Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Google Tools For The New Year

Everyone has got one. A Year in Review. Whether its for the top news stories of the year, or top gadgets of the year or even the top apologies of the year these lists are everywhere. Why look back when we can look forward?

This was a huge year for Google. From the acquisition of Etherpad, to the unveiling of the Google Phone to the biggest news of the year, Wave, Google is always looking to innovate and change the way we access information. While those might have been the biggest stories of the year there were some additions to Google Labs that you might have missed that are worth a look in the coming year. So here, in no order are my Top Google Tools Worth A Look At In 2010...

This product is a collaboration between the New York Times, Washington Post and Google to better organize news stories. Basically you take a singular topic like The Politics of Climate Change and Living Stories will show you all the related stories. Right now it just pulls in articles from the NYT and WP but there are plans to expand it to other news organizations in the future.

Here is a short video on how it works:

There is a huge amount of information stored on each Living Stories page like quotes, multimedia, important characters, and more, all, linked out so you can find more information. But the implications for education are quite large. In just a history or social studies class students can easily see the evolution of major news events and have all their research in one place. Right now the choices in stories is very limited but I expect this to be big next year and grow once they add more media outlets.

This is another news service but its slightly different. FastFlip is more like a visual magazine. It takes the most viewed and most popular news articles and blog posts, captures an image of the page and posts it to FastFlip. You can sort by Popular stories, topics, sections or sources. (You can't control the content so you need to be careful and view before hand.)

For example, Health Care is a very popular topic right now. Doing a FastFlip search returns visuals of the most popular and most read articles from a wide variety of sources about Health Care. (Click for a larger view)

This one has some potential. I would like to see the ability to filter out content. But it is a great way to discover stories from across the web that you might not normally see on the Google News site or through a regular search.

This one has actually been around for a while but it is such a cool program I have to put it here. Moderator takes polling to a whole new level. You can create a place for brainstorming, feedback and collaboration. You set up what they call a Series where you ask a question. You can attach links, even a You Tube video to further explain and open it up to feedback, ideas and suggestions.

One of the cool public ones is the Ask A World Leader Series. With in that series are lists of all the major world leaders. Click on the name of one leader and see all the questions people have suggested they would ask that leader. You can vote on whether or not its a good question and even leave feedback.

This is an app that doesn't get the respect it deserves. Perfect for collaboration in the classroom, I see it being used for teacher feedback, evaluations and student group work. Its definitely one worth a closer look next year.

This is another one that is new but very cool. In Swirl, Google has combined the regular ol' Image Search and Similar Images into one, visually appealing product.

Take for example the search term Washington DC. What you get are sets of images related to DC.

So you see some major monuments, people and events. If you click a set you get a swirl of related images. So for example if we click the image of the Washington Monument we get a new set of images that are all related.

The images in that set can be drilled down to further and further related images. Swirl is interesting. It's a pretty cool way to find images on a specific topic and find related images. While not every search will return a swirl I expect this app to grow and get better over the next year.
So there is a small list of Google Applications worth a look next year. Of course that is not all. Google Squared (which I have written about in the past) is one I would like to see more teachers using. Of course there are the favorites, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Book Search that are all worth the time to investigate and find a use for in the classroom.

Are there other Google Tools that you think teachers might not know about or understand how they could be used in the classroom? Leave a comment below.

Google Swirl Images from Official Google Blog


  1. I started using Google Squared this year with my students and it has helped them tremendously with being able to quickly glance at information and make a decision on which websites to visit to collect information. The time wasted on clicking on each individual website to see if it has what the student wanted has dwindled down.

  2. Genius stuff, thanks for the post. Keep up the good work.