Google has changed everything.
What started as a search engine has kaboomed into an open-source revolution. In almost all aspects, it has changed the way I teach and even learn as an educator.
I can remember my initial introduction to Google as more than a search engine. A long-time friend of mine beseeched me to get a Gmail account so we could chat online or more easily connect. I put the idea off for quite a while until finally I realized I was tired of my Yahoo account and took the dive into Gmail. I’ve never looked back since.
I feel as though I’ve witnessed a revolution in the last year and a half as I’ve watched myself and colleagues begin to use Google as a primary way to function in our day to day school interactions. What I truly love about Google is its clear intent to allow open access to functional word processing, website building, presentation tools, drawing tools without having to directly charge a consumer. There is a part of me that feels that what Google is doing just might bring about the downfall of Microsoft. I still use MS Office often, but I utilize Google Docs exponentially more. Why? Sharing, that’s why.
What really sets Google’s open source software apart from almost anything is its practical application of sharing documents that can be edited in real time with others. The security choices also allow to really control how sees, accesses and edits your documents. Knowing I can access my information and creations from any computer with access to the Internet is thrilling. The share function is what has made my personal classroom evolution possible.
I won’t go into all the gritty details now, but essentially I have my students turn in most of their work through Gdocs. When these documents are shared with me, I can help edit the work, comment on it, and of course grade the task. I no longer have to stacks of paper home with me, or have them litter my classroom desk. (Although, you’ll find plenty of scattered paper on my desk usually anyway.) The best part for the students is the instant feedback they can obtain, and how easy it is for them to collaborate on a group project when it’s difficult to meet outside of class. Don’t get me wrong, I find a great deal of value in face to face exchanges, but Google has allowed for the kind of connection power that as a teacher is nothing short of amazing. I have a legitimate way of taking learning for my students beyond my classroom.
Now that I’ve gushed over Google, I’ll simply close by stating that the open source that Google provides should be embraced by educators and school systems around our country. It’s free, protected (keep in mind there is always risk with online information), collaborative, engaging and honestly what all our students will work with in the future. If not Google itself, our students will certainly be using tools much like the ones Google has created to be successful employees, college students, entrepreneurs, and maybe most important of all–critical thinkers.