Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Google Apps for Education

It has been a busy couple of weeks.  Needless to say, the technology overload has been hit with all the new information in a short amount of time.  Two days of nothing by Google Apps for Education (GAFE) at the Google Summit of the Great Plains in Lincoln was wonderful.  So much useful information in a small amount of time, I am still processing that information two weeks removed. 

If you are not familiar with GAFE, you should be.  It is a wonderful tool available FREE to schools.  All you have to do is sign up.  GAFE allows you, your students, and others to share documents and collaborate on them, without the hassle of emailing drafts back and forth trying to remember what you have changed and what you haven’t.  You have all the essentials you could ask for.  Docs, mail, sites, calendar, groups, and more if you want.  It is totally customizable for your school.

For this post, I am going to concentrate on the Documents/Drive part of GAFE.  This group of applications is just like having iWorks or Microsoft Office.  You have a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications available.  All with the same functions of those found in the other bundles of applications.  The difference is, that you and your students can be working on the same spreadsheet, word document, or presentation at the same time from different computers.  You can see who is typing and where, in real time.  No need for keeping track of who gets to use your computer to input data.  No emailing spreadsheets back and forth between you and your principal and trying to remember which one you opened and changed last.  One warning: keep confidential information off of Google Docs.  Not a good place to have it.

One feature Google Docs has that the others don’t is what is called Forms.  Forms allow you to create a survey, quiz, review, and much more.  You can keep the form within your domain, or send it out to parents who have the link.  Everything is compiled in a spreadsheet for easy access and analysis of the data.  Google has even made it so you can make multi-page forms depending on a multiple-choice answer that is selected.  A word of advice on multi-page forms: map it out first so you know how your page breaks and page links are going to look.  It makes it much easier.  There are even scripts that you can get to grade quizzes quickly and easily for you.  If you so choose to do this, the script is called Flubaroo.  All you need to do is install the script, take the quiz yourself, run the script, follow the directions, and your quiz is graded.

This is obviously just a small piece of the GAFE pie.  I hardly scratched the surface of even Docs/Drive.  Hopefully, if you aren’t using GAFE you look into it.  I feel that it would be very beneficial to a school district.  They are even trying to figure out how to incorporate Google+ into GAFE.  Hopefully they find a way soon.

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