4 Google Apps tools to blend your classroom today!

Blended learning is not a new concept. It’s been around for a while. Better and more affordable softwarEasy blended learning with Google Appse solutions and improved internet access means more educational institutions are implementing blended learning solutions. Blended and elearning isn’t ‘good’ just because it is digital; it needs to meet student needs and learning goals.

Even on a budget and with limited resources, any educator can look at implementing some level of blended learning. Blended learning can help create a more individualised and flexible learning environment. Free Google Apps put blended learning solutions within everyone’s reach, whether or not you’re in a Google Apps for Education (GaFE) school. And you don’t need to be an IT expert to use them. You also don’t need to have the latest and greatest hardware and operating systems to use Google Apps.

Here I’ve collected four Google Apps that are easy for beginners to start using as part of a blended learn environment. I’ve included some ideas on how you can use them and links to resources to get you started.

But before that, maybe we should talk about…..

…what is blended learning, anyway?

1. Google Classroom

Only available as part of Google Apps for Education
Available on iOS, Android, Chromebook and full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)

Okay, this one might be a no-brainer but no discussion about Google Apps and blended learning would be complete without including Google Classroom.

Google Classroom is described as:

…a free web-based platform…[that] makes it easy to create classes, distribute assignments, communicate, and stay organized. Teachers can quickly see who has or hasn’t completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback and grades right in Classroom.

https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6020279?hl=en

Google Classroom is a very strong ally in creating a blended learning environment. As well as distributing, monitoring and marking assignments, you can share resources, post a quick question to the class and view results (great for checking understanding), and create and monitor discussions. The great thing is it allows you to share any clarifying questions or comments with the whole classroom.

Once you understand the basics, Google Classroom can be a useful tool to help you implement and manage differentiation.

It is very easy to create your first class and assignment and to have students join, especially if you have your class setup in Google Groups.

Look at the post Google Classroom Goodies for more on using Google Classroom – from the basics to pro tips.

How to access Google Classroom

Log into your GAfE account.

Go to the following website:

http://classroom.google.com

2. Google Sites

Available free with any Google account, including Google Apps for Education
Editing functionality best with full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)
View Google Sites on any device using Chrome Browser

As great as Google Classroom is, if you try and cram too much content in, it can become cluttered and unwieldy. If you want to share content, Google Sites is a great way to do it. It is easy to create a simple site even if you’ve never created a website before.

Google Sites is described as:

… a structured wiki- and Web page-creation tool… People can work together on a Site to add file attachments, information from other Google applications.

It is a great way to keep all relevant content related to a class in one place and makes it easy for students to stay up-to-date. You can easily organise different topics or modules into different ‘levels’ on your Google Site and develop it as you go. It also allows students to work at their own pace, provides opportunities for you as the teacher to include formative assessments and to easily make available extension tasks for students who need to be challenged.

As well as embedding other Google apps and YouTube videos, you can also embed other media into your Google Sites. I often include Prezis and Zaption videos, allowing me to use and curate existing content rather than having to create everything from scratch. You can also include the Google Classroom calendar on the site to help students keep track of due dates or a quiz using Google Forms.

Google Sites are also a great way for students to present evidence of learning and portfolios of work. Just like Google Drive apps, Google Sites can be collaborative.

And you don’t have to know anything about web design to use Google Sites. Try the Beginner’s guide to creating a site if you’d like some direction.

Not sure where to start? Create a page with a YouTube video and a Google Form with a few questions to check for understanding. Instant (well nearly) online mini-class!

Web design purists like to criticise the limitations and quirks of Google Sites but I have found no quicker or easier way to create websites as I need them.

How to access Google Sites

Login to your Google account.

Go to the following website:

http://sites.google.com

3. Google Slides

Available free with any Google account, including Google Apps for Education
Editing functionality best with full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)
Apps with fewer features available for iOS and Android

Ahhhh, Google Slides. One of my (almost) daily go-tos. So versatile, so easy to use and a great way to introduce blended learning practices.

Google describes Google Slides as:

… an online presentations app that allows you to show off your work in a visual way.

Google Slides can be used as part of a blended learning solution in several ways:

Google Slides can be embedded into a website or blog (like the one above in this post). They are easy to use and easily allow the insertion of links, videos, diagrams, etc.

Google Slides is part of the Google Drive suite.

4. Google Forms

Available free with any Google account, including Google Apps for Education
Editing functionality best with full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)
View Google Forms on any device using Chrome Browser

Google Forms offer a lot of possibilities, from the basic to the complex. The great thing is you don’t have to be a guru to get started with Google Forms which is the reason I selected it as part of my easy-to-use blended tools list.

According to Google:

You can plan events, make a survey or poll, give students a quiz, or collect other information in an easy, streamlined way with Google Forms. You can create a form from Google Drive or from an existing spreadsheet that can record the responses to your form.

Google Forms is so easy to use that you could set up your first short quiz in 5 minutes even if you’ve never used Google Forms before. Your students answer the questions and these are saved in a Google Sheet for you to review the answers. If you are part of a GAfE school, you’ll now exactly who has (and hasn’t!) taken the quiz.

Take it to the next level and add images and YouTube videos and have students answer questions based on those.

You can even create self-grading quizzes with a free add-on called Flubaroo. Another use for Google Forms is creating branched learning scenarios where students are directed to, for example, a video or link depending on their quiz responses.

However you choose to use Google Forms, part of its power is that you can quickly and easily check student understanding, apply any required intervention and keep track of progress and student development.

Of course, this would be part of a wider blended learning and assessment process.

Google Forms is part of the Google Drive suite.

So what are you waiting for? There’s no excuse to not start blending today!

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