Google’s no stranger to the education space. Teachers have been benefiting from the tools they create for years. Every time Google adds a new product or tool to their offerings, teachers get to work figuring out creative ways their students can benefit from it.
Whether or not you’ve been using Google tools in your classroom for years or are just now starting to consider their potential, a little inspiration never hurts. If you want to break outside of some of the obvious uses and give your students something fun and exciting to work on with Google, one of these ideas could do the trick.
Have them each identify an expert or professional on the subject of their choice and set up an interview with them over Google Hangouts. They’ll have to do some research to find the right person and you can give them tips for contacting their expert in a way that gets a response. That’s research skills and polite, formal communication taught in one lesson — and of course interviewing will be a very valuable skill for students to learn as well Read, Write Think offers a few excellent resources on developing interviewing skills to get your class started on writing interesting, incisive, relevant, and appropriate questions.
After their interview, have students write up a recap of what they learned from it. You can recommend they record their hangout to have as a reference (note: make it clear that they must get the permission of their interview subject to do so). Turning their interview into a story brings yet another skill into the assignment, and you can have them flex even more skills if you encourage them to explore a digital storytelling format.
Challenging students to create their own fictional business is a great way to get them thinking about economics and entrepreneurship. You can have them work up business plans, create a budget, and get them thinking about marketing.
Marketing any business in today’s economy requires a website, which is where Google Sites comes in. Students can practice crafting a design and writing copy that describes their business. You can introduce them to concepts like pay-per-click and SEO, and show them how to weigh the benefits of marketing costs against the business they may bring in.
Students will come away from the assignment with some hands-on practice in the skills of basic web design, a greater understanding of how web marketing works, a good sense of financial best practices, and a blend of analytical and creative writing skills. What’s more, you may just give them that spark they need to become an entrepreneur either now or in the future.
Everyone knows how to do a Google search, but the best searchers know a number of tips and tricks to generate better results from the search engine. SinceGoogle is the main resource most people turn to for research, students should learn sooner rather than later how to find the most authoritative results within it.
You can point students toward a list of those tips for better Google searches, but for them to really learn and start thinking to use them, they’ve got to put them into practice. So why not give them a scavenger hunt?
Create a list of subjects you want them to find resources about or questions you want them to find authoritative answers to and set them loose. Make it clear that certain resources will earn them more credit than others based on:
You can lengthen this list based on any other factors you know it would be valuable for them to learn.
One tricky thing you need to account for here is the possibility of Google turning up some sketchy sites. If you’re having students do the scavenger hunt in class, you can talk your class through the step of turning on the Safe Search filters before they get started. If it’s a take-home project, you can add those steps to the top of your assignment instructions. But you’ll just have to trust the kids in that case.
Google Maps can make it easy to identify important historical sites or other notable places and, with Google Street View, can even give students a glimpse into what they look like on the ground. Give your students a chance to play with the product’s features and research some new places by having them plan out a road trip.
Instruct your student to use Google Maps to help them pick their places based on a theme, like the homes of famous literary figures or the battles of the Civil War. Then have them do some research and write up a description of each place and what happened there. If you want to make it a little more creative, tell them to talk about it like a travel writer who has already visited. What did you learn on your tour of Mark Twain’s house? Or what were you thinking about as you stood in front of the White House?
For another interesting twist, have students check out and the reviews on Google to see what people who have actually been there say about their experiences. And they can pull pictures from Google Street View to add some images to their work and make it come alive.
Many students are visual learners, so including some assignments based around images in your class can be a boon to the students who struggle more with text. Google Drawing, one of the features of Google Drive, allows students to either create their own image or import an image they’ve found into the program.
Once the image is there, it’s possible to invite another user to add comments on it. This creates an opportunity for collaboration between students. You can pair students in the class up and tell each one to find or create an image related to the assignment’s subject, load it to Google Drawing, and share it with their partner.
The partner’s job is to do the research needed to identify the image and fill in some information on it using the text box. With one simple assignment, they get a taste of visual learning, collaboration, research, and writing.
Clearly this is just the tip of the iceberg for the possibilities Google tools bring to the classroom. If you and your students have any experience with creative projects involving Google tools, please share!