Sunday, May 27, 2012

Join us: The Google phenomenon -- Google Basics

I have wanted to do a post on Google for a long time. I remember way back when the concept of a computer was a large (twice my size at 6 years old - or so it seemed) screen and hard drive with keyboard, and mouse, and speakers. I also remember the old Apple computers that required 3 1/2 inch floppy disks. Technology certainly has come a long way since then, but it can still be intimidating. It wasn't until my fiancee sat me down and showed me what Google could do that I began to really feel comfortable collaborating, archiving, and +1-ing things. Since then, I use Google for almost everything: my website, my calendar, my email, my pictures, social networking, basic research, music, and e-books.

Now, before you call me a lemming (insert grin here), let me make my case.

There are plenty of reasons to like Google or the products associated with it, but here are my top five:

1. Ease of access -- Unlike programs downloaded to a computer, I can save my work anywhere and access it anywhere. Any document I create on the Drive is easily accessible from another computer in another place. When using Chrome, I can log in and access my bookmarks on any computer with Chrome. On any Google site, I have access to the tool bar on top, which connects me to my email, pictures, documents, videos, music, maps, calendar, and (was there ever a doubt) search tools. Furthermore, I have apps on my Android phone for all my Google products. I can access it all on my phone, making it really easy to double check things really quickly or keep track of notes/ideas.

 2. Universality -- Even if you don't have Chrome, Google products are incredibly easy to access and you can still see the toolbar on Google sites. Unfortunately, however, it won't always work as flawlessly as it does with Chrome. Documents on the Drive can be downloaded in a variety of styles like PDF, word, txt, etc. (although not with Apple products) and these files can all be uploaded to the Drive as well. My email and Drive talk to each other and I can open an email attachment in the Drive to edit and save it; and everything talks to my phone, where it is also completely compatible.

3. It fits all aspects of my life -- I use Google for just about everything. I have a work gmail, a home gmail, and a couponing gmail (yes, I'm one of those). I can link all my accounts so that, instead of having to check 3 emails every hour, I have one email open and all three show up. I also have my Junior Classical League email accounts on gmail. It is really easy to access them without connecting them to my own email accounts. I don't have to log out, I can access them through the profile menu (see picture to the right). The downside, however, is that this feature is only available for email. If you want to access another accounts pictures, or documents, you have to log out and log back in. I rarely do this, but when I do, it can be a bit annoying, although easily fixable.

4. It's a fairly decent search engine -- Google doesn't simply look for webpages with the words you search. It has a method of ranking pages from most to least important and relevant. You can put search parameters on that include only showing images that are available to share or use freely. You can also preview websites before you click on them. I am not an expert on using search engines (I am more comfortable using a card catalogue in a library), but you can look at this nifty infographic on getting the most out of your Google search.

5. It's free -- Every Google product that I use is free. Free for my computer, free to access anywhere, free for my phone. I have not paid for anything, save music that I've downloaded on Google Play. Often times, when we get free things, they are difficult to use, or lacking in uses. This is not the case with Google. In addition to the basics, Google offers maps, sky maps, hangouts and voice, news, chat, groups, and much more!

These are the basics, that is why I believe Google is a great tool for teachers and why I intend to continue using it, of Google. Over the coming weeks, I will be blogging on some of my favourite tools: Drive, Calendar, Google Sky, Google Plus, and Voice. I have used all of these either in class, for research, or collaboration for teaching. Check out this neat infographic on how to use Google's products with Bloom's Taxonomy!

So, another plea for comments! Let me know what you want to know about Google. It can be something you want me to answer in one of my posts about the above products, or it can be a product you want me to play with and make a post on.

Next post: Google Drive

See you then!

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