I'm a Google Addict

on Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Over the past week, I've become addicted to Google. It started when I set up my Google Reader to keep up-to-date with various blogs. While I was doing that, I noticed that I could personalize my Google page, called iGoogle. Then I noticed that I could "add stuff" to my Google page, so I began exploring the gadgets. I found so many useful tools, that I considered having my students set up their own iGoogle page. In fact, Google has a page with suggestions for educators (http://www.google.com/educators/p_php.html). There are many valuable gadgets they could add to their page, but here are just a few:

1) Map-My-Word Thesaurus--This tool does more than just give a list of synonyms. Instead, it presents synonyms in the form of a concept map, grouping synonyms of similar connotations together. For years I've been trying to teach my students that even if two words are synonyms, they could have different connotations, but this tool just might be the key to helping my students really understand that concept. When a user rolls their mouse over the concept map, they learn the various meaning of different word clusters.

2) Merriam Webster's Dictionary Search

3) Wikipedia Search--Adding the Merriam Webster Dictionary Search and the Wikipedia Search gadgets to student iGoogle pages will allow them to have two highly used tools in an easily accessible location.

4) American Heritage Picture of the Day--Every day this gadget displays a different image from American History. It also gives a one sentence summary of the picture. These pictures could spark discussions and further research.

5) Online Stopwatch--Sometimes our students need a little more focusing and motivation. The stopwatch is a great way to individually chunk online activities to keep students on-task and focused.

As with any technology, there are some concerns about using iGoogle with students. For example, some of the gadgets are guaranteed time-wasters (such as games) and some are not appropriate for students. Students will need to be taught responsible use of the program and understand that there are consequences for misusing it. Also, students need to supply an email account in order to create an iGoogle page. In my district, the students don't have school email accounts, although some have email at home. Lack of email addresses might limit use.

However, teachers can use Google's free Page Creator to create a webpage with all the helpful gadgets for their students. It's a WYSIWYG application, so I tried it out, and it was very simple and easy to create a webpage. I'm going to have my students set the page I created as their home page (http://mitton5student.googlepages.com/home), so every time they logon they go immediately to the site.

I’ve also started looking at Google Docs & Spreadsheets, which allow students to collaborate on documents over the internet. With Google Docs, students and teachers can decide who can access and edit documents. Additionally, teachers can check the revisions history to see how students have revised their work, how they contributed to the project, and how long each student worked on the document. Work is automatically saved, so students won’t accidentally lose their project. Once again, students need to create a Google or Gmail account to use Google Docs.

For most Google applications, you can find a crib sheet for teachers and students at http://www.google.com/educators/activities.html. Regardless of whether my students end up creating iGoogle pages, there are so many helpful tools that I like to use on my page, such as my Google Reader, news from CNN and eSchool, a To-Do List, and the weather forecast. Knowing the way technology develops, there will probably be four times as many gadgets and open source programs from which to choose by the end of the year, which will just increase my use of Google. I can't wait to see how it continues to improve!


Megan Fritz said...

Good synopsis of the google apps! I also started playing with them this weekend....the possibilities are endless. It's very easy to get wrapped up in the "tech" part of it. We just have to continue to work hard to stay focused on the content goals!
~Dr. Fritz

Natalie DiTullio said...

I also have become obsessed with igoogle, and looking at google reader for updates! I was smiling as I read your post, thinking the same thing, and the information that you provided is great!! Thanks!

Natalie DiTullio said...

Also, thanks for the website link!!

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