Did you know that Google’s informal motto is ‘Don’t be evil’?
Pretty amazing motto, right? As I’ve been learning more this week about the technology available out there to assist teachers in the classroom, I’ve been put onto some Google products that are incredibly useful to teachers. My conclusion: Google seems to be on the right track to maintaining that motto.
First of all, I started watching some helpful screencasts posted in iTunes that explain some specific Google products. The guy who made them is John Sowash and you can subscribe to his podcasts called Google Tools. They’re clear and very straightforward. I haven’t watched them all yet, but they’re super informative.
So, after I watched a couple of videos, I was ready to play with the tools.
The first one was iGoogle. With iGoogle, you can centralize everyday information like your calendar, the weather, some rss feeds that you require to start your day, your email, and your virtual hamster. I thought this might be handy for me, since, among other things, I want to follow a number of teacher and teacher candidate blogs.
So, here’s my iGoogle page:
As you can see, most of my iGoogle page is taken up with blogs that I want to follow. And, of course, I’ve got my hamster whom I’ve tentatively named Spartacus.
There are a ton more applications that can be added by clicking ‘Add Gadget’ on the top left. This centralization idea is fantastic because it saves you massive amounts of time. Instead of checking every single blog separately to see if they’ve posted something new, you can go to one place and have the new information come to you.
<Slightly tangential aside> As I was looking at iGoogle, I really wanted there to be a gadget that combines all of the blogs that fall into one category, so that there’s not an explosion of blogs all over your iGoogle home page. I couldn’t find a gadget like this available (if there is one, I would love to know). This led me to a free application called NetNewsWire (for Mac users) where you can group the blogs that you follow into categories. It generally just looks a little neater:
Anyway, I think I’m going to try both NetNewsWire and iGoogle and see which one I like better for following blogs. So far, the downfall with NetNewsWire: no hamsters. </Slightly tangential aside>
The next Google-related tool I wanted to use was the Custom Search. Let’s say you want to assign a research project to your class (example: a project on Spartacus), but you want to limit the number of sites that they can get their information from (example: you don’t want them accessing all the movie-related web pages). Well, you go to Google Custom Search and set up a new search engine!
Ideally, you would embed the search box into your class site or blog. Although not, apparently, if you are on WordPress (live and learn). Just for fun, here is a hypothetical search engine that I set up for a project on Spartacus.
One of the Google tools that I’m looking forward to playing more with is Google Docs. That one has some major implications in the classroom that I’m really interested to learn more about. It seems like there’s some serious room to get creative with Google Docs.