Web2 course M3: Google Apps

This is a reflection post as part of a Professional Development course our school is undertaking.

In this module, participants were introduced to Google Apps. I have been a “googly user” for some time now and began experimenting with Google Docs several years back when it was still in beta stage. It was slow, clunky and full of bugs. It was picky with some browsers, and didn’t work well on Android (back then version 2.2).

What a difference a few years makes. I was really impressed last year when I started to have a serious play with Google Drive, a cloud storage solution closely integrated with Google Apps. I have found the experience much improved now, across browsers and devices, from PC to mobile.

The advantages for using Google Apps in the classroom are many:

  • could potentially save money on server hardware, as files are not stored at school.
  • could potentially save money on software licencing, if going “completely google” and not paying for a microsoft licence.
  • files are accessible anytime, anywhere.
  • files are accessible across devices.
While these are all amazing advantages to have, it does come with its caveats:
  • a reliance on bandwidth to access the cloud,
  • doesn’t completely replicate the Microsoft Office experience, however most common tasks can be achieved.

Since Google Drive became a much more robust experience, I started to experiment with some uses of Google Apps with my students. Not satisfied, I wished to pursue more development in this area. In 2012, Mike Reading worked with our school to introduce us to the many possibilities of using Google in education (check our his blog here). In January 2013, I attended the Google Apps For Education Summit in Sydney with a fellow colleague and was amazed at the services Google are now offering, and the way in which educators are incorporating them into teaching and learning. It is good to see Google has finally stepped up their game in the field of education; I think they have been relatively quiet for some time on this front.

Below are a few resources that I have found extremely valuable in my professional development in using Google Apps:

https://sites.google.com/site/amslerclassroom/Home – Guide to using Google Sites
http://learn.googleapps.com/ – educational guide to Google apps
https://sites.google.com/a/googleapps.com/k12-guide-to-going-google/ – guide to going google
http://www.google.com/edu/ – Google in education

Here are a few examples of how I have managed to successfully use Google Apps with students:

  • Surveys – collecting basic data in forms from students and parents becomes super efficient
  • Feedback – collecting useful information for reflection from students post lesson with a simple form
  • Collaboration – creating a class document to gather input from all students
  • Script writing – using presentations and docs to create the script and backbone of our kidsnews program
  • Assessment – creating pre and post assessment instruments to inform teaching (we have done this really well in maths, and I will be presenting at the upcoming ICTEV13 in May on this topic)

With our 1:1 laptop program in year 5/6, there is further potential for Google Apps for teaching & learning. Currently we are linking our school domain with Google to enable access to Google Apps and provide a google education account for our students (any regular account requires users to be 13 years of age). Once this is complete, it would be good to get our teeth stuck into some further advancements with Google Apps:

  • E-portfolios – using sites to record learning
  • Calendar – for timetables, events and organisation
  • Blogger – student blogs to reflect on learning
  • Books – to store literature and reading material
  • Picassa – for storing images
  • Gmail – for more efficient email communication

The road ahead looks exciting!

How are you using Google Apps with your students?

2 thoughts on “Web2 course M3: Google Apps

  1. Hope you don’t mind me asking but why Google sites for eportfolios? Feedback helps us with feature developments.

    A lot of educators use blogs for student ePortolios. In your case you can use either Global2 or Google Sites for free. With Global2 you can connect your student blogs to My Class ( http://help.edublogs.org/user-guide/students-and-classes/ ) so you can easily manage them. So I am curious what added benefits using Google sites provides for ePortfolios vs using Global 2 blogs.

    Thanks!

    Sue Waters
    Edublogs Support Manager

  2. Don’t get me wrong Sue, I think Global2 would also be a viable option for eportfolios.

    The way we intend to use the eportfolio is more of an evidence based portfolio as opposed to a journal I suppose. For pure comments, reflection and dialogue, I think a blog (or b-portfolio) would be better.

    We envisage students would be building pages, collecting evidence and linking files rather than maintaining a blog.

    Also given that students will have google edu accounts, sites will integrate seamlessly into that, particuarly with content within drive. Not to mention that they won’t need an edublogs account.

    The option of tighter controls over sharing and privacy at the page level is also a bonus.

    In my eyes, Sites and Edublogs are 2 different platforms (both with their own pros and cons, but both suitable for portfolios). I guess it comes down to deciding what you want to achieve, true?

    Anthony.

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