Google Apps for Education (GAfE) has become part of my every day life as an educator. I use GAfE tools for both planned and spontaneous learning activities. Here I have listed 4 of my daily go-tos; tools that I use regularly as part of
my day as an educator.
In terms of what I have to work with, our IT infrastructure is reasonable, with technology available with planning but not available to the level of one-on-one or BYOD school. Sometimes it takes a bit of Macgyver-ing to get the desired result. It’s all about problem solving and working with what you’ve got.
I have excluded the ‘vanilla’, Chrome desktop accessible GaFE Apps from the essentials – I’m assuming they are a given. Also, essentials may vary from educator to educator depending on the infrastructure available to them.
I’m not one to be ungrateful but, if there is one ‘I wish’ that I have, it is that I wish I had more Chromebooks available at our school. These go from zero to productive in about 5 seconds and have an impressive battery life. Many students love them because they work so well with their Google Drive accounts and they don’t have to wait forever for an operating system to load.
I often walk around with one under my arm, ready to pop it open to help a student with an assessment or to look something up. If we’re logged into the Chromebook under my account, sharing with the student’s account is quick and painless.
Chromebooks quickly and easily plug in to a TV, data projector or IWB via HDMI to view a video, present a Google Slide show or review student work (with permission, of course!).
With the Chromebook Management License that allows admins to manage the devices in your GAfE domain, in theory it makes it easy to manage what users can and can’t access. However, just like many of these types of system management tools, it is not always 100% foolproof.
2. iPad Mini
This would probably work as well with a high end Android device.
My iPad Mini is like my right hand and the iOS Google Apps work beautifully on it. Sure, they might not have as many features as the ‘full’ versions but they are improving all the time. Just like the Chromebook, they have a fast (almost instant) start up and are very portable. And, just like the Chromebook, I use it opportunistically when I need to spontaneously help a student. It’s also easy to snap, upload and share photographs for project work.
I also take photos of student work (e.g., art work), upload it to Google Drive and share it with the student and anyone else that might need access. One example is a portfolio of work created by our vocational beauty class that has been saved to a folder in Google Drive.
My iPad has cellular and a reasonable amount of data so, if the WiFi is slow or down in class (one of the downsides to living in rural Australia), I can use it as a hotspot and keep on going.
For students that struggle with writing and typing, the iPad voice-to-text feature works brilliantly to allow students to ‘voice’ type directly into a Google Drive file. This can be empowering as students can work independently rather than relying on scribes or trying to avoid writing all together (as sometimes happens). Here is a video showing how it works:
Another great use of the iPad with Google Docs is for note taking, particularly during professional development sessions. I I usually use Google Docs and incorporate typed notes with photos of handouts, relevant slides, etc. It means all relevant information is stored neatly in one place and easily referred to in future.
3. Apple TV + iPad Mini
This would probably work as well with a high end Android device and a Chromecast.
My iPad Mini makes another appearance, this time teaming up with an Apple TV. This works particularly well with classes with learners who may be reluctant to work independently but work better where we ‘crowd source’ solutions; i.e., we discuss possible responses/answers together and type it up using the iPad, working in a Google Drive app (usually Docs or Slides) and mirroring to a TV or projector using the Apple TV with students copying it for themselves.
Often I start off as the typist/editor but, as we warm to our task, I find students are keen to volunteer to ‘drive’ the iPad. This is easily done by passing around the iPad. The other advantage is that the work is saved in Google Drive for students who may need to catch up or for future reference.
4. “Save to Google Drive” Chrome extension
This handy free Chrome extension allows you to save just about anything you have open in your Chrome browser to your Google Drive. It’s a great way to quickly and instantly save resources you have found, including PDFs, into your Google Drive. Once installed, you just click on the “Save to Google Drive” icon to save. Once saved to Google Drive, you can easily find the file, rename it, organise it, etc.
This has mixed reviews from users. Personally, I have found it reliable and easy to use. The trick for me is organising my files (especially renaming to something relevant) as I save then to Drive.
Download the “Save to Google Drive” Chrome extension from the Chrome Web Store using this link:
What are your Google Apps for Education essentials? Why not share in the comments!