Why I like Google’s Tools
1. The first reason is easy – they are free…
2. Single Sign-On and No Software Downloads – I really like Google’s approach here. Have a Google Account?? Great – now you can access Google Docs, Youtube, Voice, Calendar, Sites, Forms, Drawing, Blog, and so on…
The single sign-on (and OpenID compatibility) combined with no software to download, is pretty neat and very convenient to adopt within an educational setting (a course or program). I definitely prefer this as opposed to having a multitude of disparate accounts for a variety of tools, which can soon become a hassle to manage (and don’t forget the number of Post-Its with usernames/passwords :)).
3. Sharing Features: Furthermore, the sharing options (private, specific group, public) makes it even more flexible in its applicability to educational settings, where students, faculty, and experts can collaborate easily.
4. Integration - These tools can be easily adopted and integrated irrespective of the CMS in use and without any retooling of existing systems.
5. Access – If you have Gmail or use any of Google's toolsets, you already have a Google Account. Else you can get Gmail, or if you prefer your current email, you can get a Google Account that gives you access to all the tools.
Now, what are some possibilities for adopting these tools in your course???
1. Course email – Need course specific emails separate from your personal emails? You can create a Gmail account for the course and have students mail questions regarding the course to this address. The Talk, Textchat, and Call features are great for Office Hours and other kind of help or collaboration activities.
2. Want to start your lecture with a brief poll or survey students midterm regarding their progress? You can set up a poll or survey with the Google Forms feature and embed or link to it within the lecture.
3. Want to create a conference call with a student group? – Use your Google Voice number to have students call in and even record the conversation. And I believe calls are free within the US…
4. Encourage students to work in groups on projects? – Google Docs (akin to Word, Excel, PPT), and Drawing can be used for collaboration to generate creative products. The Revision History allows tracking of edits, if needed.
5. Have students track their progress on a project – Set up a shared spreadsheet with tasks and have students or groups check where they are in the process
6. Writing a final paper? – Use Drawing to brainstorm and map out ideas or flow. Faculty/TAs can review this and comment on if the students or groups are on the right track.
7. Need a site with blogging features for a cohort group to share information? – Set up a blog using blogger with multiple author settings. It also allows adding of static/information pages.
8. Have students create portfolios to display their progress through the academic program – Google Sites to the rescue! You can even embed a commenting or feedback form to allow faculty/peers etc. comment on your portfolio.
And many more with just a single Google account :) I have just touched the tip of the iceberg with possibilities, and to get your creativity cells buzzing!! Happy Teaching :)
Before I forget: Unfortunately, we don’t provide tech support for any of these tools at present – but they are pretty straightforward for you to figure it out “on your own.”