By Tatyana Dvorkin, Associate Director of the DigitalJLearning Network
Episode 1: Making the Most of Google Apps for Education
It’s almost difficult to get through a day in 2015 without using Google for something, whether you’re lost in an unfamiliar area, chatting with a friend, or in a heated argument with a colleague about exactly which actor was just nominated for an Oscar. Schools across the United States are no different in this regard. Google Apps for Education (affectionately known as GAFE) is quickly becoming as ubiquitous a feature in today’s learning institutions as pens and paper, and with the release of the free LMS, Google Classroom, 6 months ago that trend will likely continue.
Google’s no-cost factor is of course a huge draw for many schools, especially for those that are just beginning to integrate technology or incorporate blended learning courses. Whether due to a dearth of funding, a lack of immediate whole school buy-in, or insufficient administrator support, paid LMS products, software, and educational apps, are not always feasible options for teachers beginning to experiment with blended learning. Google Apps for Education is, and promises to always be, free - which is great. However, these tools have what we call a low threshold and a high ceiling, meaning that it is easy to learn the basics, but there are advanced features to create a much more robust experience if one is willing and able to explore and learn. So what can you do with these advanced possibilities of GAFE that can take blended learning to the next level? In this series, we will take a look at some specific Google tools that can help you in your classroom and beyond, starting with Google Add-ons. Future posts will take a look at Google Classroom, Google Drive, and Chrome Extensions.
Episode 1: Supporting Blended Learning with Google Add-ons
If you haven’t yet experimented with Google Add-ons, I recommend start today! By going to the Add-ons tab at the top of an open Google Doc or Sheet and clicking “Get add-ons,” you will gain access to dozens of amazing tools built by Google’s partners. These tools can add many new capabilities to your Google Drive suite with options from highlighter tools to bibliography creators, to mail merge. Here are some useful ones for the classroom to get you started:
- Kaizena mini allows you to provide audio feedback to highlighted sections of text. You can still include notes and links, just as with standard commenting features, but now you can also get more descriptive with audio. This is particularly handy for language classes and for students who learn better with oral feedback.
- Doctopus is one of the most powerful add-ons for Google Sheets created by New Visions for Public Schools. The tool uses a teacher’s roster to create shared folders for individual students to access, and then distributes files into these folders. Files can be individualized for each student if necessary to support differentiated instruction and teachers can monitor students’ progress on the documents. Teachers can then grade documents using the Goobric Chrome extension that enables rubric-based grading within Doctopus.
- Another add-on for Forms and Sheets, Flubaroo, enables the use of Google Forms as a means of formative assessment. Teachers can create a quiz in Forms, submit their own correct answers, and let the system use their responses as a rubric for grading their students’ submissions. This tool empowers teachers to provide almost immediate feedback to students while they are still ready to absorb information enabling them to make connections they may have initially missed.
- While there is a standard highlighting tool available, Texthelp Study Skills can be added on to Google Docs to take highlights to a new level. Students can not only highlight pieces of text, but also “collect” their highlights to extract them and place them into a new document by color or topic. This can help students identify and compile key terms, collect research, or assist in creating study guides for later.
These are just a few of the add-ons suitable for education, and teachers are coming up with new ways to use other ones constantly. Check some of these out, explore to see what others you might find useful, and please share your experiences or questions with the DJLN Google Group!