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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Google for Educators: The Best Features for Busy Teachers

Kyle Pace
Instructional Technology Specialist

Among all the links and downloads out there, it can be hard for teachers to know which ones work best. Google has made it easier by creating Google for Educators, which compiles some of the search engine's most useful features in one place. Whether you're teaching Spanish or social studies, mathematics or music, there's a free Google feature that will make your lessons more dynamic and your projects more organized. The lively, informative website offers step-by-step visual tours and even videos to help you get set up. Below are some of the most useful features the site has to offer.

Google Search

Google Search is at the heart of it all. It’s where many of us go multiple times a day to locate information. Google provides excellent resources for teachers and students to become effective searchers and build essential digital literacy skills for finding quality, credible resources on the web. Here you'll discover lesson plans, an online course to become a Power Searcher, and challenges such as A Google a Day. In my opinion, it all starts here for our students.

Google Play for Education

Google Play for Education is a version of Google Play that is specifically for educational content such as Chrome apps (for Chromebooks), Android apps (for tablets such as the Nexus 7/9), YouTube EDU videos, and books. The best part of having all this great educational content in one place is that it's easy for teachers to locate the content, and easy for them to push it out to their students' devices, such as Chromebooks and Nexus tablets.

Google Drive

Google Drive is particularly handy for teachers when revising students' work and providing feedback. It allows you and your class to track what changes have been made, save each revision, and collaborate in real time. And it's a great organizing tool -- you can easily upload existing files to Google Drive so that everything is accessible in one place. Not only can your students create electronic Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drawings, they can also connect other apps to Google Drive for tasks such as photo editing, video editing, and creating dynamic charts and presentations. Check out apps like Pixlr Express, WeVideo, and Lucidchart to give your Google Drive even more creative capacity. The best tip I can offer on Google Drive? Be organized, be organized, be organized!

Google Sites

Google Sites is your place to create a digital classroom on the web. One of the best things about Google Sites is its ability to be that digital hub for your classroom. You can combine video, documents, forms, calendars, and other resources all in one place for student and parent access. Students can also use Sites to showcase their work and create digital portfolios that can follow them from year to year. Tip: A great way to start is by creating templates that teachers can use to build their site. Think carefully about content and structure before the prettying things up!

Eye in the Sky: Melissa Browning's students saw their school's Brooklyn neighborhood through Google Maps's street view.

Credit: Google Maps

Google Maps

Google Maps helps students explore the world around them. They can go virtually anywhere in the world because of Street View, Google Earth Pro is now free, and teachers and students can use Google Maps Engine Lite to create custom maps for a variety of projects.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is Google's newest product (August 2014) available to Google Apps for Education users. Classroom helps teachers to streamline their digital workflow by creating a space where they can easily push out announcements and assignments, and give students a way to interact with the teacher and classmates, as well as turn in assignments electronically. Most recently, Google has made it even easier for students by releasing Android and iOS versions of Google Classroom. Teachers that have invested the time to use Classroom consistently have told me that it has forever changed their workflow and made their classroom not only more paperless but also more efficient.

Google YouTube

YouTube can be an excellent tool for teaching and learning. While educators can tap into existing YouTube content, this medium also does a great job of equipping teachers with the ability to create original content for their students. Teachers can begin by locating and organizing existing video content, and then gradually shift to creating their own. We have a responsibility to model appropriate use of this powerful classroom tool.

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