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Whether you subscribe to some theorist's views on Google's dominance on the internet or not, it is hard to deny the fact that Google has changed the way we use the web. For the past few years, Google has been busy creating or buying applications that are completely web-based, but function as productivity tools just like those that run from your own computer. The only difference is that you can access them from just about any computer that has internet access.

Furthermore, Google has targeted teachers as a niche market, and has created a suite of applications just for educators. Let's take a quick look at their page to see what they have for us.

We will use this page to explore the functions of all of the applications below and how they can help us become better teachers in the classroom and more efficient users of the internet out of the classroom. To access these tools, we must first create a Google Account. In the resources section there is a step-by-step guide on how to do this, and we will walk you through this to start off the class.


Day One

Basic Search Tips

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iGoogle

A great place to start with Google is their custom home page, which they call iGoogle. Once you have created an account, you can customize your own Google start page. Here is mine:
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Each section is a different "widget" or "gadget" that you can customize to your liking. It allows you to access the material you most often use right from your start page.

Here is a video that will walk you through the steps of creating your own iGoogle page.



Classroom uses:
  • Create a page of relevant class materials that is constantly updated.
  • Use this page as a resource bank for your department by setting up a tab that is solely for department-based links.
  • Organize all of your favorite sites by linking to them off of this page.

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Notebook

Purpose: The goal of Notebook is to allow researchers to accurately annotate and track where they go on the web so that later on they can retrace their steps. The uses for this one, however, make themselves abundantly clear once you start using it. The best way to use this one, in my opinion, is to attach the Google Notebook add-on to the Mozilla Firefox browser. If you are not using Firefox, and are interested in doing so, please either see me or go to Mozilla's home page and download it for your home computer.

To illustrate the many reasons to use Google Notebook, we are going to link to Wesley Fryer's page on the uses of Google Notebook.

What does this do for us as educators? How does this translate into classroom (and out of classroom) application?
Feel free to add more as you see fit.
Check out this recent blog post about using Google Notebook. Or this one too!

And as with Documents and Spreadsheets, Notebook allows you to publish this as an individual web page for students to access as a direct link from your Schoolwires page.





Google Docs and Spreadsheets

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Google Documents and Spreadsheets is an online word processor and spreadsheet application that enables users to collaborate on documents in real-time. Here is a brief list of ideal uses in schools:
  • collaborative writing between students
  • in-class writing-in-the-round
  • lab groups wanting to put data tables in spreadsheets and share between lab groups
  • backing up key documents
  • ongoing projects between departments or teachers
Can we add more to this list?

Google Docs functions much the same way as Microsoft Word: you can even save files from Google Docs as Word documents. However, you will need to cut and paste to bring any text in to Google Docs from Word.

Google Spreadsheets is Google's version of Microsoft Excel. The biggest differentiating factor is that of collaboration (Google Spreadsheets has a chat feature so you can converse about the data you inputting and anything else you want). There is some formatting issue when moving between the two, but with a little tinkering, moving from one to the other is not much of a problem.

Both Docs and Spreadsheets offer the option to publish your work as a web page viewable by anyone. This offers the ability for students to publish their work to a very large audience and you could link to it from your Schoolwires page.

Let's follow along with this activity to see the power of Google Docs and Spreadsheets in action, and here are some helpful hints to use while you work.

Both Docs and Spreadsheets offer the option to publish your work as a web page viewable by anyone. This offers the ability for students to publish their work to a very large audience and you could link to it from your Schoolwires page.

Here are some basic examples of what you can use Google Documents and Spreadsheets with:

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Here is another brand new feature of Google Docs and Spreadsheets with their embeddable presenations:



Day 2

Custom Search


Wouldn't it be great to limit the sites that your students can search so that they are only using the sites that you choose for them? This would really eliminate a lot of needless searching and waiting by your students. Instead, that time could be put towards investigating sites that you know are safe, reliable, and full of the resources they need.

Google Custom Search Engine lets anyone create their own search engine by selecting the sites you want to include in the student's search and publishing it either as a website or as a small add-on to an existing website, like Schoolwires. Here is a brief guide to what you need to do:
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1. Go to Google for Educators.

2. On the upper left-hand side, choose "Tools for your classroom."







3. When you do that, the next page will contain a section that says "Newly Featured Products, and among those you will find "Custom Search Engine":cse2.jpg

4. After clicking on that link, you will be taken to a page that explains what the CSE does. Once you read through that, find the link in the first paragraph that says Google Custom Search Engine. Click on it.

5. When you do, you will be prompted for your Google password.

6. Next, you will be take to a page that contatins this cse4.jpgClick on the big blue button.

7. Fill in the basic information, including name of search engine, description, keywords, sites to search, etc.

8. Next you will taken to a page where you can decide how you want to display your search engine. If you choose homepage, you will be taken to a page like this. If you choose control panel, you will be taken to a page that gives you HTML code to insert on a page of your choosing. cse6.jpg

Reader

googlereader.jpgGoogle Reader is what is known as an RSS aggregator. It takes feeds from other websites and monitors them for updates, then automatically publishes them to your Reader account. What that means is that you no longer have to go to the sites you want to read anymore--they come to you. RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication," and is essentially a free subscription to that publication. Love the New York Times financial section but can't get to a newspaper? Google Reader will automatically have today's stories waiting for you when you open your account. Read several blogs and want to know when they are updated? Google Reader will tell you when they were updated.

Let's watch this movie to get a better picture.

As for student usage, we can design lessons so that the students are asked to track particular news stories over time. Take for example the atrocities that occurred and are occurring in Darfur. Students could use Google Reader to track what is being reported over time about Darfur by subscribing to an RSS feed that updates them on stories about Darfur. Sound complicated? Once you get rolling, it will surprise you that more people are not using this technology.

RSS feeds have been termed by some in the field of educational technology as the next big thing. How can you use it in your classroom?



Now, let's go find some feeds! Remember to look for these symbols:
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Video

To Learn how to add Google or YouTube videos to your schoolwires page, click here.
Google Video, and Google's recent $1.65 billion acquisition, YouTube, are two useful sites where you can upload video and create your own "channel" for people to tune in to. The educational advantages here are apparent:
  • low-cost television studio
  • citizen journalism
  • an all-Sparta High School channel where students can post films that they have created
    • peer review
    • digital collection of Sparta life
  • where services like unitedstreaming.com might not have raw footage of events, but documentaries about events, these outlets have the raw footage.

However, there are also caveats that we must be aware of:
  • this kind of access is tricky
    • parent permission needed
    • open channel
  • Both Google Video and YouTube are screened, but there are still "teachable moments" in there
  • Are we ready to move with the students on this one?

This is the best and easiest way to have students create video and post it to their wikispace, if you plan on using that format. Each video is accompanied by an HTML embedding code, which you place onto your wiki and when saved, it will play directly on your page. Here are some examples of that:
Classroom Uses:


Google Earth

Perhaps the coolest tool that Google offers for free is Google Earth. It is also the most adapted Google Application out there, along with Maps. For example, let's take a look at these unbelievably cool applications made by using Google Earth.

What are some of the things you can do with Google Earth? Let's look at some screenshots and decide from there.
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Some ideas I have are
  • Using Google earth to lecture from instead of using powerpoint
  • creating tours of various points on a map that you are studying
  • creating a trip that covers the setting in the novel you are studying.
  • tracking candidates in an election
  • Finding out who's sick.

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SketchUp

Google SketchUp is a 3D design program that some would call AutoCAD-light. It enables students and designers alike to create three-dimensional structures and design them inside and out. Rather than talk about it here, let's check out the SketchUp Gallery. Again, as with all of the Google Applications, there is a collaborative piece to it, and it's a doozy: users can share their structures with others and collaborate to build whole communities. In addition, users have the option of including their designs in the 3D Warehouse for others to use and modify.
To start, we will take the tutorials that SketchUp offers, then proceed to play around with our own models. Also, check out some recent student work done by 8th Graders at the middle school.
Some other sites to check out with SketchUp models

Here are some Models from the Gallery at the SketchUp site:
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Blogger

The case for teacher using blogs as a means of reflection and practice is being made across the world today. Just go into Google and search under blogs with the keyword "teacher" or "education" and you will be sure to find thousands of teachers from every level, Pre-K to Graduate school, using their blogs as a means to create community, get feedback from peers, and as tools in the classroom to foster discussion among students. Furthermore, several teachers are using blogs with their students by giving them their own blog in a monitored environment. These types of blogs, often called "edublogs," are hotbeds of information and scholarship, and often lead educators to new ideas, refreshing insights, and a wider network of resources than a regular search would have turned up.

Google provides its own blogging service called Blogger. Here are some examples of Blogger blogs:

Professional Development Survey

Click here to take the survey for this class.



Resources