All Things Google

 
Oh, the Things You Can Do with Google Apps!
- Minnie Ladores, February 18, 2009
 
I love Google apps!  First of all, these applications are free.  This works well for me and the students in the various technology courses I teach.  Better than that, these applications work well.  I like the way they can be seamlessly integrated with each other.  For example, you can embed a Picasa web album within a web site.  Another good reason for using Google apps is how well you can customize your pages.  There you go:  Google apps have power, ease of use, and zero cost.  So come along and explore the many tools that can help with your teaching!

First Five Things to Do

1. Get a Google account!  With one account, one username, and one password, you will have access to a host of applications available online.  To begin, go to
http://www.google.com/ and click on GET STARTED.  The system will walk you through the steps of creating your Google homepage, otherwise known as "iGoogle."  You'll get to a page that looks like this:

 

2. Customize your iGoogle page.  Click on ADD STUFF.  You'll find it in the upper right hand corner.  Add the "gadgets" you like or need.  The top three gadgets I found most useful are:
  • Google Calendar - We'll discuss this later.
  • World Clocks - Since I am involved in projects with educators in other countries, this gadget makes it easy for me to synchronize meetings.  I found it helpful, too, when I was abroad and wondering whether it will be a good idea to call or not.
  • To Do List - There are several versions on Google.
Here are some curriculum-related suggestions:
  • Social Studies: This Day in History by Turhan Aydin
  • Mathematics: Nicks Mathematical Puzzles by gbyte.org
  • Science: NASA Image of the Day by Olivier Camard
  • Foreign Languages: Google Translate

Use the search gadget window to find other gadgets for your subject area.

3. Get started with Google Docs.  Now, it is always good to have a back up of important files.  Google Docs is an excellent repository for these.  Plus, you get to publish selected documents online!  Instead of sending a whole document, you can simply send your colleagues a link to the document.  And there's more!  You can invite others to become collaborators on a document.  As a team, any member can make changes on a specific document.  It is much quicker than sending the documents around and losing track of changes, right?

So, while you're on your iGoogle page, go ahead and search for the link to Google Docs.  On the menu located above your page, click on MORE.  Scroll down the list that comes up.  The last time I checked, DOCUMENT was 10th from the list.  Click on it.  You will have to sign in the first time you do this.  Use the same Google username and password.  Click on NEW to create a new document or presentation.  Click on UPLOAD to upload a Word document or PowerPoint presentation from you computer.

When your document is all set, click on SHARE and select PUBLISH THIS AS WEBPAGE.  You'll get a neat little web address. Isn't this cool?

4. Make your first web album!  Since we're already uploading stuff, how about working on your photos?  Whichever Google page you may be in, look at the menu on top of the page and click on PHOTOS.  This will bring up Picasa.  Again, the first time it comes up, you'll have to sign in using the same Google username and password.  Once Picasa has launched, click on UPLOAD.  Select CREATE A NEW ALBUM.  A window will pop up asking for basic information on this album.  Here's a cool detail:  If you type in the address of the location the photos were taken and make sure there's a check mark on "Show location on map," the map will indicate where in the world these photos were taken!  Remember to publish your album when you're ready.  You have the option to make it public or not.  Here's an example of a Picasa web album, embedded in this page:
 

Frostburg State University

 
5. Tinker with your Google Calendar.  No more misplaced organizers.  Now you can have an appointment book you can access online!  Early during the semester, I would plug in all the different classes I'm teaching.  Throughout the semester, I would add meetings, webinars, conferences, and other important dates.  I can also add reminders for things I need to do.  And if you need a hard copy, print it out!  I like seeing my weekly calendar.  With a color printer, you'll have neat-looking, visually attractive calendars with color-coded events!  (The best thing about this calendar is that it works well with Remember the Milk, which synchronizes well with the iPhone - but that's another story...)
 
Again, whichever Google page you may be on, search the menu for CALENDAR.  You may have to sign in, you know the drill by now =).  There are at least two ways to add an event.  One way is to click on CREATE EVENT.  Type in the information requested.  You may choose to be reminded of this event.  The other way is to click on the calendar on the corresponding date and time of an event.  Select a different month by clicking the arrows on either side of the name of the month located on top of the calendar.  
 
GREAT!  What next?
Well, now that you've reached the end of the list, what do you think?  Cool, huh?  Keep playing with it!  Anytime you're at a computer with Internet access, go visit your site:
http://www.google.com and sign in.  Keep working at it!