As an educator, finding free tools can be nearly impossible. While many companies offer free trials or maybe even free versions of computer software or online tools, usually these are very limited and not very effective for a classroom curriculum. However, in Google Apps, a teacher will find an amazing assortment of programs and applications that can greatly enhance the teaching of any subject. And since most students these days already have a great awareness and ability with the Internet, utilizing online applications will go a long way toward keeping the interest and enthusiasm of students at a very high level.
Richard Byrne, a social studies teacher in Western Maine and author of the Free Technology for Teachers blog, wrote an article about the many impressive applications (http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1na6j/GoogleforTeachers/resources/1.htm
) of Google Apps throughout education. This article touches upon some of those, and includes a few additional ones in order to provide a list of the 10 most useful Google apps for the classroom.
Google Docs Templates
Of all Google Apps, Google Docs
is easily the most popular and the most useful tool for teachers and students. It actually includes three very important educational tools that need to be detailed individually. As Richard pointed out in his write-up, Google Docs has a wide variety of powerful features that make exchanging information with students a whole lot easier. One of the reasons Google Docs can save so much time for teachers is because there is now a very large library of templates available for flashcards, word searches and even premade or generic quizzes.
Google Docs Forms
If you want to create a more customized, online form quiz that your students can take online, you can use the "Forms" tool within Google Spreadsheet and actually create a test for your students using this tool. The nice thing about the Google Forms tool is that it isn't tied to multiple choice, if you want some answers to be essay or list style, those answer formats are supported.
Google Docs Drawing
Yet a third valuable tool within Google Docs is the Drawing tool. When you select "Drawing" from the available list in the File/Open menu, you are provided with a very versatile drawing program. Unlike other simple photo editing tools that only offer a very limited selection of graphical objects and difficult text editing capability, Google Docs Drawing makes creating flowcharts, instructions and other impressive graphics very easy. Creating descriptive student handouts for lab instructions or homework problems is very easy because the software is so intuitive and easy to learn.
In many high schools and colleges, educators like to provide students with a reading list as part of the syllabus. Reading lists aren't always easy to manage and track through the year in printed format, but in electronic form they are very easy to manage. This is why Google Books
is such an important tool for creating and managing reading lists. You can create a private reading list with notes and instructions throughout for your students.
In classes like Geography, History and even many Literature classes, geographical locations across the world are very important. The beauty of Google Maps
is that there are not only many preloaded detailed descriptions and photographs about every major region across the world, but you can also create your own customized maps using the MapMaker tool, and tag areas with customized descriptions and information. This is a great way to show students how and where historical events took place.
Unlike Google maps which only provides a two dimensional overview of locations, Google Earth
offers a very valuable tool that students can use to actually visit famous locations across the earth. The views on Google Earth for most major areas and historical monuments are very well photographed and show up in amazing 3D detail. There are few better ways for students to explore the Earth than with Google Earth.
is unsurpassed in the sheer volume of information that can be found regarding legal cases, academic articles and other credible sources that students can cite from as part of their own research papers. Google Scholar brings some of the most informational and detailed facts to the fingertips of students.
, on its own, is an excellent source of information for current events that are under discussion in the classroom. However, it goes even further by providing the ability for an educator to create a custom section that might target specific areas that are under discussion or examination in the classroom. Using Google Alerts, important updates on Google News about those topics could be emailed to the entire class for discussion that same day that the news took place.
Google created the "Knol" tool based on the idea of a "unit of knowledge." A knol is similar to a collaborative Wiki site, although it's much easier to edit. Google Knol
is good for two aspects of education. Students can use Knol to research credible information that is written by true experts. At the same time, a Knol page could be created by a group of students, or an entire class, as a collaborative effort to research and write about an important topic that the class is studying.
A final tool that would help any educator bring all of these tools together in one place is Google Sites
. Google Sites is a fast, free and easy way to create customized web pages using a simple editor and high quality templates, so nothing has to be created from scratch. Educators could quickly create a single website that would contain all of the information for the class, including a syllabus created in Google Docs, a reading list created in Google Books, and a link to any of the other Google apps being utilized by the classroom.
In many ways, Google offers tools and resources that many teachers otherwise would not be able to offer to their students. Through the power of Google, schools can now more easily integrate the Internet into the classroom without sacrificing the school budget.