Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why I Use Google's Products as an Educator

College Tips by Google

Yesterday, I wrote a post entitled "Alternatives to Google's web services and apps" in which I listed a variety of services and apps that do what Google's tools and apps do for people who may not want to use Google's. I use Google's tools and apps extensively though, and here's why.

Google has a lot of great tools and apps that I use for both personal and school. I use iGoogle as my homepage and as an organizational tool, I use Gmail for email, I use Google Docs for word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets, along with surveys. I use Google Calendar, Blogger for this blog and my class blogs, Google Sites for my class web site, Google Tasks, Picasa and Piknik, Google+ as a great social media tool, Chrome web browser, Google Bookmarks, URL shortener, Google Reader, Google Voice to communicate with parents, Google Maps and Google search. I also use other Google tools on occasion. 

I use them because they work great, are easy to use, integrate with each other, work perfectly on the Chrome web browser and on my Android smartphone, only need a single login for them all and login once on Chrome to get into them all, they are free, there is a huge amount of support available and there are great resources for educators for using these tools in education. 

Google's tools have great features like sharing and collaboration with others. I love being able to share a document or presentation with someone else and even work on it at the same time. I love being able to share calendar events and have multiple calendars visible at once. I love being able to easily create a blog or website for my classes. I love being able to connect with others on Google + and not be distracted by games and apps like on Facebook. I like the way Google's tools work, integrate, collaborate and present information. Gmail's conversation view stacks email replies together. Microsoft's Exchange email doesn't quite get this right. 

The Chrome web browser is secure and fast with great extensions and add-on's to make it even more useful. The URL shortener and Evernote web clipper make sharing and saving web sites and information easy. Google Reader is easy to set up and read my feeds and Google Maps has some great features like street view, 3D building views, inside maps, and directions for walking and using public transit. Google search has always been easy and relevant. 

My students also love using Google tools. At the beginning of the school year I share lots of resources with them and Google is one of them. Most of them already have Gmail accounts, but are pleasantly surprised by the rest of the tools available. They end up using Docs for class assignments, creating blogs and websites as part of projects, and start using the other tools to get better organized. They always thank me for showing them these resources. The Google Student Blog is also a great resource for them.

The other thing that is nice about these Google tools is the ability to back up and export all of your data from each resource. That means that your data and what you have created are not locked into Google. Each tool has the ability to let you export your data in different formats so you can migrate it to a different service or just back it up. This is great piece-of-mind. 

Android and Google's resources, obviously, work great together. Every single Google app I use has an Android app that works great. This means that I can do everything with my smartphone and don't even need a desktop. This means that I can do my work at any time, any place, which makes me more productive. Google tools also work great on mobile browsers

In addition to Google's resources, my other main resources are TweetDeck and Evernote. I use TweetDeck to connect, share, and learn with my Personal Learning Network, and I use Evernote to organize data, take notes, plan lessons, and clip and save information from web sites. With these two web apps and Google's, I can do 99% of what I need to do on a daily basis. I don't need to use other resources. And, since my data is backed up on my computer, if Google decided to shut down any of these apps, I'd still be ok. 

Google provides excellent resources that are free, work great, and have great features. 

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