Thursday, August 11, 2011

Google Apps - some resources for teachers

Google Apps is an example of "cloud based" computing - more specifically it is an example of what is called "software as a service" (or SaaS). In reality - it is your "online" version of an "Office" like suite of software - it has a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool and email - but in addition it has a website creation tool, graphics and a really cool "forms" tool. Plus - there are a host of other Google applications that you can tie to it (eg Blogger, Picassa, Google+ ...)

We have been trialling Google Apps with some classes for 18 months now and in general it works pretty well. For those unfamiliar with Google Apps - well, that's what this post is about.

Firstly - why use an "online" suite of apps?

There are a number of reasons - here are a few ...
  • no software to install and maintain on your laptop - everything runs within a web browser. (This means that everyone has the same version etc)
  • all files created are on Google's data servers somewhere - theoretically this might absolve you from backing up your own work - any computer can access your data - just need an ineternet connection.
  • compatible with most other applications - you can upload/download into MS Office, Open Office and a bunch of other formats. This means you can upload your existing Word documents
  • really cool sharing of files for collaboration - I use this a lot as a milestone/checkpoint for students working on longer projects - the big plus is only having 1 copy of any document ... no more trying to keep track of the "current version of the document".
This video by CommonCraft  explains how this "collaboration" works ...

    Are there some drawbacks?
    Yep - you bet.
    • need an internet connection to work (earlier versions of Google Apps used Gears to rpovide offline access to some functions - but this has been absent for the past year - its back on the development schedule but have yet to see it)
    • worried that Google will not treat your data as yours? Then maybe you don't want to head here.
    • slow internet connection - to be useful in a school/classroom - need lots of bandwidth.
    Overall though - the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

    So - how do you get on for some Google Apps training?

    There are plenty of options. Here are some to get you started ...

    1. 32 Ways to use Google Apps in the Classroom

    2. Google Apps for Education Demo (from Google themselves)

    3. Using Google Docs

    This link to Google's training is worth a look

    Then make sure you work through the rest of the links on this site.

    and then this one

    There are is no shortage of help and ideas on YouTube or any general search of the web will also show a large range of help and support options.

    Atomic Learning remains a favourite for training in all sorts of apps - and they have a comprehensive set of video tutorials for Google Docs.

    So - give Google Apps a try if you haven't yet

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