When I get my own set of Chromebooks I will…
As the new part-time Technology TOSA for my district, I often encounter teachers who say they are glad I am here and that they are eager to do more with technology…later…when they have more access to technology. And I understand–we are not yet one-to-one, and in some buildings time with shared Chromecarts is a limited commodity that is getting in the way of forward progress. A shift in mindset could help this problem though. Yes, Google Classroom, Slides, Docs, Forms, Sheets and Drawings are great, especially if students can collaboratively CREATE with them on a regular basis. However, they are not Google’s only useful tools. Here I will discuss four of my favorite tools, appropriate for almost any teaching situation that includes a computer and a projector.
In 2003, my husband and I drove to New Mexico using printed MapQuest directions. At some point we ended up on a gravel road in southern Utah. While we made it to New Mexico just fine, I am so grateful for the new and improved GPS features available on my cellphone, and while Google has a hand in that tool, it also has a vibrant and useful browser maps feature.
Recent updates to this version of Google Maps includes a street view feature that I find incredibly useful. When reading Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, I can take kids to Carthage, South Dakota or the University of Alaska, Fairbanks to “walk around” to see what Christopher McCandless would have seen in those locations. We can virtually visit the Lincoln Memorial or Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. This tool allows me to efficiently support students’ desire to see what we are reading about.
This next tool is spin-off of Google Maps that allows users to customize a map by adding “layers” of annotations or notes. While this would be fun to use in a collaborative fashion with each student assigned to create an individualized “layer” answering an essential question (as shown in the sample below), it could also be created whole group to track a real or imagined journey from one place to another.
Have you seen the new and improved browser-based Google Earth? So far my application of this tool is similar to that of Google Maps, but I do enjoy using the Voyager option to fill extra time at the end of a class or training. This provides dozens of engaging and colorful “tours” through cities and landmarks across the world. The I’m Feeling Lucky option sends us to a random location on the globe where we can “walk around” and explore. A short written Wikipedia description of the place is linked for easy access. Users can also create bookmarks under My Places for easy, on-the-spot recall.
Google’s version of Skype is Meet, and it is a fantastic tool for connecting with those beyond the walls of the school. Mystery Meet is one way I have used this application to have students interact with another classroom in another state. The classes are competing to be the first to identify the location (state, city, school) of the other group by asking yes or no questions. Once the game is complete, student representatives from each group share about their schools and experiences. While the conversations were initially a little awkward, with practice students became more adept at holding a semi-professional dialogue.
Those in my school have also used this tool to connect with content experts and guest speakers. As the result of one Meet conversation, a documentarian came to our school to interview students about their experiences with anxiety. Those clips are featured in the Indieflix Foundation film Angst. What started as my colleagues wife’s connection to a film producer ended with students from our school attending a premiere starring…themselves. How cool is that?
Really, the possibilities are endless–Google tools can be used in nearly any teaching situation. Please share other ideas and tools you know about in the comments below.