Google apps for education might be the remedy for the BYOD dilemma. With students using various devices, all of different makes and models, schools face the daunting task of finding software that is both compatible and affordable for class use. Google apps are both.
Natalie Carrignan, director of technology for the Westport, CT public schools recently faced this problem as her district tackled the challenge of writing a five-year technology plan. The plan calls for the district to move to a BYOD educational model of learning.
“Our way to make equality amongst the kids is to be careful how we choose the software,” Carrignan said. “One of our initiatives this year is to move to Google apps for education so no matter what device a kid can afford, as long as they have the browser they can have the same experience as the other kids.”
Google apps for education are free and they can be used with multiple operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
Many teachers are even turning their learning spaces into what they call “Google classrooms.” These are rooms fully integrated with Google technology, places where teachers and students can easily share information and stay connected beyond school walls.
Google has a site designed specifically for educators. It’s called Google in Education and it explains how to use its apps and other free services in the classroom. One only needs a Gmail account to start.
One of the most popular apps is Google Drive, which is used to share documents, PDFs, images, video files, etc. The app allows for real-time document edits making it useful for group projects. Students don’t need to get together because they can work on the document simultaneously from the comfort of their couch.
Google Groups is another way to share information. It allows users to post things in a central location. For example, a teacher could post a discussion, class contact information, or a class syllabus. The information is located on a group page and can be set as public or private information where only group members have access to it.
Calendar is a tool that can be used school wide. Anyone with a Gmail account can be granted access to a school or class calendar. This makes it easy for administrators to communicate with students and parents. Information about school hours, holidays, assignment deadlines and special events can be accessed online through Google. Now there’s no excuse for forgetting those due dates.
Other apps are more useful in specific classes. Google Sketch allows students to build and create 3D models that can then be placed into Google Earth. Sketch can be used as part of a history lesson where students recreate historical landmarks or as part of a design and art classes. Once they’ve finished sketching, students have the option of exporting the image, printing it out, or creating a movie.
Classes where students want to showcase their work can benefit from Google Sites, a tool that allows users to make their own website. The site can be used in the style of Wikipedia where students and teachers can enter and edit information for the benefit of the class. Or, it can be used to imbed documents and video, making it suitable as an e-portfolio. Google sites works across multiple operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
Google users also have the option of using the reader application. This pools content from multiple sources into one place. It is useful for any class that requires regular access to certain publications or online content. Rather than visit multiple sites, students can use Google reader to compile information in one place.
These are just a few helpful apps for the classroom. A complete list can be found on The Google in Education website.