Tag Archives: gmail

Google Apps Store and the Classroom

9 Dec

Always the innovator, Google is working to change how we interact with the internet. Earlier this week, Google unveiled their Chrome Web Apps Store. Like what iPhone and iPad apps have done for mobile devices, Google is hoping to do for the internet. If you aren’t already running Google’s browser, Chrome, you’re missing out on what 120 million other people have fallen in love with, myself included. Chrome is, in a word, fast. Combine that with the instant search capabilities that Google recently unveiled and we’re off to the races. One convenient feature is that the address bar duals as Google search, yet again saving you precious milliseconds of browsing time. Pair these tools with Gmail’s new priority inbox and, voila! you’ve freed up approximately 3.6 minutes of your day!

Chrome is King!

But back to the Apps Store…Apps run in Chrome browser and in the future will function as applications on Google’s Chrome OS, which they also previewed recently and have a handful of netbooks from Samsung and Acer slated for debut in early 2011.

While Google is certainly changing the face of the internet, with so many schools going 1-to-1 (mine included), the face of education is changing too. (See here and here for previous posts on how Google Docs can be used in the classroom)

The Apps store is just getting started, so it only has a few hundred apps, but I wanted to preview a few of the early winners for classroom use. [update: in the day or so since I started writing this post, the education apps has gone from around 60 to 111!]

Google Books: Create your own library of ebooks that resides in the cloud. Synchs with all of your web-enabled devices. See a short video touting its benefits here. Google’s new ebookstore just might give internet giant Amazon a run for its money

Aviary: Web-based image editing tool. Feature-rich and easy to use, this is a powerful image editing tool that is impressive for the cost – free!

Wikihood: Calling itself a “world browser” it is basically what you would get if you genetically engineered Google Maps by inserting the gene for Wikipedia. An interactive world map allows you to click anywhere in the world and bring up relevant cultural, historical, and other kinds of info. It goes right down to street level, and would make a killer app for traveling to a new city.

Sliderocket: This is like Google Presentation, on steroids! Too bad you have to pay for an account over 15MB and for synching with Google Apps. Boo!

Planetarium: Another google maps like experience but for the night sky. Tell it your location and you can look up at a virtual sky. This could be great if you teach in a city with lots of pollution like I do, and want your students to see what the sky could look like if only they’d quit turning on so many lights!

Graph.tk: A free graphing utility that looks pretty cool on the surface. Didn’t dive much into it but I’ll leave that up to the math and physics crowd. Seems like it could be pretty student friendly way to quickly visualize graphs though…

Evernote: This is basically just a link to the online Evernote at this point, but maybe in the future it will be a more feature-rich application. Not so much for your classroom instruction, but will help keep you sane. Love Evernote for just keeping track of odds and ends, and in fact just recently bought the full version and dig it.

Get your news fix with apps from NYTimes, NPR, or if you’re feeling less serious, the Onion

Not exactly school, but…

Tweetdeck: The ever popular program for keeping track of facebook, twitter, and everything else social, is now available in your browser as a Google App. Haven’t noticed much difference in the functionality yet…

Others I didn’t get around to trying but look like they could be cool:

Creately: The popular mind-mapping tools comes to Google Apps. Downside: not free 😦
Aerotimer: Basically an egg timer for you browser. I typically use online-stopwatch.com in the classroom and project it up on the overhead, but maybe I can use this to set time limits on the amount of time I spend in Google Reader….
Quicknote: An extension from Diigo, for taking quick notes. I’m pretty fond of Stickies in OS X but maybe worth a shot

The exciting part is that the store is just getting started, and for the moment a lot of the apps are glorified bookmarks. But it’s definitely a start, and the possibilities are exciting…

drinking from the fire hose…safely

24 Jul

The other day I was lamenting the challenges of dealing with the overwhelming amount of information at a mouse click’s distance. Last year our school made the move to Google Apps for Education, which I was genuinely excited (some might say stoked) for. I’d already been using Google Docs a lot by requiring my students to create a gmail account and register their info on a Google Doc. Loving the collaborative benefits of Gdocs, I figured I’d have my students put lab data into a class spreadsheet and then create lab reports in small groups. 36+ emails later with (or w/out) various subject headings, email names (e.g. cutiepie70356) that are unidentifiable, and entirely informal content.

A year later, and slightly wiser, I’ve learned a few things. A few basic steps ahead of time can make life a lot simpler. Here’s a screenshot I marked up to show a couple of these tips described below:

  1. Labels – these are great for organizing the daily glut of emails. Labels are superior to folders (sorry Outlook) because you can have multiple labels on the same email, whereas an email can’t be in multiple folders at once. Labels can also be nested so that they are organized under other labels (e.g. classes>apbio). This is easy to do, just add a a new label that is preceded by the desired parent label followed by a backslash (classes/apbio) See (a) & (b)
  2. Standardized titles – When kids first started sharing boatloads of Gdocs with me, they were coming in a totally uncontrolled fashion. Now I require that any doc they share with me is titled in the following way: FirstLastName_Period_Assignment….This makes it easy to sort them out into folders. I create folders for each class in my Google Docs page and then subfolders for each assignment. See (c)
  3. Filters – I require each student to include in their signature (call me old fashioned but I require that they actually address me with Mr. Paulson and conclude their message with their name) a label that identifies their class. For example, “apbioC10” corresponds to my (surprise) AP Bio class, in period C, 2010. I’ve created filters (see (a) in the pic) that automatically direct messages containing the content “apbioc10” to be labeled “classes/apbio/c” This is a tiny thing initially but saves me the hassle of manually labeling each message day to day. (UPDATE: forgot to mention that filters could also be designed to sort out shared documents based on their titles, provided they follow a standardized format like described above. For example, I could create a label for the assignment “photo vocab” that was nested – classes/apbio/photo – and use the “Has the words” criteria to select for emails that were sharing their presentations with me automatically.)

That’s the tip of the iceberg anyways. I’ll revisit Google Apps again soon…a Wave post is in the future blog pile….