Most of you have probably hear about Google Apps by now but did you know how much you can do with them? I love using Gmail and have become quite dependent on my Google calendar. Google Apps for Education have many wonderful tools to help make teachers' lives easier and best of all they are free!
When our school first went to using Google Apps I learned so much more about them. I already had my own personal Gmail account and shared calendar with my husband (highly recommend!). I love that I no longer have to remember birthdays because I get email reminders :) But Google Apps for Educators? This was new to me! First, each teacher at my school got a custom Gmail account.
Google Apps for Education allows you to create your own custom email accounts using your school's website domain name. So for example, your email could be firstname.lastname@example.org. Gmail is great because of the many filters it allows you to set up. I would receive lots of emails in a given day and I could chose to have some go directly into folders to read later (such as teaching articles) or flag some as important like the ones from the school psychologist. I love their search feature as well! One time I needed to find the swimming schedule that had been sent out months ago so I just typed in the word swimming and up it popped! I also love how you can set up multiple folders and save all emails. Setting up a custom signature (under "Settings" and "General") also makes for a professional looking email with your contact information (and keeps you from having to type it every time). I use Gmail for my personal and business accounts and love that I can have multiple inboxes so I don't have to log in to separate accounts. Check out the "Labs" feature under "Settings" for more cool features!
The calendar feature turned out to be extremely useful and not just for our own teaching schedules! Google Calendar allows you to share calendars with others. Our school had the good 'ole paper sign-up sheet on the door of our computer lab. This worked okay for some but I always forgot to sign-up. Sometimes when doing my lesson planning for the next day I didn't know if the computer lab would be available so I had to make two sets of plans. Google Calendar became a great solution for us! At the beginning of each year I would put together a calendar with the computer lab schedule that was set for each week and leave the available times open for people to sign-up. Then I would share the calendar with the rest of the staff and any time anyone wanted to reserve the computer lab they simply logged in to the calendar and blocked off the times they needed. Schools could also create a yearly schedule that they share with all their teachers so they know when big events are scheduled. Another feature I love on Google calendar is that you can select a calendar or multiple calendars to see the events on one or all the calendars at the same time. So for example, if I want to schedule a field trip I can check the rest of the school's schedules to make sure the bus is available and that we won't be missing any other important events.
GOOGLE DRIVE (formally Google Docs)
Does your school have a server where teachers can save and share files? Can they access the server from home? Google Drive is a great way to save and share files to access from home or school or anywhere! (*Note of caution: I would not save any confidential files on Google Drive just to be safe!) Since I am no longer teaching but one day plan to homeschool along with my sisters, I created a shared homeschooling folder (with my sisters) where we can all save teaching resources that we want to use. I also have a shared recipe folder with my mom. Inside that folder I have several other folders (i.e. Chicken, Beef, Breads, Family Recipes, etc.). I love having my recipes on-line so when I'm away from home I can easily pull them up and don't have to haul my recipe box around! One awesome feature with Google Drive is that you can share documents in multiple folders so if I have a math game I can save it in my "math" folder and my "games" folder. Google Drive allows you to create Documents (like Word docs.), Sheets (like Excel spreadsheets), and Slides (like Power Point presentations).
If you don't already have a classroom website Google Sites might be a good option for you. They are very user-friendly and easy to create. Your students could also create a website using Google Sites. What a fun idea for a class project or assessment tool on a topic you are learning. How about an independent project for one of your gifted learners? The possibilities are endless!
Well I must admit I have never used this feature so I don't know much about it. Google's description, "Vault is optional and adds archiving, e-discovery and information governance capabilities."
For more information on the specific features of each Google App, click here. To sign-up for Google Apps for Education and to start using these features, click here. I hope you found this information helpful! If you have another way you use Google Apps for Education I'd love to hear about! Please leave a comment below.