There are so many uses and benefits I see through the use of Google Apps for Educators. Efficiency, collaboration, and student connections are the biggest benefits these tools have to offer. As an instructor, apps such as the email tool provide an easy way for the instructor to organize their communications with students. The label function can be used to break down communication by specific class, specific student, or specific class assignment. If I were teaching multiple courses this would be an easy way to organize things for retrieval at a later date. Additionally, I could use this tool to set priority settings for students so that I get pressing emails in one location immediately. On the student side learners can use the label feature to organize emails by their own classes so they can find important things easier as well.
Google calendar paired with Google Hangouts can do a great deal to enhance class connectivity. As an instructor I could use the calendar tool to share things with students such as assignment due dates, special course related events, or office hours. I could use this tool to schedule individual, in person meetings with students who may need additional help. Students can also use the tool to schedule a meeting time during office hours. This could be either an in person meeting or a virtual meeting. The seamless integration of Google Hangouts makes a virtual meeting easy to conduct. The video meeting can be launched from within the calendar appointment. The pairing of these two tools can also be used to conduct a virtual help session between teacher and student.
As a standalone Google Hangouts could be used in my course to create personal connections between students. Giving them this tool as a component for group work would be tremendously beneficial. Synchronous discussion among students can be conducted at a time that works for everyone and would make collaboration much easier than in a static virtual environment. One interesting feature of Google Hangouts that I was not aware of was the ability to conduct a live stream. This feature could be used to create some immersive environments from a student’s perspective. For example, a course project could be students broadcasting live from a historic or notable event related to the course content. They could narrate their experience and observations.
Google Docs provides another layer for collaboration and sharing. While more static than Google Hangouts, if used right a lot of interaction can take place within Google Docs. Efficient group collaboration can be conducted through the variety of products offered. As an instructor I could use this for group presentations. This would work especially well in an online course environment as it enables students at a distance to collaborate in real time on a project. Comments on items can be left for team members unable to meet synchronously as well. This could also be a great way for an online class to brainstorm ideas in real time or a way to enable an instructor to monitor the progress of project such as a final capstone. Finally, for younger students, this is a great way to share student work with parents. This keeps parents up to date on what their student is working on as well as lets them see the evolution of a project.
Google sites is a good tool for classroom communication. If I taught in the classroom I could use this to disseminate general information to students. Due dates and assignment information could be posted here. Additional learning resources could be added as well as additional learning opportunities that are more informal and provide some fun engagements with the materials.
I see quite a bit of benefits from all of these tools in making teacher time more efficient and class time more engaging.
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