There are a boatload of awesome Google tools that we use every day. And they’re free, too, which tends to be a big winner for teachers and students. Free is probably the number one reason for giving Google’s tools a try – you haven’t lost anything but a bit of time if you decide you don’t like the tool.
All of the tools also integrate well with one another, have similar user interfaces, and are pretty darned easy to use, so if you can use one, you’re sure to feel right at home using many of the other tools, too. While Google’s search may be their ubiquitous tool, there are a lot of others that you may have not heard about yet.
Keep reading to learn about the tools and some ideas to use them in your classroom.
For use within Google Drive documents, you can now record audio comments and share them with other users. Teachers can record comments to share with students regarding their work, students can share audio comments for peer reviews, and in the professional development arena, teachers can collaborate on documents with an more in depth explanation when necessary. Audio comments can allow the reader/listener to understand intonation and other things that are sometimes lost in written conversation.
Write Space is an installable extension for Google Chrome and derived web-browsers. It is a minimalist, full-screen text-editor that aims to be simple and distraction-free, yet customizable to suit the user’s preferences. This is one of those great tools for those who need a digital environment free of the distractions typical of the web (click click click click – wait, what was I doing, again?) Simple to use, free, and your work saves regularly with an autosave function to your local hard drive. This one would admittedly be better if it could automatically sync with your Google Docs so that you wouldn’t have to manually save them there to access your work from anywhere, but maybe that is in the pipeline.
Research tool is a function designed to make it easy to add information from the web to your documents and presentations (in Drive). Basically, it adds a search bar into the sidebar of your document, and you can use it to search the web for specific types of information related to what you’re working on. It even offers suggestions based on what you’re writing about (or you can perform your own search, too). A preview function allows you to preview search results, you can easily insert information (clippings, images, etc) right into your document, and it also offers a “cite” function so that you don’t lazily “forget” where you got your information from. A great resource for students writing papers.
Google Forms allows users to create surveys. Whether your students are doing research projects or you’re polling the students in your class for assessment, as a collective brainstorming tool or just for fun, it is simple to use and allows easy export of your data to spreadsheets for your analyzing and calculating pleasure.
Google Moderator allows users to create a meaningful conversation from many different people’s questions, ideas, and suggestions. A user can ask a series of questions (specific or open ended) and allow other users (anyone) to respond to the questions, ask follow up questions, or contribute an anecdote or opinion to the discussion. You can create your own questions, allow users to answer via YouTube video, vote on the questions, and more. It could be a great tool for student projects that require qualitative data or opinion polls, for asking other teachers questions about professional development/ experiences with technology, etc, or for non-academic school and district wide discussions. As an example, the moderator function was used during the last presidential elections. 20,441 people submitted, 3,076 questions and cast 321,432 votes – that’s a big dialogue happening!
Google’s Image search is awesome. If you’re looking for a picture, piece of art, or something else similar to something you see, you can upload/take a photo and search via that, rather than typing in a silly description “photo of a girl playing in grass”. This is exceptional for when you’re looking for something really specific that you don’t know the name of, or you’d have to make a really long-winded description with words to find it.
Google Templates has a whole section devoted to students and teachers, housing a ton of templates for syllabi, schedules, rubrics, lesson plans, presentations, and more. You can share your own templates for these things and more, and leverage the existing content if you’re short on time or creativity.