Oodles of Google — Free Tools for Teachers

11/20/2009  |  MELANIE BACON AND MARILYN AULT
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Are you looking for a safe solution to streamline basic electronic services, such as e-mail and online collaboration, without the headaches of developing content from scratch? Google Apps for Education (http://bit.ly/GoogleAppsEd) is for teachers who desire to provide resources to foster innovation and collaboration.

Get Information and News

ISTE developed the National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Students (NETS*S) to help students prepare to work, live and contribute to the social and civic fabric of their communities (ISTE, 2009). The Google Search Engine provides tools built in a robust search environment, and lessons to provide students with guided practice to master safe online searching. Lessons to walk students and teachers through special features of the engine are accessible at http://www.google. com/educators/p_websearch.html.

Another great tool for teachers to create a guided search experience is Google Custom Search (http://www.google. com/coop/cse/). This feature provides the infrastructure to create a personal search engine with only the sites you want students to visit, or the option to feature preferred sites as top hits. News Archive Search (http://www.google. com/archivesearch) and Options (http:// www.google.com/intl/en/options) present data from search queries in graphical formats. Google also supports the search for content using pictures rather than words at http://similar-images.googlelabs.com.Additional new search features can be found at http://www.googlelabs. com/.

Organize

The Internet inundates people with resources, and Google Tools help you organize information and activities through the creation of an iGoogle account. Sign up at http://google.com and gain access to Google Tools (http://www.google.com/intl/en/help/features.html). Once your iGoogle account is created, personalize the Google home page with the desired gadgets, which provide unique features for the home page such as calendar options or news updates, by clicking Add Stuff.

One of the first tools to explore, Google Calendar, helps organize day-today activities and syncs with computer calendars and mobile devices. New calendar development in Google Labs allows you to jump to specific dates and share calendars with friends or colleagues. Google Reader is another tool that helps organize RSS feeds and share favorite resources with friends.

Offer Creativity

ISTE also created professional NETS*T standards and indicators for teachers. Standard One states that teachers must facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity (ISTE, 2009). Google provides access to free tools for teachers and students to create media education artifacts.

Most popular tools include:

  1. Blogger, online journaling
  2. Picasa, photo editing and photo publishing online
  3. Google Sites, online Web site authoring or wiki publishing
  4. Sketch Up, create and edit existing 3D models. To see how teachers are using these tools for learning and other Google resources, review lessons for K-12 classrooms created by Google Certified Educators at http://www.google.com/a/ help/intl/en/edu/lesson_plans. html.

Go Places with Google Earth

Travel to the depths of the ocean or view the constellations and Mars using Google Earth (http://www.google.com/ educators/start_earth.html). Check out Google Lit Trips (http://www. googlelittrips.org) created by Jerome Burge, Google Certified Educator who unites literature and visualization by creating virtual trips in Google Earth that highlight landmarks and the journeys of characters in renowned literary works. You can make a journey of your own for Google Earth with tutorials available online at http://earth.google.com/outreach/tutorials.html. Educators can get

Google Earth PRo for free; visit http://www.ncs-tech.org/?p=783.

Leverage Collaboration

One of the most powerful resources that Google provides is the ability to collaborate with colleagues and students virtually using Google Docs, which includes a suite of tools to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations and forms. Use the documents feature to co-author an agenda for the next meeting. Create a spreadsheet to track books distributed in the classroom. Use Google Docs to create a form to take a survey of your students’ favorite books.While a presentation is given using Google Docs, the presenter can invite members of the audience to provide feedback in real-time.Visit http://bit.ly/GoogleTemplatesEd.

Empower Others

Districts can apply for an account that provides many of the Google Applications including email, chat, document collaboration, home page features, and video features within the district proxy. Visit http://bit.ly/EcVuV to learn how school districts and universities have implemented Google Apps and review the support structure Google provides administrators during the deployment process. Subscribe to the Google for Educators newsletter (http://www.google. com/educators) and join the Google Teacher Community (http://www. google.com/educators/community.html) to receive e-mail updates about new Google resources for education.

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