Technology in the classroom is all the rage; if your administration hasn’t tried to shove Google Apps for Education down your throat yet, that day is coming soon. But honestly, they aren’t that bad. Actually, some of them are pretty good – and the kids ahem……like them. For real.
So, if you’re in the midst of starting to course plan and would like to get your feet wet in some Google Apps, here are a few to try that my students (and I) really like. Not only do they enhance student work, but they also support teacher feedback and evaluation practices.
#1. Google Classroom:https://classroom.google.com/
If you’re going to try any Google app this year, try this one. In Google Classroom you can create a virtual ‘classroom’ for your students to enhance communication, engagement and organization. This app can also be used for teacher groups or extra curricular teams and clubs. I use it for my classrooms, but also my volleyball team and teacher PD groups.I’ve even used it as a means of communication for all my OSSLT writers. Essentially, you create a classroom, then ‘post’ information, attach documents, link websites, ask questions, post videos or even Google forms. For my classroom students, I basically create an online binder. Each day, I post an agenda and attach any/all handouts and link various websites or images relating to the topic. If I can, I’ll also post a video or online quiz, etc. to help with student engagement. This keeps everyone organized and trouble shoots the: “I lost my binder”; “I was away for five days – what did we do?”; “I’m going on vacation for a week, can I have a work package?” problems that we all deal with. Also, when your course is complete you can create a new classroom for the following year and re-uses posts which is great. Best of all, students can download the app to their home computer, phone, tablet etc. so there are never any excuses for incomplete homework!
#2. Google Docs:https://www.google.com/docs/about/
Google Docs is a fantastic word processing program that students (or teachers) can access from any computer with an Internet connection via their Google Drive. Best of all, this app allows students to create documents and ‘share’ them with their teachers or other students with Google Drive accounts. They can even allow their friends/teachers ‘editing’ privileges. The ability to access documents from any computer eliminates various issues teachers deal with regarding technology in the classroom : “The computer deleted my work”; “I left my flash drive at home”; “My word processing program isn’t compatible with your computer”, etc. Moreover, the sharing feature allows teachers to give real-time feedback to students via the comment feature or even suggest edits via the editing feature. This sharing option also works for peer feedback and editing. Some other cool features of the app include a voice to text option for special education students, as well as ‘add-ons’ that users can add to their app, such as: thesaurus, dictionary, spelling aids, research aids, editing support, works cited help, etc. Another really cool part of the app that my students love is the ‘Research’ tab under ‘Tools’. This allows students to search information, images, videos, etc. in a sidebar then insert information directly to their document. Overall, this app is a BIG step up from other word processing programs.
#3. Google Slides: https://www.google.ca/slides/about/
Google Slides is essentially a Powerpoint program, but one that shares many of the cool features of Google Docs. You can create a slide show and ‘share’ it with other Google Drive users so that they can view, comment or edit it. For student presentations, this means that students can work at their own homes, yet simultaneously create a single document – really cool, and very convenient for group work. Moreover, in terms of feedback, once the students have shared their work with you, you can also give them feedback in real-time, or anytime for that matter. Google Slides also has the ‘Research’ feature under “Tools” so users can easily search information, images, videos, etc. and insert them seamlessly into their slideshow. Finally, when it comes time to present you don’t need a computer, flash drive or need to worry about the slideshow opening on a different computer – you simply log into your Google Drive and present your work!
#4. Google Forms: https://www.google.ca/forms/about/
Google Forms are an app that both teachers and students can use for feedback, research or evaluation. Using the app, users can create a series of questions, using various formats (multiple choice, open answer, ranking, etc.) and share it with Google Drive users to answer. When all the responses are complete, the owner of the form can view them as well as the statistics of the answers. As a teacher, I’ve used this app as a online quiz for students, as a feedback survey for my courses, and as a method of tracking student self-evaluation. My students have used this app for gathering research about a ‘hot topic’ in school life (i.e. sports offered, cafeteria food, etc.). Another great feature of this app is that you can attach it to Google Classroom as a link, so your students can complete it as a pre or post lesson evaluation.
#5. Google Sites: https://apps.google.com/products/sites/
Finally, Google Sites is another app I’ve tried in my classroom. Essentially, this is an app that supports the easy creation of a website that can eventually be published to the web – if you so desire. Similar to other Google apps, you can ‘share’ your site with others, therefore if a teacher creates a site, students can access it, and as a teacher you can monitor the development of student work. Students can also work collaboratively in the creation of a website. The process of creating a site is very user-friendly, and one can even select pre-populated formats pertaining to a particular topic (i.e. a book review or classroom site). I don’t use a teacher website due to the fact that my Google Classroom site basically acts as my classroom website, but if I did, I would certainly use this program. My students have used this app to create websites for a variety of different types of projects: book reviews, year-end presentations, research sites, etc. and have given me positive reviews. So, if you’re looking for a way to engage students or offer them a different method of communication, make Google Sites an option!
Google Apps for Education are not only useful to both teachers and students, but they support many of the goals of 21st century education: collaboration, innovation and diversity. From the perspective of a teacher, I’ve found that using these apps have saved me time, engaged my students, provided opportunities for meaningful feedback and have spiced up my lessons. Take a risk and try them out this school year!
What Google Apps for Education do you use in your classroom? How do you use them? Leave your comments below!