Friday, June 10, 2011

Google: So Much More Than a Search Engine

So popular that it has entered our lexicon as a verb, Google is what most people use when searching the Internet. Although I recommend more kid-friendly search engines and search directories for elementary school students (AskKids and KidsClick are just a few), the gurus at Google Labs are continually developing tools that go beyond searching to suppoort 21st century learning for schools. Here are some of my favorites:

Google Translate
Instantly translate text and files between over 50 languages.

Free, fast, easy, and fun online photo editing.

Google Earth
Download for an online classroom globe that brings world geograpy to life. Spin the globe, go to exact addresses, search locations with keywords or latitude and longitude, look at landmarks and buildings in 3-D, add your own placemarkers, measure distances....and the list goes on. Students become world travelers when you send them on a virtual field trip, or, as I did, a scavenger hunt to find historical landmarks. Download Google Lit Trips for making meaningful geographic connections to literature.

Google Sketchup
This powerful tool can also be freely downloaded to any computer. Although it provides complex 3-day modeling, I have seen students easily master its features with some minimal instruction and permision to "go ahead and try it."

Google Docs
Google's online documents, presentations, and spreadsheets offer numerous applications for education. Students with Google accounts can collaborate can collaborate on a single document, exchanging ideas and information and easily editing each others' work. The Google Docs Forms provide a great way for teachers to create and share online assessments.
If you don't yet have a google account, you should get one soon, and consider creating a customized iGoogle page. The applications I mentioned here represent just a fraction of the many free Google tools that can be integrated into classroom lessons. Once you start exploring Google, you're bound to find more.

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