thumbnails to expand our search to other landmarks on the Gaza plateau.
Using Google Earth in the Classroom
This is a much better image than you would get out of any textbook and will stimulate conversation in a method not possible before this Google App was available for you to use in your teaching endeavors. This is just one way you can use these Google apps in the classroom.
Google News – Google News is a great app to use for teaching Civics or critical thinking. Google News aggregates all of the primary news sources from the planet in one interface. Google News also incorporates more news sources than one may consider the main line media and provides news stories from smaller organizations, which provides a more robust point of view than someone may get from only following something such as Fox News. It’s always important to teach students to think critically when consuming news information and having a vast array of sources can only help that understanding.
Google Goggles – This is a cool little educational application that is only available for Android devices. It allows you to take a picture of just about anything with an Android device and then Goggles will perform an image search. this application has not caught on as well as I thought it might, but its very cool. You can spend hours just playing with it and not really getting any work done. Where this is useful is on field trips where a particular flower or animal may not be known to the students. They can use this application to figure it out on their own. This helps teach them to overcome obstacles on their own with the use fo Google apps.
Google Books – No article on how to use Google apps in the classroom will be complete without mentioning Google books. Google has amassed millions of full-text books online that is searchable. This would have come in really handy on all those days spent looking through the card catalog while writing research papers. Some of these books do still have copyright and as such must be purchased, but many are free, especially the older classics that would be of most use to educational term papers anyway.
Google Scholar – Speaking of research papers, Google Scholar is another great resource for research. This is a collection of scholarly articles. Depending on the grade level, some of these items may be too advanced, but for college-level research papers, this is a great application that students can use to find information classified as scholarly research.
These are just a few of the search type tools that can be used in educational classrooms and allow you to instill a deeper understanding on just about any topic required. There is also a wide array of productivity type applications you can have your students use to create the assignments they used the search tools to find out about. These Google productivity applications are all included in the Google classroom suite, but they are still useful if you do not have GAFE account your educational institution.
Google Apps for Productivity in Education
Google has a robust set of applications that can be used in your classroom for productivity. There is a full document management suite that will pretty much allow students to perform many of the same tasks as could be accomplished with the Microsoft Office suite, but the vast part about these applications is they do not cost hundreds of dollars but are free technology for educators. All you need is a Google account. In my opinion, these are some of the most useful Google Apps you can use in your classroom. Or actually just as your own document management applications. While these may not have all the features of office 365 full Microsoft office suite, they are very close and really very useful.
- Google Drive – Google Drive is pretty much the hub of the Google apps suite. Its comes free with 2 gigabytes of storage, but you can purchase additional space if required. For most people, two gigs are plenty of space, which means you can store a lot of documents in the cloud and access them from any location where you have an internet connection. Google drive also has a desktop application that you can create documents offline and then have the sync with the cloud once you have an internet connection.
- Google Docs – Google Docs can be used in your classroom, not only to create handouts for your students, but you can share the documents and they will appear in the student’s Google Drive accounts automatically. You can share a single document or an entire folder full of papers in a single click. This is a very robust word processing system and will provide great functionality fo most word processing requirements.
- Google Sheets – Google Sheets offers much of the same functionality as Microsoft Excel. You can create spreadsheets that would allow students to create sample business type activities such as a ledger. There are many of the same functions as available in Microsoft’s Excel and for most basic tasks it works very well. You can also combine sheets with Google Forms and create a system that can be used to teach the basic system for managing finances. This application can be used in your business classroom or finance. Just about any application where spreadsheet type data needs to be captured will work with Google sheets. While it does not have some of the more advanced statistical mathematical formulas built in, you can write your own scripts to extend its functionality.
- Google Forms – This is one of the most useful tools in the Google Apps for education suite. You can build forms to capture almost any information required. A lot of people use google forms in the classroom as a survey type tool, but it’s also useful for creating tests or having students submit assignments. This application is really only limited by your imagination for capturing data from your students as they complete assignments. Like sheets, you can write scripts to increase the functionality of this educational application.
- Google Calendar – As the name suggests this is a calendar application that you can use to keep track of assignment due dates or other important dates. Like the other Google Apps, you can share calendars, between multiple people. One way to use this in your classroom is to create a calendar for each class and then share with all your students.
Social Media Applications in the Classroom
If you have read very much of this blog, you should know we are of the opinion that there is a critical role for social media in education. The entire world has gone social with the popular social networks such as Facebook, but Google has not been left behind. Google has had several failed attempts at creating a social media network but they keep trying and these can be useful as an educational tool.
- Google Plus – Google Plus is the last and greatest attempt Google has made with creating a social platform. While it’s not as popular as they once dreamed, it’s still a major player in the arena with millions of active users. Google plus encourages social interaction and you can use this in your classroom to promote teamwork. Users can create a profile and share information of interest to their followers. This can help increase interaction between students. They recently released a feature of Google Plus termed collections. One useful purpose for Google Collections is a curation tool. Students can create Collections around particular topics and then share links to those resources. This could also be used as a blogging type platform where students not only post links to interesting content, but they can add their own unique perspective. This will roll up many of the skills required for students to become critical thinkers and hopefully become lifelong learners.
- Google Blogger – Blogger is a blog publishing platform that has grown in features over the years. You can use blogger in the classroom to teach your students how to publish their own works. This can be in the form of assignments on a particular subject or a personal diary for each student. You can either create a blog for your class or have each student create their own blog. Having them set up their own blog may help them continue to write in the blog even after final grades have rolled and assist them to continue to improve their writing skills.
Learning Management System with Google Apps
Many of the applications listed above are a part of the Google Apps for Education suite or GAFE. Google has demonstrated many times they are dedicated to improving knowledge throughout the world and GAFE is one of those commitments. Schools can create a full-fledged learning management system, using Google apps for education. The LMS they have created is termed Google Classroom. You can use the Google Classroom application to create free online courses for your students. Google classroom uses all of the productivity tools listed above and pulls them together into a single interface that educators can use to deliver online instruction to their students. Many educational institutions are using this platform to replace expensive online learning management systems such as Blackboard. This educator suite can perform many of the same functions at a fraction of the cost of other learning management systems. There is even fabulous free Google Apps training for the suite. Educators can take advantage of this free online training to even become a certified Google Apps administrator or Google certified specialist. To use Google Classroom, you do need to obtain a google education account at your institution.
These are just a few of the ways you can use google apps in the classroom. Google has created a fabulous collection of tools educators can use to enhance their educational offerings and the best part is they are free to use. This is very attractive in these days of ever-shrinking budgets and educators increasingly expected to do more with less. While there is a little learning curve with some of these educational applications there are also many free training resources for teachers to get the most out of them. You just need to dedicate a little time to learning the tools.
This list of ways to use Google apps for education in the classroom is far from completed. The way these applications can be used in education is only limited by your imagination, and if you search Google, you can find many other ways to incorporate in your methodology. These are just some of the ways you can use Google apps in the classroom. We will leave you with some other resources on how to use Google applications in your syllabus.