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Classrooms go collaborative with Google Apps

By Team ISTE 4/15/2015 Tools ISTE Conference & Expo

The Google Apps for Education suite is a cloud-based set of tools that can promote better collaboration, productivity and creativity among teachers, students and parents.

In the classroom, teachers can use the tools to create a different kind of instructional environment. Because it’s all in the cloud, teachers can check a student’s progress in real time (without hovering over the student’s desk) and provide feedback instantly.

Students can use the tools to collaborate on projects with other classrooms down the hall or on the other side of the world.

Google Apps for Education also revamps the way parents can track their child’s progress and lets them partner with teachers through digital portfolios.

“The home-school connection is strengthened with the use of Google apps,” says Jennifer Magiera, digital learning coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago.

Some of the more popular tools in the Google Apps for Education suite include:

Google Drawing. While many consider this as a very simple visual representation app, it actually promotes cognitive skills. Students can use it to build interactive projects. For example, on a drawing of a human body, students can embed links to more detailed information — clicking on an eye could direct users to a website that explains how we get our eye color, while clicking on the heart takes the user to the student’s research paper on how to prevent heart disease.

YouTube. Kids love to make videos, and with YouTube, they can create oral book reports, public service announcements or step-by-step video instructions for a science fair project. Teachers can create a digital portfolio that future classes can access. Or they can develop a playlist of instructional videos that students can watch outside of school when they need extra help with homework.

Google Play for Education. This is where teachers can find and download all of the best education materials for Android devices. The apps, books and other tools are rated by other teachers, and a crowdsourced evaluation system provides tips and feedback on how others have used the tools. Because it’s a wireless system, all teachers have to do is click a few buttons to send the apps or ebooks directly to students’ devices. Teachers can create assignments directly from the dashboard as well.

Google Classroom. One of Google’s newest educational tools allows teachers to access all Google’s offerings in one location, from creating assignments to collecting them.

The best way to bring Google Apps into the classroom is to become familiar with them first. Most of us are familiar with Gmail — and if you have a Gmail account, you already have a Google Apps account — so it’s just a matter of diving in and seeing what Google has to offer beyond email, Docs and search.

Pick one app and play with it to get a feeling for how it works. Or sign up for the Google Tools Learning Academy at ISTE 2015. This daylong preconference deep dive will offer tips and tricks for using Google Apps for Education for teachers of all skill levels.

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