Google Apps for Your Classroom

NETA 2008 WORKSHOP: Friday, April 25th at 10:15am

The Google Labs have cooked up an impressive array of FREE tools that bring new life and possibility to traditional classroom projects, organize your digital life, and get you collaborating with your colleagues. We'll spend a few exciting minutes on a number of different tools that you might want to start utilizing right away!


Here are the files that were on the destop of your computer during the workshop - including the Google Earth KMX files and the Sketch-up models.


Google offers more than 50 free tools above and beyond web search. We won't have time to look at all of them today, and many may never suit your classroom. A few of them have a lot of potential though. You might take a look through them some day.

Google Accounts

All of the free tools Google offers require one thing - a Google Account. Here is a simple tip from the future... "Google Accounts are free - take a handful." What I mean is that you may find yourself using Google Apps for work, but also for personal use. If you are like me, you probably don't want those worlds to cross over. To keep things civilized, you may want to create more than one Google Account. Additionally, you may find use in "utility" accounts  that you use when a site you may not trust needs an email address, or to segment subscriptions away from your actual personal communications. Some ideas:

  • JSomebody (personal)
  • JSomebodyESU9 (professional)
  • JSomebodyJunk (for dubious registrations?)
  • JSomebodyStorage (file backups?)
  • JSomebodyPractice  (testing new ideas?)
  • JSomebodyNewsletters (newsletters?)

Of course, you could simplify even more by using the same password for all of them, but that might not be the best security practice.

Google Earth & Maps

The first tool we will look at is the powerful combination of Google Maps and Google Earth.

At their most simplistic these tools are the greatest globe your classroom has ever had. When viewed as a platform for visualizing data in three dimensions, creating your own data, and sharing that with a global audience, the potential for use in Kindergarden - Career is virtually unlimited.

A few resources to get you started...


Working in three dimensions can be a bit confusing at times. To make navigation a lot easier for you and your students, it might be a wise investment to purchase a 3-D navigator of some sort. I recommend the Space Navigator PE ($59) from 3Dconnexion.



We have spent the past 20 years learning how to use computers to tackle the two dimensional space (paper and screens). I firmly believe that the next 20 years will be focused on a couple of other areas; mobile and 3D. Sketch-Up is Google's free 3D modeling tool.

Ten years ago a CAD tool like Sketch-Up might have set you back tens of thousands of dollars. Now you can download a free copy. Use it to engage students in business classes, industrial arts, geometry, or any other area in which a 3D object could be created as a project. 

Sketch-up can be used alone, but it is most powerful when you use it in conjunction with the 3D Warehouse that Google hosts, or Google Earth. Students can download complete models of objects as simple as a table, or as rich as a football stadium or Capitol building. You can also create your own objects and place them into Google Earth.

A few resources to get you started... 


Google Docs (30 minutes)

Google Docs refers to a suite of 3 tools; Word Processing, Spreadsheets, and Presentations, all online. This marks a significant shift in how we approach these sorts of tools. There are any number of things possible with online tools that simply cannot be done on paper, or by using desktop software.

Word Processing

Google Docs offer the core functionalities of a desktop based word processor, with some decided advantages, like real-time collaboration, instant web publishing, ability to import or export various file types, and version history.


Like it's siblings, Google Spreadsheets offer the same basic spreadsheet features in an online environment. Unique features are similar to the word processor tool but also includes a side chat, the ability to gather statistical data from the internet, "Gadgets" that you can use to display data, and the "killer feature" of FORMS! Forms allow you to turn any spreadsheet into a web based form for collecting data of any type you imagine. (Think SURVEY.) Simply create the headers, pick the question types, and share the address with your audience (or the world.) Their responses are entered in your spreadsheet in real time. Keep the data private or share the results with the participants.


Besides the powerful ability to collaborate on creation of a presentation, Google Presentations solves a couple of problems by its very nature, and adds other useful features from there. To begin with, creating your presentation online from the start means that you don't have to figure out how to get it packaged and portable once you finish. To keep pages sprightly, you have no ability to add audio, special effects or transitions. 99 times out of 100, this is a VERY good thing. (Yes, you read that correctly.) An additional feature Google layered in is the integrated "backchannel."  Invite your audience to share their comments and questions right beside your content. 



Are Google Apps blocked in your school district. (I've heard of crazy stuff like that.) Here are some alternatives: 

Book Search

Remember that room full of books? We called them LIBRARIES. Google was awfully fond of them, and is working on getting those books into an electronic format that you can view on the internet. Starting with the libraries of Stanford, Harvard, the University of California System, the New York Public Library, Princeton, Oxford, every school in the Big 10 conference, and more every semester they aim to make the best knowledge of our past easily accessible to our future.

Books are great on paper, but they really shine when they are searchable, mapped, and you are shown exactly where to get one.



Manage all of your digital photos online with Google's photo organizer, Picasa. You'll never be afraid of losing pictures because of a hard drive crash, always know where to find them, and you'll be able to share them with ease.


This is the calendar program you always dreamed about! Use it for private personal events, classroom news, a homework log, school building events - all at the same time. 



About Chris

Chris Pultz is a technology trainer, landscape photographer, proud father, husband, and all around geek.

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