As a preface to this article I would like to remind everybody that nothing lasts forever, especially if you use it for free. Google’s termination of its popular Google Reader as part of some “spring cleaning” is once again a good reminder of how short-lived a service can be when the company has no idea for a business model or cannot make it work. In the case of Google Reader its lifetime was from 2005 to 2013.
That said, I do think that Google as a company definitely has many (other) interesting products in its portfolio. Products that can help educators, make their lives easier and improve learning.
So here are my five favorite Google for education products and Google apps and how to use them with your students:
Google for Education
I cannot stress the importance of YouTube enough. I have written about it for Fractus Learning in the past and YouTube is only going to become more important. Already now it is the second biggest search engine after google.com itself!
It’s the place where students already spend a lot of their time anyway, their natural habitat if you will. Why not make use of their interest for the platform and give them assignments based on watching educational or out-of-the-box content on your subject area.
You could also start your own YouTube channel, either as a class project or also with some teacher colleagues. Start curating interesting and educational videos and thus create playlists for the different subject areas and even for the entire school.
Check out the Fractus Learning “Flipped Classroom” Udemy course for more ideas!
2. Google Drive
I basically live on Google Drive. Essentially an online storage drive, the service lets you access files from anywhere, online and offline. Offline access is particularly useful, although these days I generally use Drive online as Internet access is becoming easier and easier.
Google Drive also allows you to collaborate in real-time with both colleagues and your class. It is also a nifty tool when you teach distance learners. You can use it to give students feedback on their essays or assign them to form study groups and let them work on group projects.
For your personal use Google Drive is of course one of the best places for cloud storage of documents, teaching materials and even curricula.
In my opinion the best, hassle-free tool to set up an online group meeting and conversation with your colleagues for professional exchange. Virtually no technical knowledge is required. For group discussions I have stopped using Skype and have now completely moved over to Google Hangouts.
Comparing the quality of hangouts with Skype, the audio quality especially when recording your hangout is a little weaker. But you do have the option for multiple videos and the chat function works well and naturally. You can also screenshare or play videos within the hangout if you think it will help the conversation.
If you also use Android phone it works like a charm! Great is the combination with Google Now when it tells you exactly when you have to leave for an appointment. It is a handy tool to reserve slots for your weekly hangouts with colleagues, block time slots for conferences, parents etc.
It’s also a good way to initiate students to managing their own projects and schedules.
My default email(s) and I have to say that nowadays I find a person using a gmail address more serious than one who still uses his Yahoo one (but this is my private opinion, not based on research or facts).
The spam filter works great and the storage space you get is basically impossible to fill up, even if you are a heavy email addict. It will allow your students to find pen pals all over the world and communicate in different languages.
So what are your favorite Google tools and why do you use them? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.
Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, Marcin Wichary.