I recently received an e-mail from a colleague in Pennsylvania, asking to know more about the free applications I had mentioned on my twitter feed. I was happy to assist, and realized as my e-mail grew and grew that this would make an excellent blog post! Below are my thoughts on Google applications and Facebook for the classroom:
“The Google applications are a favorite of mine as they provide users with a wide variety of resources completely free! To get started check out: http://www.google.com/apps/ Here you will find a listing of the key applications available to students through Google. Google Documents is far and away the number one collaboration tool for your students. They will be able to work on documents, presentations and spreadsheets together and simultaneously. You may want to use Google Calendar to post important dates for your class. You can do this easily by creating a calendar and then sharing it with the public or with your students new Google accounts specifically. Google Sites is a link to Google’s own wiki editor. You and your students will find what you need to make simple websites there. Check out my own at: http://www.musselmanscience.com for an idea about how you may want to design your own. Of course Gmail will be a tremendous benefit for your students who may not yet have e-mail access.
All of these features can be accessed by having your students click on one of the links and creating their own account. If your school’s IT specialists is on board, you may be able to get them to look into Google apps for the school, or at least your class. Google apps for the school would give your IT provider more control over what the students would use the applications for and can help apply additional filters to their Gmail accounts for safety purposes.
Another free impact application you may want to apply in your classroom are social network sites. Many of your students are surely on Facebook. Why not start to get them to use that in an educational way? Just as many businesses have started using Facebook to market their business, you too can market your class and your subject matter to your students! Check out: http://www.facebook.com/business/dashboard/ and create what is known as a Facebook page (not to be confused with Facebook profile) for your classroom. Here you will be able to post links for discussion, set up discussion boards to discuss the activities or receive feedback, and inject your classroom into their after-school lives. I created a test pilot Facebook page this summer with fellow teachers to get a sense of what this might look like in the classroom this year. Become a fan of: Mr. Musselman’s Science Classroom to see what I mean.
That will get you started for now. If you are interested in getting your students to publish more of their work for the world to see check out blogger.com the Google blogging platform. My team is trying this for the first time as an entire class in order to create student portfolios of their work and learning over the course of the year. We will be using edublogs, a blogger service that costs money but gives us more control over advertising locations on the sites and inter connectivity between one another’s blogs.”