In case it wasn’t obvious by now, my school is a “Google School”. We use the G Suite tools and programs for everything. I recently learned about some other tools and programs that Google has available that I didn’t know about or wasn’t very familiar with, while I was studying for the Level 1 Google Certified Educator exam. Some of the tools and programs listed below you may or may not have heard of, but were designed to make your job easier both for teaching and organizing yourself as a professional. Here are five G Suite tools you may want to try…
1. Google Keep
Google Keep is a real hidden gem! It is a “note taking” app with lots of tools to help you take, keep and store a variety of notes. Before, I was always taking screenshots on my phone of teaching ideas and sending myself email links and I would never see those ideas again. You can create notes that are just text, pictures and/links. The notes will be transferred into movable squares and rectangles (it reminds me a little bit of Pinterest, in terms of the layout). You can also color code your notes, create labels and add others as collaborators on your Google Keep board. One feature I am really excited about is setting reminders. I can set a reminder for a note that is a link to a spring craft so I remember to look at it in March, when we are getting ready for spring. You can also “pin” certain notes so they are at the top of your Google Keep board. You can download Google Keep as an app to your phone, get it as an extension from the Chrome Web Store, or just access it directly from your Gmail or Google Calendar(it’s on the right side, it is the yellow square with light bulb outline-hiding in plain sight).
2. Google Tasks
Google Tasks is a tool to create to-do lists within your email and can also link the tasks to your calendar. While you might prefer written to-do lists (I do most of the time), I think trying Google Tasks for some of the things on your to-do list can be quite helpful. I found when I first started remote learning, I was not equipped to handle the amount of emails I was getting per day. During in-person instruction, I did receive a fair amount of emails, but never at this volume. Google Tasks basically will turn an email into a to-do list item, so no more starring a million emails or saying “I look for it later, I’ll remember the subject”. All you have to do is click the circle with a check mark in the toolbar above your email and it converts it into a to-do list item for you that includes a shortcut to that same email. It also allows you to set deadlines that will automatically go into your calendar. You can also enter tasks manually. Access Google tasks from your Gmail account using the tool bar on the left side (it’s below the Google Keep icon).
3. Google Jamboard
Google Jamboard is a digital whiteboard. Upon first glance, it looks very similar to Google Slides, but is designed to be used in a similar manner to a physical whiteboard. You can draw on it; erase; move items; add “sticky notes”; insert an image, shape or text box, using the tool bar on the left. The last tool in the toolbar is something called a “laser” which allows you to circle or mark on your Jamboard, but it will disappear a few seconds after. You can also change the background (graph paper is an option) and create more than one board, kind of like in slides. I feel like I would use this for direct instruction- either online or for in-person instruction. It’s good for recording students’ ideas and suggestions on the sticky notes because that is easier to do in real time. The sticky note automatically formats the text and the size of the sticky note, so it is easily read and there isn’t time wasted formatting a text box while students are watching you. Sometimes the image search within the toolbar can give you some issues. I would recommend trying it out before the lesson to make sure you are able to search images in real time or opening up a separate tab and copying, cutting and pasting the image you want from one tab to another, if interesting the image is not working from within Jamboard.
4. Google Drawings
Google Drawings is described as a web-based diagramming software. I think it is a cross between Jamboard and Google Slides. Only one page is presented at time. You can insert images, text boxes, shapes, tables, charts, diagrams, lines and Word Art (remember Word Art?). You can also do a Google image search within the Google Drawings program, chose your picture and insert it then ans there! I think there can be a lot of uses for Google Drawings including creating sorts, virtual math manipulatives, having pictures to solve word problems, practicing counting out from a larger set, following directions and creating pictures.
5. Google Sites
Google Sites is a very user-friendly tool to create and publish a professional-looking website. When you get started, you are able to choose from a variety of templates; I would suggest you pick “Class”. This template has everything you need to make a site for your classroom. The “Class” template has a schedule and a newsletter page already set up, that are both linked to the homepage. You can change the fonts, layouts and themes very easily, using the menu on the left side. You are also able to embed YouTube videos, images and most materials from Google Drive (Sheets, Slides, Docs, Forms, Calendar). Once you are ready to “Publish”, you can share it on the web or just to a select group of people, like the parents and students in your classroom, selected school staff or administration. There is also the option to add on a collaborator, which is great for co-teaching or if you want to add a related service provider to add to part of your class site. Like most tools in Google, you are able to update and revise your Google Site once it has been published.
I hope you are inspired to try some of these tools for G Suite to help get you more organized or to enhance instruction with your students. Share your ideas below for using different Google tools to help your students reach their goals. I hope everyone stays healthy and safe!