GAFE OR GOOGLE APPS FOR EDUCATION
Google is attempting to be the dominant provider of technology in schools much like Apple tried decades ago. With finite budgets, and ease of use, GAFE is a viable, useful and practical alternative to the more costly Microsoft software bundle. So on a page dealing with technology, I think it is only fitting that we start with the apps that are going to be used most often.
I am currently working on my certification as a Qualified Google Educator. I am working through the training resources Google has provided. You can begin your journey, or just learn from their instructional videos at Google Training.
Gmail has replace Microsoft Outlook in many school districts and that number is growing. Gmail is not only a useful communication tool, it can also be a hub for managing all things Google. It provides access to your calendar, emails, Drive, and much more. Google has created a synchronous relationship between its applications that allows for more efficiency and better organization.
Aptly named, this is essentially your hard drive, only instead of being on your computer it is now in the cloud. You can also download Drive to your computer and use and access it the same way you would previously have used and managed your files with an internal drive on a computer, or an external flash drive. Drive is your headquarters, it is where all of your files are stored. The cool thing about Drive is it allows you to create a multitude of documents similar to Microsoft Office, as well as convert files from Office to Google and the other way around. It has amazing functionality and ease of use that make it a tremendous asset. Drive also makes sharing, and organizing documents and files easy. You can simply click on a file or even a folder to share that with others. You can control what editing or viewing access those people have all from your Drive.
Flubaroo is a script or Add-on to a Spreadsheet that turns a normal spreadsheet into a self grading quiz. You begin by creating a Form with multiple choice or short response questions. You give the students access to the form through an email, or via your website. Once students have completed the quiz, you take it to create an answer key. Next you go to the corresponding spreadsheet and either add the script for the older version, or with the new sheets, you click on Add-ons and choose Flubaroo. it will walk you through the rest of the process and when you are done, the quiz is graded, and as a bonus, it analyzes the data. This is a tremendous time saver.
Doctopus I had heard about this a few times, and was able to see it demonstrated during an edcamp this year. I think there is great potential here for organizing, distributing and collecting documents. I will admit however that during the presentation, the amount of upfront work seemed daunting, and so thus far I haven't spent much time probing deeper into this script or Add-on. I do have to say that the concept of creating groups, or classes and being able to share information specifically for those groups is a great idea. This tool is an organizational gem and is worth examining.
Chalkup - This is one that I just learned about, and signed up for. I watched the short video below and thought I have to find out how to use it. It seems similar to the overall concept of Doctopus, however it is an Chrome extension instead of an Add-on. What is the difference? Well from what I can gather thus far, it seems like Doctopus has to be added to each individual document, while Chalkup can be accessed as a connected piece to your Google Drive. You can manage any and all documents with Chalkup from your Drive, by accessing Chalkup as you work with your documents to make them part of the class or classes you want to share them with. Again I am still very new to this and need to investigate more to see the pros and cons.
I must admit I feel pretty cool having Google Classroom on my tech page. It is so new that they are still looking for teachers to test it out. I am planning on signing up to be a tester for this upcoming school year. I can't write a review of this one yet because it is still in its infancy, but it is worth noting that Google has seen the market for such a product and has created its own version to compete with the likes of Doctopus and Chalkup. This may even pull some educators from LMS like Edmodo or My Big Campus or others. I will elaborate when I am able to see more of this intriguing product.
I can't say enough about Sites- it is the answer for anyone who ever wanted to have a presence on the web, but didn't want to deal with all the HTML coding. Now there are other platforms such as WIX, Wikis, Blogs such as WordPress and Weebly, but Google Sites is connected to student's school accounts and allows for the creation of more privatized sharing of information and content.
For teachers- I have created a google doc that I inserted a table and use it as a calendar for each unit I teach. This allows students to see the daily activities, assignments, and upcoming projects. They are able to access class materials and submit their assignments.
Substitute materials- ever have the issue of not being able to do all of the things you want because your sub won't have access to your materials? Well I create a sub document where I outline the activities and lessons for the day, and also link the documents, videos, and other resources right on the sub lesson plan. I keep this on my google site, and update it each time that I will be absent. The sub simply goes to my site, clicks on sub resources and has access to any materials they need for the day. I can change or add comments to help the sub throughout the day if necessary.
Google Docs is in many ways just like Microsoft Word, but in other key educational ways, it is way cooler! Both allow you to word process, add images, edit text, make comments on other people's work, etc. There are things that Word can do that Docs can't, but those tend to be the functions that the minority ever use. When I read reviews of technology that is really technical, there always seems to be the emphasis on those high end functionality that again most people never use. So what is so good about Docs for education? First and foremost the most significant difference is the ability to share your documents with other people and simultaneously edit the document. Docs allows you to have up to 50 people at anyone time access the same document. This has been an amazing tool for me as an educator. I can have students collaborate on the same project all being able to contribute to the completion at the same time. They can use a chat function or comments on the side to converse with each other inside the document to help the editing process. Another cool feature is the revision history. This has benefits two fold for education. First, unlike Word, if you accidentally delete something and save the document, or it crashes, it is at times impossible to get the work back. If you delete the file, there is no coming back from that unless you are a member of the IT department, or smarter than I am. With Docs, the revision history is essentially a list of auto saves that Google has made of your document. You are able to go back and revive an earlier version of the document, or just copy and paste the parts you wanted to the newest version. The second benefit as a teacher is to help teachers deal with the issue of individual contributions to a project. The revision history not only shows earlier versions, but it also designates who made contributions and what they actually wrote or added to the project at different times during the completion of the task. This has helped my students delegate work, hold each other accountable, and have conversations that are closely matched to the real world. I could go on and on about Docs, but I hope you will check them out yourself.
This image is an example of what can be done using Drawing in just a few minutes. The annual ISTE conference, or International Society for Technology in Education is held every June, and the past few years I have connected with the educators who are there as well as those who were not at ISTE. This year we created a badge challenge to design your own ID badge for those not at ISTE but learning together on Twitter and Google Plus. I added a few images, QR codes that link to my sites and the final results are above. Drawing is a simple tool that allows you to add images into Docs and other Google applications, or create an image in isolation. Students in my class have used it to create collages, enhance projects, and even as a comic strip to demonstrate their content knowledge. It is a fun and easy to use tool that can be powerful when used in the right setting.