It's Elementary, My Dear Watson: Effective Ways to Engage Younger Students Using Google Apps

Editor's note: Today's blog post is a guest article from +Nick Rojas, a journalist from Los Angeles, CA. Here he illustrates simple yet engaging ways to use Google Apps in the classroom.

(Image courtesy of Flickr)
It’s no secret that recent technological changes have altered the face of childhood education. Walk into a classroom these days and you will see laptops, tablets, and even smart phones in addition to the workbooks and classical teaching tools. Computer literacy has become the norm even among very young students, and it is imperative that teachers keep up. To help with this, here are some simple yet engaging ways to use Google Apps for Education in the classroom.

Google Docs

Google Docs is perhaps the easiest of the Education Apps to implement into the classroom. Essentially, it functions as a web-based word processor, allowing users to create, edit, and collaborate with each other in an online setting.

Google Docs is the perfect tool for collaborative writing and peer editing. Students can post a piece of their own writing and then other students can respond to constructive criticism as well as positive feedback. The teacher can track the comments, and can interject if necessary when criticism is too harsh, or the comments seem misdirected.

Google Docs can also be used to implement direct teacher-to-student commentary and editing. Teachers can directly edit posts from students through Google Docs, and then the student can make the changes immediately. Using this feature effectively keeps students engaged and excited about their own work because they can receive input almost immediately, and projects are less likely to feel stale. In addition, the revision history option in Docs helps busy teachers hold every student accountable for their own work.

Perhaps one of the most engaging features in Google Docs is the publishing capability. Students are able to publish and share their own writing with a wide audience, so there is an added incentive for children to take pride in their work.

Google Docs can be used to contact parents as well. Keeping parents directly connected to their child’s school work is extremely important. When the parents are involved, children tend to succeed in the classroom. With Google Docs, parents can see comments from the teacher, and are also able to experience their child’s individual learning process as the post develops.

Teachers can also use Google Docs to compose letters to parents, mitigating the risk of something important getting misplaced between school and the home. The translate tool in Docs can even be used to compose letters or quick comments in different languages, assisting parents who may not speak English or may speak it as their second language, and allowing them to participate in their children’s education, which will benefit everyone involved.

(image courtesy of Flickr)
Google Forms:

Google Forms, which is a part of the Google Docs Suite, is another particularly effective classroom tool. Forms is a very efficient tool when teaching the scientific method. With Forms, children can create and send out a questionnaire or survey, and the data is collected into a Google Docs spreadsheet. Have students prepare a survey question, and come up with a relevant hypothesis. Students then send out their surveys and Forms collects all the data. Students can then easily access and interpret the data, create related tables and graphs, and come to their conclusion. Although students should certainly be taught data collection methods, Google Forms allows teachers to expedites the data-collection process for later experiments and projects, giving students more time to actually analyze their data and come to logical conclusions about their question and hypothesis.

Students can also use Forms to be active leaders in planning school activities and projects. Forms can be used to gather information and preferences about an event. Put students in charge of something fun and exciting, for example a birthday celebration or a field trip. Let them create surveys with possible options, and gather the class options. Then assist them through fully planning and hosting the event. Students will feel engaged and excited because they get to be a part of the decision making process, while also developing important planning and administrative skills they can use in the future.

At the End of the Day:

There’s no denying it, learning new classroom tools can be scary. However, teachers should embrace bringing innovative technology into the classroom. The trick is to remain open minded and creative, and always keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with learning alongside your students, as long as everyone benefits in the end.

About the Guest Author:

Nick Rojas is a journalist from Los Angeles, California. His work often covers technology, social media, and small business strategies.

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