Monday, May 20, 2013

Google Tools To Check Out

Most folks are familiar with the most common Google tools. Search, Hangouts, Docs, Mail, Drive all are used by countless folks around the world. In fact this blog is written with Google Blogger. I use Google and live there most days.

But did you know there are some under used features outside of the typical ones that have great value?

Here is just a handful of some of the Google Tools to check out for your classroom.

Google Custom Search Engine-This tool is one of my favorites. Doing a simple search for "world war II" or "dolphins" will return you millions upon millions of results. And when trying to teach kids how to vet resources (especially our younger Googlers) it can be helpful to make that list smaller. Google Custom Search allows you to decide what sites you want to include. You can even control whether you want to search the entire domain or just a portion of it. Then you publish it and share. You can even embed it on your blog or website. One of the activities I like to see teachers do is start the search engine for students but then let the kids add to it through the course of a unit or year, justifying why the site should be added and explaining how they know the information is reliable.

Google Keep-Keep is new to the Google tool lineup. Out since March, this is the Evernote alternative. The idea is to keep notes, lists, etc and do it from anywhere. Since it sits in Drive you can access your notes anywhere and insert photos on  the file. While it does not appear the ability to share or make notes public is there yet, I have no doubt it's coming. Still, a tool to keep an eye on.

Google Mars-Always wanted to visit Mars but thought it would take to long? Google has you covered. With Google Mars you can explore the red planet in all it's glory. Toggle elevation and infrared layers and even show where all landing sites of spacecraft that have pioneered there.

Public Data-This one is one of my favorites. As a science teacher I was always looking for data that was relevant or a visualization to help make a point. Public data is both of these. I will admit, some of the data is abstract and some it is way over my head. But the population and health data is worth exploring. And the ability to create some pretty striking visualization is of benefit as well.

URL Shortner-Long URLs are ugly and not to mention hard to type in. So Google makes a handy tool to shorten those URLs. Simply input the URL you want to make shorter and bingo bango, a short URL is created. But that isn't all. You can look at the analytics of your shortened URL and track the number of clicks. And you even get a QR code that could be scanned via a mobile device or desktop QR reader for easy access.

Google For Teachers-There are so many more resources specifically for teachers that Google has curated. Lesson plans, ideas for using their tools, and even courses you can take to be a better searcher. It all starts with a visit to Google For Teachers.

What about you? Besides Hangouts, Docs, Mail and the stuff listed here. What are your favorite Google Tools you like to use in the classroom? Leave some comments below. 
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