Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Top 10 Free Google Resources for Education

Dave's Top 10 Lists
Google Resources
I've been reading a lot of "top 10" lists lately and decided that I would do a few this week.

The third top 10 list I'm doing is "My Top 10 Best Google Resources." Even though I listed Google in the first two lists, I wanted to point out some more features and uses for Google resources in education. They are in no specific order of preference. Click on the links for more information about each one and it's use in education.

1. Gmail - free email for students and teachers. Gmail also organizes your contacts and your tasks with a built in task list. Many smartphones, including Android and HP/Palm webOS can sync to your Gmail account and sync your contacts.

2. Google Calendar - free calendar app system to keep teachers and students organized. You can also sync it to many smartphones, access it from anywhere, and even share calendars with other people. This makes scheduling much easier and a teacher could share a class calendar and give the students read only access.

3. Google Docs - free office suite with word processing, presentation, spreadsheet and drawing apps. What's nice is that everything is stored online and backed up, accessible from anywhere, and you can even share documents and have multiple people edit them at the same time. This makes student group projects easier - no more emailing multiple versions.

4. iGoogle - iGoogle is a customizable homepage. I have my Gmail, Google Docs, Evernote, weather, Calendar, Reader, and bookmarks all on one page. It is a great way to have quick access to all of your information on one page and makes it easy to get and stay organized. Great for students and teachers.

5. Google Reader - Google Reader is a way to use RSS feeds to subscribe to your favorite blogs and websites. Instead of needing to visit the sites to check for new articles, Reader brings you the new articles. I use class blogs with my students and they subscribe to the blogs so that they get updates when something new is posted. It's great having news and new articles come to me.

6. Google Earth - Google Earth is a 3D interactive view of the Earth. It is a great way to learn geography as well as explore our planet. There are different features that can add different layovers and information for different areas on earth. There are 3D buildings, historical images, and even street views. A great, free way to explore our world.

7. Google Sketchup - 3D modeling software. Students can create 3D models of buildings, objects, and much more. Great for science, math, and art classes.

8. Google Chrome Browser (and OS) - Google's Chrome browser is a fast, secure, and very well designed web browser that I find superior to Internet Explorer and Firefox. It works great with all of Google's apps and has some great features. The address box is also the search box and makes using the browser very easy. There is not much for menu or toolbars so more of the screen is devoted to the webpage. There are some great extensions that make you more efficient, such as "clip to Evernote", "Google URL shorten", and "Aviary". The extensions are apps that work in the browser and add functionality.

Google Chrome OS is a new OS for laptops that is basically a web browser. Nothing really resides on the device and it looks just like using the Chrome OS browser. I have been using one of the beta units, the CR-48 laptop, and found it very easy to use and love the fact that it starts up in less than 5 seconds. This is still being developed, but I think it would be great for educational use because there is really nothing for IT to do with them. They self update and students and teachers don't store anything on the device.

9. Picasa - Picasa is free photo editing software, photo organizing, and web storage. It can also search your computer for all photos and graphics. This is great for students and teachers who are working on photos and graphics for school projects.

10. Blogger and Sites - create free blogs and web sites using Blogger and Sites. Students can create blogs and sites as part of their classwork or as an ePortfolio. Teachers can create web sites and blogs to use with their classes. I use blogs with my classes to post assignments, have discussions, post resources, reminders and much more. Students subscribe to the blogs with their email or an RSS reader to stay updated. I use the website to post class rules, syllabus, and files for them to download.

Google's resources also have great tutorials and help for using them. There are also a lot of sites and blogs that talk about Google apps and how to use them in education. These resources are useful, easy to use, and very reliable. 


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