Monday, March 7, 2016

5 Essential Google Apps for Your Students

The other day, a kid said, "Mr. Zahner, your Google Classroom is money." I don't know exactly what that means, so I thanked him before the giggles ensued. 


Reflecting on my day, I thought about how the student's comment made it sound like Classroom is becoming routine on our campus. This got me thinking about the troubles many teachers have experienced trying to use Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in their classrooms as well as how much easier it has become to implement as students become more familiar with the functions and potential.  

It's been a roller coaster over the past three years, however. GAFE has come a long way with several hiccups on the path to its current state, which is considerably more stable than last year. The trouble comes when new users are impatient and unaware of the nature of the updates. Luckily, as I've said, the app updates are less disruptive to our routines, these days.

This year, I noticed that most of my students have Google Docs and Drive on their mobile devices – a few have Slides. They had no problem installing the Classroom app, and, of course, they all had YouTube. I didn't even ask.

Students coming to me with Google App experience is amazing. Here are 5 essential apps for mobile GAFE.

1. Docs

The fancy apps and Web tools can easily distract us from the purpose and product, the true outcome of a lesson. Docs is an app that can put everyone on the same page, literally. 

Look at what my students and I did with collaborative note-taking.


2. Slides

Pacing is one of the hardest things to manage during a lesson. It's not the pace  of each learner, as if there were one pace for everyone and every topic. Each learner needs more or less time on different topics.

To overcome this issue, many of my students keep the Slides open on their app while I flip through it on the screen. This affords them the time to slow down and catch up as needed. 

Here are few more things you can do with Slides

3. Classroom

Google Classroom is your front end. It's communication, material dissemination, and assignment and feedback management. It's all of these and more.

My favorite tool has been the Question. It allows me to collect a constructed response, assign a grade, and provide actionable feedback.

Maybe you'll recognize some of these routines

4. Drive 

If Classroom is the front end, Google Drive is the back. It's the hub for sharing work and can be a powerful tool for collaborative activities.

Crowdsourcing with Google Drive can be a a great way to change up the classroom content flow. It gives the kids the keys to the class. 

5. YouTube

All of the videos that I use in class are saved to a class playlist. Like the file sharing folder link, the playlist is shared by link in the "About" section of Classroom. 

Whether it's a video that I made or another that I've selected (some of which come from student choice), the sound, visual, and ability to pause, rewind, and fast forward are things that are hard to do within the traditional direct instruction model.

YouTube has been around for a while, so be careful that you don't take it for granted because it's not the flashy new app with all the wizardry.