Google in the Classroom: Part 1

I’m giving a short presentation to staff at my school on how Google can be used in the classroom.  For “Part 1”, I’ll be focusing on using Search and Google Docs.  The emphasis will be twofold:

  1. How to use Search and Docs in a practical way.
  2. Try to brainstorm creative ideas to use Search and Docs in the classroom within the context of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

I’m all for introducing new ideas, but I’m also interested in giving participants work time so they can actually try out some of the things I’ll be covering.  Check out the presentation and make sure to click on the links!


What Can Google Do For You?

Recently I became a Google Certified Teacher. Huzzah. Huzzah indeed.  I’m eager to share what I’ve learned with other educators who think they might be able to leverage Google’s tools to benefit student learning.  So, if you have any questions, ask away!

Analysis: Google Teacher Academy

At the beginning of Dec. (’09) I attended the Google Teacher Academy in Washington D.C. My intent on going was to: A) learn more about the offerings of Google and gain a better understanding of how I could use Google apps in my 8th grade U.S. history class, and, B) pick the brains of fellow educators from around the country who are also doing great things with technology in their classrooms.

Worth it. Totally worth it.

The entire experience was the best professional workshop I’ve attended. Ever. Unlike a lot of workshop/conferences I’ve been to, GTADC equipped me with tools I can use in my classroom today, and it allowed me the creativity to think about how I could implement these skills into my curriculum.

Some of the highlights:

  • I teach 8th grade U.S. history, so the implementation of Google Maps AND Earth was phenomenal.  The point is not to just show students places on the earth, but to interact with them and expand them.  A presentation on Google Lit Trips sealed the deal for me.  Instead of just showing where battles of the Civil War were, I plan on having students add details into Earth about the surrounding areas and putting the battles in chronological order.
  • Speaking of the Civil War, how cool would it be to see a 3D modeling of Antietam, Gettysburg, or any other battle site of the Civil War?  SketchUp would allow me (or the students) to create one of these and bring the battlefield to them.
  • In past years I’ve set up a wiki from PBworks for a collaborative project where students research different events that followed the writing of the Constitution.  This year, I’m determined to use Google Sites.  My students already have Google Accounts, so there’s really no point in using a new service where they’d have to remember a brand new login and password they may use only once.  Plus, since their login will work with Google Maps, Docs, etc., there’s near limitless possibilities for embedding these existing tools into their own site page.
  • Since I don’t teach math, I’ve stayed away from using Google spreadsheets a lot because well, math is icky.  Really, it is….  After having a grand tour of it however, I’m ready to sing its praises.  While I’m not too interested in plotting and graphing points along an X and Y axis or managing different mathematical formulas (icky, like I said), I am interested in seeing different statistics from different countries over time.  Life expectancies, GDP, literacy rates, etc., are all different things one could graph into a Google Spreadsheet.  AND THEN, you can insert a gadget into that spreadsheet to make it look really cool and give it some animation over time.  AND THEN, you can insert that spreadsheet into a site or have multiple students collaborate on it.  Really cool stuff (and not icky at all).
  • Because of a generous grant in our district, I will soon be receiving a classroom set of iPod Touches.  In between guest speakers and breaks at GTADC, I spent a lot of timing picking the brains of teachers (like him and him) who know what they’re talking about and teachers who can help me make this leap.  Although it wasn’t sponsored  by Google, networking with so many fellow educators from other points on the map was really encouraging and inspiring.

I could go on and on about the awesome things I experienced, but sooner or later I’d run out of bullet-points.

The last thing I’ll say, is that before attending, I was skeptical.  And perhaps maybe even a little cynical, and I know I’m not the only educator out there who’s ever had this sentiment. Even though I wanted to go and applied to go, I was leery of drinking the Google Kool-Aid and having them use me as a conduit to hook my young and impressionable students into using their free products for life.  After I got there and went through the process, it became evident to me that I should really use these Google Apps for Education for what they are: products (FREE products mind you) to help students become engaged and learn.  What’s wrong with that?  Why is the outcry not as loud for text book publishers who have been price gouging school districts for decades?  Microsoft has been doing this for years, and even Apple fanboys have to admit that Apple’s expansive play into education is rooted in turning a profit first and providing an educational experience second (seriously, if nobody made any money in it, no company would ever bother with us plebes in the lowly public sector).  So, if Google is going to offer me and my students something for free to make their learning experience that much better, I’ll take it.

After all, when I was in high school we only had Coke machines, and now I prefer Pepsi.  Turns out I can make decisions for myself.  Who knew?

Questions for Oz

I can't wait for Google's bombardment

From December 8-10 of this week I’ll be in Washington D.C. attending the Google Teachers Academy. From all I’ve heard, I can expect to be bombarded with a full host of Google based services teachers can use in the classroom to promote 21st century learning (not learning OF the 21st century, that would be a history teacher’s job, and as it happens….).  I’ve never been more excited to be bombarded.

Many I tell about the GTA respond with, “How are you going to use Google in the classroom?  Kids need help figuring out how to search for stuff on Google?”  To the former, I usually respond with something to the effect of, “well I use maps and docs for so-and-so project to achieve such-and-such learning objectives”.  To the latter question, I respond with, “Yes.”

While students do need help effectively searching the web, when it comes to students utilizing the web for learning, search is really only the tip of the iceberg.  There are so many resources on the web for teachers to use, a gold panning sifter is needed to properly sort through them to find which resources are worth a teacher’s time, and which are worthy of an Internet blacklist.

While I’m there I’ll be soaking up everything like a sponge, but there’s no reason why I can’t help teachers who won’t be there.  So, if you have any burning questions for the The Great and Mighty Googs, what are they?  Are there any particular Google services  you don’t understand or can’t see using in your classroom?  Thinking of a particular unit coming up in your curriculum and would like to implement a web-based utility?

Leave a comment below and I’ll provide updates and replies with what I learn at GTADC.

Googs, The Great and Terrible is now open for questions

Washington D.C., Here I Come!

Yesterday afternoon as I was pushing my cart around Trader Joe’s, I received the coveted email I had been waiting for on my Blackberry:


You have been selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy. After reviewing your application, we believe that you have the experience and passion necessary to positively impact education in your region, and we are excited to have you join us on Wednesday, December 9th at the Google office in Washington, DC.

On December 9th, I’ll be going to Washington D.C. to attend the Google Teachers Academy in Washington D.C.


For some odd reason (maybe it’s because I had to put my phone number on the application) I was expecting the big Goog to call me.  Silly me.  Of course they’re going to Gmail me.

I’m very excited for the opportunity and hope to connect with 49 other like-minded teachers who are using technology and are incorporating innovative new ideas into their teaching practices.

Supposedly, Google received a record number of applications this year.  Estimates I’ve heard thus far put it around 200, but it could be a lot more.  Here’s the video I had to make for the application process.

If you will be attending GTADC, I’d love to hear from you!  Leave a comment below!