25 June 2010

Teacher first, Google addict second.

I am a teacher first and a techie second, so I will never be the frontrunner with my tech teaching. But since the summer is for review and reflection, today's topic is Google. I certainly am not the most educated user of "the Google," but I do find myself expanding my tools regularly. Though my skeptical half worries that Google "is taking over the world," my getting-through-the-day side lives and breathes Google. I did not realize how useful the myriad Google tools are until my husband asked me about my iGoogle page. So started an hour of show and tell discussion about just the few tools I use. If you are a Google beginner, here's a quick overview of some of my Google favorites:
Blogger: my first tools were on Blogger. I now have three blogs, Healigan's Home, where my students write, Healigan's Second Home, the blog you are reading now about teaching in Healigan's world, and Movies at St Marks, a blog that I am trying to get going with my Film Club crew at school.
Blogger is free, easy to navigate, and though not as zoot as WordPress, does the job.
Reader: I just switched to Reader from Bloglines. Both are owned by Google, but Bloglines is no longer supported efficiently, so I switched all my RSS feeds to Reader.
Google Docs: just starting to use word processing in the cloud. My most recent project was taking notes and tracking links as I read American Gods with @1B1T2010.  Cool. And since I think I am going to attempt the book with my Phase 5 (Honors x 2) World Lit seniors next year, I've already got a core source for my lessons. My colleague Mike D. just used Google Docs for his annual research essay with his juniors--start to finish. I 'm looking into that too.

GoogleBooks: no more do I have to worry about students who "lost" their book or left it at home. Not my problem. Any book no longer under copyright is being scanned into GoogleBooks faster than I can write this. Many books can be read online or downloaded for free. Nuff said.
GoogleScholar: this is a great source to start your students on a research project. A search engine that contain only articles, mostly actual research, on your topic. My students resist researching with tools other than Google, so Scholar offered a happy medium for my classes.  I teach English, so take that with a grain of salt if you teach other subjects.
Gmail: I love the way it tiles conversations.
Google Calendar: I access my calendar from my iGoogle page. It tracks personal and professional calendars and I link it to the calendars from members of my family. Now that everyone is 18 +, our schedules are wild and not totally under my control, so this feature helps.
Google Translate: each year I teach several students for whom English is a second language. For some of them, using Translate for small blocks of text which are difficult is a real boon. One Chinese student survived Frankenstein this way last spring.
Google Earth: I first used Google Earth for Google Lit Trips to Macbeth's Scotland and the Odyssey. It gets better and better. It is just too cool to miss. Considering having one of my classes build a LitTrip next year--Oohh, that would be fun with American Gods!
Sites: I am investigating Sites this summer as a possible replacement for my wikispaces pages.
Picasa: I only keep blog photos on Picasa. Not a great lover.

So there is the minimal scoop. Enjoy.


Vanilla Chunk said...

I had not considered using Google Books to replace textbooks. I am taking two American Lit classes where the students have been designated as problem cases. Their first tactic is to lose the book as fast as they can (don't ask about the second). If I can put the book in front of them over and over, give them a copy to leave at home? One less chance for them to sabotage themselves.

healigan said...

and...I have a kid who is so dyslexic that he physically can't read, so I found free sites online with audio versions of what we're reading (Librivox). I can make a podcast and copy it to his iPod or m3player. If your kids have iPods, that could work too. (They don't seem to think it is reading.) I'm setting up a pilot project at school for the national honor society kids to make podcasts of the stuff I cannot find free and so I'll have a little library on my computer. So many kids are much better auditory learners now.