Tuesday, September 29, 2009

True Life: Google Saved My Life

I want to start this post off by saying that before May 2009, I had no clue that Google had a documents side, or even an application side. I thought Google was a search engine and a place for me to check my email, that's it. In five short months, I have been saved by Google thanks to @ejulez. She showed me the light.

I wanted to dedicate this post to how Google saved my life and what applications I use on a (somewhat) daily basis in my classroom. Some of the following topics are things I have not actually implemented, but either have seen it work or plan on making it work.

Gmail: Students in one of my classes (read: it's about slow integration) are required to have a Gmail account. I don't use it so much for the email aspect, but I do believe every student should have an appropriate email account (something that includes their name in it, etc) as they prepare to apply for jobs and colleges, so I require them to have one in order to communicate. Personally, I have four Gmail accounts - my personal, my school, my swim team and my BETA club. I can sort them and keep them separate.

Google Calendar: Embedded in my wiki is a Google Calendar. Each day, I update it with their homework assignment(s) and sections covered for the day. This way, they have no excuse for not knowing what we covered that day because it's always on the calendar.

Google Sites: I have created a Google site for my SAT Prep Course. It has become their SAT Study Guide. On the days before tests, we go into the lab and they edit their study guide. They transfer their notes into the wiki for them to study from and enhance understanding. Through this, they have learned how to type math and communicate their notes via typing. It's been a struggle, but beneficial. My big goal was to have a final place for them to visit when they prepare for the actual SAT. I plan on having one for my PreCal class as their main class webpage (instead of my wiki on Wikispaces above). Google Sites can be made private or public which keeps your students protected.

Google Photos/Picasa: Picasa offers you a place to store all photos. While you may just want this on a personal basis, it does have collaborative effort to it, where multiple people can share an album and upload to the album. Students could upload images or work to Picasa for your viewing and so they would have it at school for use. Just like facebook, you can tag photos. You can also create collages and slideshows.

Google Reader: I use Google Reader, not so much in my classroom, but as a professional development use. It tracks blogs that I follow and other RSS feeds in a one-stop shop.

Google Groups:
I have not used Google Groups, however, I have sat in on a training (by @ejulez) about Google Groups and think they have lots of potential. You can make them public or private to keep students protected. Students can have pages to themselves, you can post assignments. There is a discussion board. You can send out mass emails via a group. You can post homework answers, collect homework answers. It's a great common meeting place. And, because it emails out for every update, it's easy to monitor from a teacher standpoint.

Google Talk:
You could use GChat in a variety of ways. I use it for professional development to discuss and bounce ideas off other educators. You could also create a back channel for students to talk and discuss projects, homework, anything. It allows an easy way to ask questions and get answers from anywhere. I hope that perhaps I can stay logged into GChat in the evenings to help students with homework questions.

Google Books:
It is completely shocking (and amazing) to me that Google has all these full texts (for free) in Google Books. Check out this SAT Workbook, for example. It is a full text SAT help guide. FOR FREE! Students can search through this and find books they can't get in libraries, look for help with a research paper or just find a good book or magazine to read. Teachers can use this as a professional development guide.

We talk about all the applications, but we sometimes forget about great Google is. You can search for images, videos, maps, news, and so much more. What an amazing resource for your students to have at their finger tips. Yes, they may search inappropriately. Yes, they may find inappropriate stuff. But, as a teacher, let them know your expectations and how to handle inappropriate stuff. It'll be OKAY! Allow your students to use its wealth of knowledge. And, you, as a teacher, can benefit it. I have found some great lesson plans, worksheets and project ideas by googling ideas. Do it. I dare you.

Google Earth:
What another great resource to have at your fingertips. Allowing students to see a map, satellite or terrain view of anywhere in the Earth (and Mars!) is unbelievable. Allow them to plan a trip. Teach them to use the scale. Calculate gas mileage. Calculate proportions. Research longitude and latitude. Research locations and landmarks. Research terrain. The possibilities are endless.

Google Documents: Okay, google docs are my baby. I use them and abuse them and they have made my life so much easier. If my students had laptops, I would be a paperless classroom due to google documents. I started off the year by collecting student information via a google doc form (Students & Parents). The information goes directly into a spreadsheet (I'd link to it, but there is a lot of personal info there, I'll show one later) for your access via web. Nice, easy, spreadsheet. Each weekend, my Algebra II students have a weekend assignment (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5). Their answers go into a spreadsheet. I color code incorrect answers and grade accordingly. I also collect results from students via a google doc form. Two weeks ago, they were working on the iPods, so they submitted their results here. The results looks like this. I am also using a google doc form to collect service hours for my BETA Club. Why both having a paper log, when you can do this? Also, in my classroom, I use a similar form to collect embed codes so I can embed their review projects onto the wiki. Back to my BETA Club stuff. I have a google spreadsheet (I can't share b/c of the personal names of students), where I can keep track of who has turned in what and store email addresses and t-shirt sizes. The best part of this is that I can share the document with my co-sponsor and we can both edit it and have up-to-date copies without emailing back and forth. Not to mention, I don't have to have my thumb drive to edit it! I use the google document (read: Microsoft Word in Google) to write out instructions for projects. I will be using this document on Thursday (if you are reading this Tuesday or Wednesday, the document is there, but not complete). All I have to do it share the document with the students, they can open it up and read the directions. No copies necessary! Lastly, a colleguge and myself wanted to create a presentation to express the importance of community service. We don't have a lot of physical time to meet, so we did it via Google Docs. We created a presentation, shared it with each other and edited it simultaneously. I could watch her type and see what she was changing and adding. Also, you can directly embed YouTube videos into these presentations and play them directly in the presentation without having to travel to the YouTube website! Here is an example of a spreadsheet used by all educators on Twitter. They have stored their information, so you can find great people to follow. And, lastly, yes, I have even tested via a google form. Head over to documents.google.com and watch the Love Letter video. Not only is it hilarious, you will see the POWER of collaboration via Google Docs.

Are you intrigued? Open up your Gmail and in the top menu bar, click More, then Even More to see all that Google has to offer!

Don't know where to start? Ask me! I would LOVE to show you how to do it!


  1. Great post, Ann! I do several of these same things, but this is a beautiful summary of it all - this post must have taken you some time!

  2. Thanks @kscritch! I haven't heard from you in a while! Hope all is going well! It did take me a while, but it was very easy because I am already implementing most of it!

    I just about shreiked at your 2:25AM timestamp! Then, remembered you're in CA! :)

  3. I haven't had that Google saved my life moment yet, but there were instances at training sessions when we've had to open word files on computers without the latest version of office. We downloaded but couldn't install the compatibility pack to open word 2007 files in word 2003. I looked for online free converter sites before I realized that I could open it in google documents. I guess Google helped make our training possible.

    Great post and link to resources!