Google has become a major force in the education market, but many students haven’t learned how to utilize the myriad features that Google and its apps offer.
Many universities around the world utilize Google for its popular Gmail service (used by more than 425 million people worldwide today), and an increasing number of public school administrators looking to put computers in the classroom are turning to ChromeOS devices such as Chromebooks and Chromeboxes because of their inherent ease of use.
Whether you want to use Google Apps for Education to collaborate on a document, manage a group project or just take digital notes, we’ve got the answers here. All the products and services mentioned are free, but paid premium versions of some apps exist.
Google’s sign-in slogan of “One account. All of Google.” is a consistent philosophy for its suite of Web applications. Using one login email and password for multiple services means that students can access their apps with ease, not having to worry about multiple mixed-up passwords being entered every time they switch processes. Thus, setting up an account is the first step for those new to Google.
Many universities already use Google Apps for Education for their student email accounts, meaning that students can access Google services using the email address given to them by their school. To access an Apps profile on Google, simply log in using the full email address (including the .edu if applicable) and your password.
Some websites and services can also use your Google account as login credentials, which means you won’t have to type in a password for the site if you are signed into your Google account. Just click “Sign in with Google” and such services can automatically sign you in with your Google profile.
Each Google account offers its owner access to the standard Google Drive application suite. This gives the ability to create word documents (Docs), Powerpoint-style presentations (Slides), drawings (Draw), Web forms (Forms) and spreadsheets (Sheets), all within a browser from any logged-in device. A standard free account gives 15 GB of Google Drive online cloud storage. A 100 GB upgrade to a total of 115 GB runs only $1.99 a month. Google Drive space can be used for storing documents of all types, not just those made in Google.
While some of these programs lack the full functionality of Microsoft Office, they have the benefits of being both free and supported across any OS with a modern Internet browser. There is even a free Google Drive app for Android and iOS that lets you view and edit your documents on the go, although it requires an Internet connection to do so. Documents created in Google Drive also can be downloaded in multiple formats, including.doc, .xls and .ppt, meaning that the bulk of creation can be done in Google and then adding final custom fonts or functions can be done in other programs if desired.
One of the best parts of Docs is the auto-save feature. Documents created in Docs auto-save to the user’s Google Drive and are able to be restored from previous versions with just a few clicks. Docs created through Google (rather than being uploaded from another program to the cloud) don’t take up any space on a user’s Google Drive, either.
With the advent of Google Docs, gone are the days when one student would attempt to cram everyone’s data into one PowerPoint presentation while everyone else sat around doing nothing. Also gone are the days when corrections to someone else’s document section had to be made by hand and then emailed to the original writer to (hopefully) fix. Google has greatly streamlined the process of collaborating on data and documents.
With a click of the blue Share button in the top-right corner, documents of all types can be shared with others for viewing and editing. When multiple people have a doc open, they can all edit it simultaneously. (Their cursors are even color-coded!) This is a huge benefit for creating group reports and crafting presentations. Assigning users a working text color allows various members of the group to see what other people have written or made changes to, and then at the end of the assignment, all the text can be easily changed to black or whatever color is needed.
Project management is a crucial skill for any industry, and students should be learning useful techniques for it early. Technology to aid in managing a group assignment is very important as well, and one of the top tools we recommend for that is Trello, a Web-based collaboration tool that organizes your projects and ideas into boardsfor easy reference. Similar to a bulletin board or whiteboard, Trello’s boards can have items (cards) added to them, then be moved around, renamed or marked as resolved/completed. The basic board structure is To Do, Doing and Done, but users can rename these boards or add more. Cards can be labeled, color-coded, assigned to different users and have different documents, images, or other media uploaded to them for organization. They also can have scheduling alerts added. This means that at a glance, members of a project’s boards can see what needs doing, who’s working on what, and how much time is left before certain milestones should be completed.
Trello becomes even more useful when it is linked to Google Calendar. Built into a user’s Google account, Calendar is very powerful because of its ability to link to services like Trello across many devices. By using the Power-Ups menu in Trello, you can enable a Calendar Mode that will send all scheduling alerts from a given board to the linked Google Calendar. Since that calendar can be synced to Android tablets and smartphones automatically, no matter where students go they will always have access to task alerts. Google Calendars can also be used to organize a class schedule, and can be used to set up alerts for when assignments are due. Color-coded events, pop-up notifications and email alerts mean that students with linked Google accounts can stay on top of projects, homework and classes easily.
Readers, how has Google helped you in your studies? Anything beyond what’s listed here? Post your responses in our discussion forum!