Google Apps are amazing. I’m always blown away at how so many use Google as a search engine, or as a map app, on a daily basis, but likely have no idea what that little 3×3 square at the top corner of their search page even is. I owe a huge debt to Alec Couros for showing me the way, all those years ago in ECMP355. Truly, my own workflow, both personal and educational, relies heavily on Google apps, not to mention the way in which I lead my grade 5 classroom.
Google Drive (nee: docs) was where it all first started. I remember being blown away at how I could interact on a document at the same time as others. And to be able to share said file with anyone was so liberating. I have since used this as a collaborative tool to plan with other teachers, with friends in planning summer trips, and especially with my students. For example, last year my class did a book report, where the book itself was a pdf file, and all the assignments were in the same student folders. This made it a breeze to keep everyone organized and on track. Motivation was high, and accountability was there thanks to the ability to see all past revisions in a created document.
The students also love working with presentations. Instead of Kidspiration–type posterboard presentations, full of junky looking, irrelevant clip-art, students can pull from anywhere on their own computer or on the net. This led to much more rich presentations and more authentic learning.
BUT probably the biggest benefit to Google docs, and why I went in full bore, was that no longer did my students have to rely on antiquated server log-ins, where it was always a hope and a prayer that their word file transferred successfully along with their school division profile. Google docs instantly solved this horror of all horrors, and made students much more willing to trust technology with their ideas and ambition.
Michael Wacker‘s (@mwacker) talk tonight was certainly fast paced. While I was familiar with much of the initial demo (use of Google docs, sharing a file, interacting with said file, etc.) he quickly went off on some huge tangents, which I struggled to keep up with. Truly, when you have a tool such as this to show off, there is soooo much one can share.
Some of the highlights I took away from the presentation were:
1) Google Drive can be used offline. AMAZING! This solves the other huge problem in schools, namely when the network decides to crash. And it happens more than one would believe possible. When entire days rely on the use of the tools Google apps provide, losing the internet can be disastrous.
2) The research tab that opens inside a Google docs file. This will prove to be so helpful for my students, who at times get twisted around trying to navigate too many open tabs. Keeps the workflow streamlined. Can’t wait to try this tomorrow with my kids!
3) Google sites – I never knew this existed until now. Google sites is essentially a super intuitive website builder. This will be amazing for students to have an online portfolio that can grow as they do. It can also work as a means of students creating a database of sorts for a research project they are working on.
4) Auto awesome – Again, amazing how this little add on can work to automatically edit and animate your photos (with of course not damaging your original work).
5) Google Training and Certification – Michael sharing this at the end has me so excited. I had never considered that the posibility to take training and certify as a Google trainer was an option. As I am already admin for all the i.Go (Regina Public Schools’ handle for Google Drive) at my school, this further training could be of great help, the biggest benefit likely being that I would always be up to date with all the new and improved features that keep being added to Drive, as well as all the other little apps Google keeps throwing out there for the world to use.
I’m going to end this by sharing that after all this excitement and love, after class I helped my wife buy and download a copy of Microsoft Office. GASP! HYPOCRITE! While I have built my workflow around Google Apps and all the amazing FREE possibilities it offers, many workplaces see Apps as a potential security breach waiting to happen, or have a problem with the data being stored in the USA. Or, in my wife’s case, all her years of files for her job as a Japanese instructor were created in MS Word. I remember eagerly showing her how I can upload and convert her .doc files, only to find that formatting, and especially, the Japanese she had written in all her files, didn’t make the jump. Kind of like teleporting, and ending up with little bits of your body all thrown around and mutated. Didn’t work. Lost a potential fan. There is so much anxiety around change, and while I am confident my students will continue to use Google Apps throughout their academic (and hopefully personal) lives, so too will the majority of those people who hate the life out of MS WORD or EXCEL, but are comfortable with it’s flaws.