This article will talk about how to combine the free edition of Google Apps to set up a synergetic LMS for your teaching practice, dealing with lecturing, content creation, collaboration and assessment. With the correct approach, it’ll work as an effective PLE, as well.
In the digital era of Education, Learning Management Systems are delineating themselves as good allies for the teaching practice, providing a canvas to place contents, PLE curating tools, a secure environment to work in, different collaboration modes, activity control systems and several ways of assessment.
But, what LMS would suit you best? That depends on your needs, your audience, your digital abilities, the LMS’s complexity and your budget. There are multiple options, as Moodle, Edmodo or Google Classroom, among many others.
This article is going to focus on the free edition of Google Apps. During the last years they have been put to an enhancement process, and, nowadays, they can be effectively used for educational purposes. To do so, they have to be synergistically constellated to create a consistent and coherent system. If you aren’t familiar with them (or don’t know how to use them), have a look at Google’s documentation: http://learn.googleapps.com/home
Google offers plenty of tools for free. Check the following list with some interesting uses:
Sites: barebone of our LMS.
Blogger (and Sites): student portfolio, webquest holder, wiki, blog, collaboration space for PBLs, course’s diary, students’ reflection area, open canvas, bulletin.
Calendar: appointments with students and parents (and assistant teachers), course’s events (exams, deadlines), notifications (sudden problems, schedule changes) and tasks (homework).
Gmail/Inbox: communication, tasks, groups, reminders, pen pals.
Drive: cloud storage.
Docs: content production, real-time collaboration, multiple viewing modes (edition, revision, view), peer review, wikis, handbooks, translations, research (through its integrated tools), functionality extension through add-ons.
Sheets: student lists, grades, peer review, rubrics, charts, inventory, tracking, simple database.
Slides: lectures, presentations, screencasts, storytelling, comics, flashcards.
Forms: exams, surveys, classroom check-in/out, registration, summary of results, data collecting from experiments, activity report submission, appointments, requests.
Drawings: cliparts, graphical organizers, storyboards, mind maps, diagrams, timelines.
Hangouts: online lectures, screencasts, meetings, tutoring, lesson recap.
Google Search (http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/): information search, dictionary, Math solver, service locator...
Google custom search (https://www.google.com/cse/all).
Groups: communication, forum.
Google+ communities: social interaction, research, sharing.
Keep: check-lists, notes, voice and video notes. This tool is really useful to jot down ideas that pop up during the day (mainly using the mobile app).
Tasks (https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas): tickable tree-structure tasks, to-do lists.
Youtube (and Youtube teachers): documentaries, students’ video activity log, dramatization, screencasts, Khan, EdTed. Online video editing.
Goo.gl: url shortener, stats.
Maps and Earth: geography related activities.
Stars: astronomy/astrophysics related activities.
Translate: translation for international students and parents. Included in Docs.
Website translator: Sites shows a link in the bottom right corner for translation. Blogger has an ad-hoc widget (or you can insert it manually: https://translate.google.com/manager/website/).
Picasa: activities with pictures (infinite possibilities).
Bookmarks and web search history: logging of your web activity in Google for work improvement.
Analytics: student behaviour inside your LMS (Blogger has its own stats, but both can be combined).
Trends: term popularity, search trends.
Chrome: offline working, multiple profiles, activity recording, tool integration, bookmarking, applications, extensions.
Withgoogle.com: alternative tools (http://andonisanz.blogspot.com/2014/12/withgooglecom.html).
Android and Chrome Apps: there are tons of them for educational purposes.
Common cloud features:
1- The Google tools have been developed to work on multiple devices (laptops, tablets, phones...).
2- Some of them have mobile applications, as Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Calendar, Chrome, Google+ or Analytics. You’ll find Chrome apps for the same purpose, as well.
3- Some apps let you work offline (go to the Chrome market and search for Google offline apps), as the ones under Drive (and remember to download and install Drive’s app).
4- Docs, Slides and Sheets add real collaboration capabilities, e.g, editing a document at the same time by up to 50 people.