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Google - Today's New Superhero

Written by Kelly Linn, a Tierney PD team member since 2017. Kelly spent years as an after school program teacher/coordinator and a middle school social studies teacher before joining Tierney.

Experiences with technology as a student have changed drastically over the past 20 years. I reluctantly claim to be an older millennial educator. I grew up connecting with AOL to join a Yahoo chat room or update my Top 8 for my MySpace account after school. I did not have a cell phone until high school, and the one I was given when I started to drive was really a great tool to play Snake, that is when I remembered to bring it with me. I typed papers for class in the computer lab and either printed it out or turned in a floppy disk to the teacher for credit. The internet was a black hole, there were no search engines and if you did not know the exact web address, good luck finding anything useful. I used my printed out Mapquest map to travel to new destinations and burned my music on to CDs, which I needed a converter to play in my car’s cassette player. The technology was improving at a fast rate, I just couldn’t see it.

Flash forward to today, and it seems technology changes every week. Today’s students are bombarded with technology, new apps are being released daily, social media has taken over the cafeteria gossip, and classroom papers are really a challenge to see how much content one can “borrow” from the internet without getting caught. Now that technology is advancing at what seems like light years, teachers have to learn how to keep up and stay on top of the newest trends to manage their class and stay relevant. That is not to say teachers don’t have options, there are so many tools and programs to use to help monitor, control, and teach digitally. The better question is which tool is the best tool for teachers, which is where Google steps in.

If you ask just about anybody outside of the educational world to name the best word processor, spreadsheet creator, presentation format, more often than not you’d hear Microsoft come up. Microsoft Office dominates the professional world, with Excel leading the pack with the top spreadsheet tool. But if you ask educators, Google will dominate the conversations from email, papers, cloud storage, and presentations. I do not plan on spending my time on defending or selling you on Google, if you are a teacher reading this, you know exactly why I am proud to say Google changed me as an educator.

Google in the Classroom

I successfully flipped my classroom and became nearly paperless with the help of Google Classroom, Docs, Slides, Forms, and Drive. I wanted a way for my students to access all of their assignments and not lost in their large unorganized Trapper Keeper. I wanted to use a single word processing tool that I could open up on my home computer or work computer without the aid of external storage. I wanted to digitally assess and present to my classes while also having them saved in one spot so I could stay organized and efficient. Google is the answer to all of my requests. I wanted to eliminate my file cabinets and lesson plan binders that I rarely reviewed and with the help of Google Drive I moved all of my lessons and paper worksheets into Drive. When the time came for me to move schools or wanted the documents when I was lesson planning during Spring Break (because, yes teachers do that) I was able to access my Drive anywhere.

But where to start? Put your teacher hat on, it’s all about how you learn best. Do you learn best by seeing it done and then trying it or just jumping in and giving it a try? Either way, I would suggest a Google Bootcamp. During a Google Bootcamp, you will learn how to use all of the basic Google tools and prepare for the Certification to become a Google Educator. If you learn by seeing, the instructor shows you how to do everything you need to be successful then helps you start using them. If you learn by doing, you get a walkthrough then it’s your turn to jump in and try it out. I think the best thing about this is that it’s on a complete separate account. You can mess up this account in all different ways and not have to worry about the random Google Docs you’ve created or how you’ve made your Drive even more of a mess. Once you master Level 1 you can move onto Level 2 and learn more about some unsung heroes of Google.

If you aren’t ready or interested in the whole certification process and the word test already has you stressed, there is another option. One of my favorite Professional Development sessions we facilitate is a customized Google day. The pressure is off to pass the test, but you learn so much about the basic Google Tools. Not only that, but if you are wanting more, those sessions offer up little nuggets of secret Google tools and tricks that many teachers never knew they needed. I’ve been working with Google for years and I love sharing all the different ways you can become a more effective teacher, while also teaching your students how to be more successful with their online productivity.

Tierney Can Help

Let’s say you are just getting started with Google in your school and you’re not sure how to include it into your building, I have an answer for you. Explore EDU events offer an opportunity to see why everyone is so obsessed with Google. This event is hosted by a Google-focused school where there are different sessions to see what Google has to offer. Most importantly you will hear from administrators, teachers, and students, how Google has positively impacted their professional lives.

It’s hard not to love Google, it offered me all the solutions to my teaching problems. I didn’t have to search through a student’s computer to find a missing paper, my parents knew where assignments were posted, students could access all of my class notes, assignments, and grades in one location.

Although the business world runs on Microsoft, our schools are powered by Google and it will be interesting to see how that transitions into the workplace. Sometimes teachers come to me worried about students not being prepared for careers with no experience with Microsoft. My response is yes, they are two different platforms, but in reality, the formatting of the two have many similarities that students will be able to adapt and adjust to the differences. The way Google has separated itself from Microsoft is through the simplification of their tools, unlimited cloud storage, and continued applications and tools that help benefit the classroom. It’s exciting to see Google raise the bar for education, I’m hopeful it will only continue to get better and better.