Google for Teachers

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:

iGoogle home 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:

NetNewsWire

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.

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4 thoughts on “Google for Teachers

  1. OK, Emily. You are completely awesome. So – maybe we should partner up on the google workshop I want to do in class this week. Present this stuff. It is great. We can make it part of one of the assignments…
    This is fantastic stuff. Love what you’ve done.

    Zoe

  2. Great stuff Emily! I love that iGoogle makes it possible for me to customize and personalize me web browsing experience. I’ve used it with students before too, particularly when researching a topic so that they can create RSS feeds for news stories they might be searching.
    I’ve never been happy with my RSS readers though until I found Feedly. http://www.feedly.com/ Their tag line is “a news reader for creative minds” which suits me perfectly. You can easily import your google reader feed into this app.

    I look forward to reading your future posts (Which reminds me! I need to add your blog to my Feedly!)

  3. Zach Blashkiw says:

    This looks fantastic!

  4. emsheridan says:

    Thanks! Zoe, I would love to talk about this in class any time (although I admit to still feeling very much like a newbie!) That reminds me, I haven’t checked up on Spartacus lately …
    Danika, thanks for the feedly link! It certainly gets points for being super pretty!
    Em

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