Google Tools for Educators

Technology has changed the way we interact with each other massively over the last decade or so, and not just in our personal lives with the rise of social media; it has also revolutionised the 21st-century classroom and opened up opportunities for a variety of new, more interactive, teaching methods designed to maximise engagement with today’s students. But in such a rapidly-changing world, it can be a challenge simply to keep abreast of the latest and best tools for educators.

There are of course many different apps, online resources and specialist course management tools from a variety of providers which help educators to deliver their lessons and encourage student participation, but here we are going to look at what’s on offer from the web giant Google.

Google Plus

While it originally launched in 2011 as a social network, Google+ has struggled somewhat to compete in this arena with the already well-established Facebook and Twitter. However, it has many features which lend themselves well to use in an educational setting. It allows educators to share resources and links with students by creating different ‘circles’.  Circles can be set up for each group of students, providing a discussion space where students can share thoughts with their peers and receive feedback from their teachers. It also incorporates the instant messaging and video chat platform, Hangouts. Hangouts allows educators to hold live seminars with groups of students, and they can also, if they wish, include external guest participants, who could be subject matter experts from other institutions or from a particular field of industry.


Google for Education

Google tools for educators include a whole suite of free apps, many of which you may already be familiar with via your personal Google account. These include file sharing via Google Drive so that you don’t need to distribute course material to your students via email attachments. One central shared Drive means students always know where to get the latest copy of your important files. It’s a good way to manage collaborative projects too, as multiple users can work on the same document, spreadsheet or presentation in their web browser and have everyone’s changes automatically saved.

Google for Education also includes professional Gmail access on your own domain – i.e. with addresses in the format name@school.edu instead of @gmail.com – thus taking care of many of the security concerns that might arise from using the consumer versions of the same apps. Calendar access goes hand in hand with mail and makes it easy to find available time slots to get together with either students or colleagues.

This suite of apps also allows educators to create their own web pages containing teaching materials or for specific projects using Google Sites. It’s a really easy tool to use which requires no knowledge of code or HTML. A simple editor lets you create a professional-looking page, embed images and videos and control whether that page is public or private.

Finally, there’s one app in this suite that you won’t see as a regular Google user. It’s called Google Classroom. As the name suggests, it’s purpose-built for educators and it has some excellent organizational features to help them manage their students’ work with ease. Classroom lets you create paperless assignments and it minimises your admin time by automatically making copies of class materials for each student, and creating folders in Google Drive for each student and assignment. Students can see at a glance from a single page which assignments are due when, and teachers can easily keep track of who has or hasn’t completed their work. Once assignments are completed, the teacher can grade them and return them to their students, all in the same paperless environment.

Add BBC Active videos as part of your assignments

BBC Active Video for Learning offers a huge array of educational programmes on a broad range of subjects. BBC programming is world-renowned and there is sure to be something relevant to your subject in our extensive library, which includes ground-breaking documentaries from the flagship programme Horizon as well as other BBC favourites. Categories include Arts & Literature, Business, Current Affairs & Politics, Engineering, History, the Natural World and Science, Medicine & Technology.

Titles purchased from BBC Active come with a full non-theatric licence for showing in your lectures, seminars or other classroom sessions. If you would like to incorporate this powerful content in your online environment, digital licensing options are available in addition to the usual DVD or VHS format.