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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Google for Educators: The Best Features for Busy Teachers

These tools from Google for Educators, whether old and familiar or new and improved, will keep teachers and students inspired, inventive, and organized.
Kyle Pace
Instructional Technology Specialist
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Illio of "Google" written on a black chalk board

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 that 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 can find 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 -- helping them to become digitally aware of the information that they're intaking is of utmost importance.

Google CS First

This is a big favorite of mine among Google's offerings for teachers and students! Google has created a fantastic computer science curriculum called CS First. It's designed for grades 4-8 (but works well for other grades, too) and gives teachers everything they need to implement a computer science club in their school. The program is flexible enough to weave it into the regular school day or create a before/after-school club. Everything is free and available on the CS First website. Students get to experience first-hand the impact of computer science across multiple real-world industries. Don't worry if you don't have any computer science background! Google has taken care of everything to help you start your school's CS First club. They'll even ship you printed materials for free! Check out the booming CS First Google+ Community to connect with other educators implementing CS First in their schools.

Google Keep

Keep is definitely one of my "use it every day" apps. You can use the web version, or the standalone apps available for Mac, PC, Chrome OS, iOS, and Android. Keep is a super simple note-taking app, but it's more than just text-based notes. You can use it to quickly save an image, make an audio recording, or create a quick to-do list. You can tag, title, and color code your notes however you see fit. An added bonus is that you can share any note with others to easily collaborate on a to-do list, or take notes together in class or when you attend a conference.

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. There are many fantastic add-ons that you can use in Docs and Sheets to really amp up not only your own productivity but your students' productivity as well. Teachers love add-ons such as Flubaroo, Doctopus, AutoCrat, and JoeZoo.

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 prettying things up! Your site should be beneficial to parents and your students alike. Check out this post that I wrote a couple of years ago about using Google Sites to create a digital hub for your classroom (some of the key points are still relevant today).

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 (permission required) to create custom maps for a variety of projects. Did you know you can create custom Google Maps right from Google Drive? Click New > More > Google My Maps to get started! Also, check out Google Tour Builder to have your students create their own interactive tours of historical sites, locations in literature, and travel guides.

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. Tip: if you think of a great feature that you wish Google Classroom had, suggest it to the Classroom team with the send feedback option in the bottom left corner. They've made loads of updates to Classroom over the last year based on teacher feedback.


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. They 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. I love teaching teachers about YouTube. If you'd like to see a virtual version of my YouTube session, check out the Hangout On-Air that I did last school year for Google for Education.

Comments (16) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Toni Krasnic's picture
Toni Krasnic
I help students learn and succeed in school and life with mind maps.

I just came across Goggle knol (http://knol.google.com) and love it. It's a great new Google application (still in Beta mode) that makes it easy to create, collaborate on, and publish content. It's just like a wiki, where users can collaborate on writing a document and/or post comments. Give it a try.

For a sample, see a knol that I just created: http://knol.google.com/k/toni-krasnic/four-steps-that-turn-reading-into/....

Anissa Barton-Thompson's picture
Anissa Barton-Thompson
Computer Instructor/Technologist for Gardena Valley Christian School

Aaron is right, Google does have a restriction on total number of users; as our school consists of less than 400 student and faculty accounts total, we are unaffected by this restriction, but I do understand the concern for school districts...

Also, regarding Google Maps: we were able to resolve our missing tiles issue. The solution was to remove 10-year-old software (Jumpstart and Knowledge Adventure) titles which caused graphic conflicts with the javascript code Google uses to generate and place the map tiles.

BONUS!: Starting this Fall 2010, Google will finally allow account combinations, allowing for the use of other Google services that were previously separate from Google Apps to now be incorporated into Apps for Education/Business. (!)

David Andrade's picture
David Andrade
Chief Information Officer

We had that problem, but fixed it. You can contact Google and they can help you. I actually found the answer in the Google support forums.

David Andrade's picture
David Andrade
Chief Information Officer

Some of the best things about Google are the ability for teachers to use it for free - I have a website, class blogs, use Google Docs, and more, all for free. My students use Google Docs and Gmail too. They sign up for it on their own, as opposed to the whole school using it. Our school still uses Microsoft products. Students do not get any email from school. They do get some storage space on the school network for files, but not much. So, 1st week of school, I introduce them to Google's apps along with other ones like Evernote, OpenOffice, Trackclass, and Dweeber. I work in a district with 96% of the students qualifying for free lunch so I share as many free resources as I can with them.

Here's a list of some of the other free resources for students:
and for teachers:

Colleen's picture

I have been working over the summer on learning as much as possible on interactive technology for Kindergarten level. i found the comments posted above interesting and informative.

Senorita Hill's picture
Senorita Hill
World Language Teacher (Spanish)

I appreciate this website, not only for its innovative ideas but for its ability to permit teachers to collaborate with one another. Thank you!

David Andrade's picture
David Andrade
Educator, EdTech Specialist, Education Administrator

We have all 26,000 students and staff using Google Apps and it is going great. I also work with other districts and all love it.

There are some issues, as people have pointed out above, but for the most part, Google Apps are the easiest, best product. They are easy to managed and deploy, easy to use, free, allow for collaboration, and familiar to many people.

Here are some resources I've collected and created for using Google Apps in Education.

Feel free to use and share.

Leona Hinton's picture

Google is fantastically awesome! There is nothing to add , I use it every single day and it makes my life easier.

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