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
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share
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 (21) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

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.

Mr. Gonzalez's picture

Is there a Google for Teachers workshop coming to the New Jersey area soon? Please kindly let me know. I am in the Clifton, NJ area.

Theresa's picture

Thanks so much for sharing. I am currently using Google Classroom and Sites this year, they are all new to me but they are working wonderful. Your post on GoogleMaps is going to help tremendously in our new PBL unit on mapping. We are going to add a piece where they research our community and I was wondering if you are aware of how they can change Google Maps from current Earth view to a historic view. We heard that there is an option to do this, so it will take the current view and transform it into a historic view to show the students what our community looked like in the past.

Jim Kelly's picture
Jim Kelly
Providing OER resource links to improve k-12th grade mathematics.

Maybe someday Google (and other information providing sources) will improve their user interfaces for locating information. Strangely as these sources increase the amount of information in them, the less like the user will find what they are looking for in a reasonable amount of time! At the 2016 United Nations' World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) one of the points to consider for projects was developing nontext based approaches for locating information. My website was nominated for an award in the e-learning category because it uses a nontext based approach to provide information from books and online OER resources. Hopefully, Mr. Pace at the next time you update this column we will read about how Google (and other information providers) updated its user interface to speed up the finding of information quickly. Thank you for your column.

Jim Kelly
(A United Nations 2016 WSIS nominee in e-learning, and top 5 star Merlot II resource)

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.