Getting the Most out of Google

Jul 20, 2012

More and more, I’m seeing schools and districts shift from using Outlook to Google for their productivity and communication software. Many teachers appreciate this shift because of Google’s easy synchronization to smart phones and universal access.

Out in the blogosphere, I recently stumbled upon this great list of Google tips for educators. It inspired me to highlight five big Google tools teachers can better use to maximize their efficiency.

Disclaimer: I am not a technology expert. But, I do spend a lot of time using and configuring the tools and gadgets I believe make teachers’ lives easier. And ummm… I spend holiday vacations reading books about Microsoft Outlook. Weird, I know.

Without further delay, here are 5 of my favorite Google tools and a few ideas on how to use them in your daily teaching lives:

  1. Google Email: Stop using your inbox as a filing cabinet!  Take advantage of that nifty Archive button instead. When you Archive your emails, you can easily find them later on, just by searching. No need to assign a label, star or file them. Save your inbox for messages that actually require you to take action. You can read more about what to actually DO with all of those emails by downloading a free chapter of our book!
  2. Google Calendar: Use the Calendar feature as your electronic Comprehensive Calendar. Load all those deadlines your principal sends you, your graduate school exam dates, Grandma’s birthday, and the due date for your car payment as All Day Appointments. If your school is not screen-friendly, simply print the Monthly View of the calendar and keep a copy on your person.

3. Google Tasks: It’s not my absolute favorite system, but Google Tasks does a decent job as an Upcoming To-Do List. The Tasks feature also synchronizes well with multiple brands of smart phones, and is easily incorporated into your Google Calendar.

4. Google Docs:  While I see more and more teachers using Dropbox to synchronize their electronic files between home and school, Google Docs is another easy way to ensure you don’t arrive home to write a unit assessment only to find the document is stuck on your hard drive back at school! Rather than constantly emailing yourself, add your school files to Google Docs. This is also a great place to keep shared grade/department level notes.

5. Google Reader: The article didn’t mention this one, but I’m in charge here so I’m going to throw it in. You know those education bloggers you always want to keep up with, but cannot find the time for? Set them all up in your Google Reader and just have one place to scan the latest education updates (and sports updates, and fashion updates, and restaurant opening updates. . . ) all at once.

So, let’s walk through a day-in-the-life of a teacher who uses Google for most aspects of his organization system.  We’ll call him Jake. Jake carries an iPhone that is synched with all of his Google tools.

  • 6:45 AM: Jake arrives at school and checks his Google Calendar for what he plans to do before school and during his prep period. He looks ahead to the next few days to check for any upcoming deadlines.
  • 10:00 AM: Jake checks his email during his prep period. He sees a memo from his assistant principal that includes due dates for next month. He quickly toggles over to Google Tasks to enter the deadlines, and then deletes the email.
  • 4:00 PM: Students are gone! Jake relaxes for 15 minutes by scanning Google Reader for any interesting education articles that came through that day.
  • 5:00 PM: Before Jake leaves for the day, he posts the grade level meeting agenda in Google Docs and emails the link to his team.  If he needs to make any changes at home tonight, it will be available online.

Together Teacher Discussion Questions: What other ways do you use Google to stay organized? Any tips to share with your colleagues?