Saturday, May 16, 2009

Top 10 Google Tools for Educators

Just when you think Google can't possibly come up with anything new, they do it again. I've recently run across some new things from Google (at least new to me) and was blown away yet again from the "wow" factor. I am very excited about a Google workshop that we will have at our school this summer with Google Certified Educator Thomas Cooper. Thinking about it all led me to create this list of Top Ten Google Tools for Educators. The hardest part of this was narrowing it down to ten and no, I don't work for Google. :-)

In Letterman style . . .

10. Google's Advanced Search feature is a must for any educator working with K-12 students. We try to teach our students to use this feature so that they can stay safe while searching.

9. Google Reader - I don't know how I would keep up with the exploding amounts of information if it weren't for Google Reader. Oftentimes, I am at different computers during the day and Google Reader allows me the flexibility to be on any machine at any given time.

8. Google Sites - There are many uses for google sites including eportfolios and collaborative projects. This part of Google seems to be evolving almost daily. I've seen more and more features and functionality added to this over the past year.

7. Google's Wonder Wheel - This is an incredible way to search for the visual learners in the group. Basically, when you go to, put in a search term. Then click on "show options." Click on Wonder Wheel. You will see nodes that can help you to determine which section of the search you want to explore.

6. Google Presentations - This is a great way for kids to work in groups on projects and not have the stress on parents that carting them everywhere creates. Each child can be in the family room of their own home, on their own computer and working together as a group in the presentations part of Google Docs. You can even start a presentation in power point and upload to Google presentations for refinement. Right now, Google presentations seems to only take .ppt files so be sure you and your students are saving Office 2007 or better files to the 97-2003 format.

5. Google Calendars - Google's calendar allows you to set up different calendars for different things. You can view all of the events from all of your calendars simultaneously and they will be color-coded. (Another plus for those visual learners.) Teachers can manage assignments for different classes and publish the calendar so students and parents can see it. You can even invite people as collaborators on your calendar so that all can input events and tasks as well. This makes a great project calendar. Read this blog entry by a teacher who is using Google Calendar for his lesson planning.

4. Google Maps - When I first heard the term "mashup," I must admit I didn't quite get the concept. Then I ran across this blog post by Jeffrey Branzburg titled Use Google Maps Mashups in K-12 Education. I recommend you read his entire post but the gist of it is that you can add data to Google Maps to make them transform from static to fantastic. There are models for us on this. For instance, the Google Planimeter site allows you to click at least 3 points on the map and it computes the area of the region for you. Interesting!

3. Google Earth - Hall Davidson from the Discovery Educator Network says this about Google Earth, "It has been a long time since a technology application got the eye-popping reaction from teachers that Google Earth gets." Google Earth allows you to plot points on a virtual globe and add information such as links to documents, descriptions, images and even videos. One great application of the use of Google Earth in K-12 education is the Google Lit Trips project. More books are being added to the Google Lit Trips and you can even create your own to submit for consideration. Another example is the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's "Crisis in Darfur." This is a great tool for developing global citizens. **Be aware that Google Earth has some functions that if not used wisely will eat up bandwidth. When using Google Earth with students, it is advisable to set ground rules so you don't crash your school's network.

2. Google Docs and Spreadsheets - Our school has really started to use Google Docs for very creative uses. We use the spreadsheets to manage sign ups for gatherings such as parent information meetings and professional development classes. Additionally, teachers who teach the same prep in high school and junior high have used Google Docs to collaborate on lesson plans. Some teachers are planning to use this to help them manage parent contact information at the beginning of this coming school year. You can upload existing documents and spreadsheets and you can download finished versions of the same. When uploading, be sure to convert the file formats to the Office 97-2003 formats. (.doc and .xls)

1. Google Forms - Ok, I know this is part of the Google Docs app but in my book it deserves a separate mention. Google forms is slowly transforming the way we gather information at our school. Because you can easily create a form and the google docs app automatically creates the spreadsheet it dumps into, it has incredible potential for K-12 education. Imagine starting a new unit with your class and needing to quickly and easily assess where the students are. The teacher can pose some questions on a google form. Now, the teacher can discuss the overall results with the students and begin a discussion on why the survey worked out that way. This can lead to developing anticipatory set for the new concept/topic. Read more ideas on how Google Forms can have an impact on student learning at the blog post titled, "Google Forms Create Great Learning Results." Adding to the "wow" factor of Google Forms is the addition of "themes" that make the forms more attractive.

I would love to hear what others think about the Google Tools.

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