With last week’s Google I/O event still being digested I thought that it would be a good opportunity to take a look at an older Google product that I have recently found that I think is saving me time and effort.
If, like me, you are one of those people that like to have lists then this Google Keep is definitely for you. I started using lists about 20 years ago whilst at University to prioritise my work, now I get given a list of things to do every Saturday when my wife goes to work, how times have changed! I still use a list at work to make sure important things get done but for about 2 years I have been trying to find an electronic note taking device. I have used “Wunderlist” and “Lino” (my preferred choice until recently) but I still didn’t feel like I was getting everything down properly. I stumbled upon Google Keep whilst searching for another product and was immediately impressed. I will state here and now that you can not get Google Keep on IOS devices. Yes, you can get work around apps such as Turbonote but that kind of defeats the object for me. On my Samsung Galaxy S4, Google Keep was quickly downloaded and installed. It asked me to sign in using my Google account (my GAFE account) and there it was, fully linked up with my Google drive.
So what is so good about Keep? Well, firstly I can quickly write notes and reminders that are then visible on a cork style board. The notes are electronic post-its and can be coloured coded for different projects. The notes can be in various formats including: written, voice recording and picture. The feature that really impressed me though was the function to set an alert. This can be calendar based as per normal or it can be location based! This means that lists and notes that are specifically for work can be set up so that they do not come up until you are actually at work. This is a really good productivity App that was even included in the I\O event with designers being allowed the API for the app so that it can eventually be incorporated with Google Wear.
My Second Piece of Google Gold is the hotly awaited Google Classroom.
If you have read my earlier blog on Google scripts you will probably remember me talking about GClass and GClassfolders, scripts that create folders for you and your students to minimise the time it wastes handing out and collecting in assignments. Unfortunately, I think they have been a victim of their own success as Google has now entered beta testing for their own virtual classroom. It is free to any schools with GAFE and rather than being an add-on like a script it is its own entity. It seems like it will link seamlessly with your Google Drive and once you have set up class lists will act very similarly to Edmodo. You can also publish a class code so that students can join your room and from a modest start the possibilities then seem endless.
Obviously the catch seems to be that Google classroom would work much better on Chromebooks (!), but it should work fine on any system. I really like the way it sets out the folder structure and allows the pupils access to the documents that you want them to have access to. You don’t have to share it with them as they are already in your classroom. This coupled with the addition to docs that now allows you to write comments, similar to word, will mean that you can actually now have a paper less classroom.
For a more detailed view on setting up classroom watch the video here. At the time of writing this post “Classroom” is still in its beta form and Google are still ironing out the bugs. An inside source has also revealed that engineers have currently been pulled from “classroom” to work on more pressing (financially promising!!!) projects such as “Wear”. Google are still putting “classroom” out in September apparently but I really cant see this happening yet. When it does make its entrance though I really think it has the potential to make a big impact in the educational setting, saving time and paper. Edmodo, you had better watch out, Google is coming to get you.
I just wanted to share with you a practical example of how my school used Google Docs to really celebrate our Sports day last week. It was a bit of a mission setting it up, but we managed to set up an adhoc WiFi connection on the field. This then allowed us to record all results for every event on a Google form (on an iPad) which, when submitted, went straight into the spreadsheet. From here the data was transferred to a master score sheet that was live for the school to watch as the day unfolded. The Maths department also used the live data for lessons that day and that impact was really impressive. Next year, I will try and set up a script on the spread sheet that will email the athletes if they break a school record. A duplicate email will also be sent to the IT boys that control the digital signage around the school so that a flash report can be seen virtually as the record has been broken. This will allow the students to really feel involved in the events even if they are not watching them.
As always, if you have any comments or questions on any of the above, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will reply.