Prepping for the Webinar: So What Exactly is this Google Apps Thing?

Cross-Posted on YU 2.0

As you are hopefully aware, YU  2.0 is hosting a webinar next week, on Thursday, March 22, at 8:45 PM,  that we are really excited about, on the implementation of Google Apps in the classroom. Rabbi Dr. Aaron Ross will be presenting based on his real world experiences using Google Apps in school.
But let’s take a step back. Before we talk about how Google Apps can be implemented in the classroom, let’s talk about what it is. Google Apps is a suite of applications (hence the “App” designation) that can be used to enhance productivity. Many of them are very similar to the popular Microsoft Office suite of programs.
o   Google Docs allows you to create word processing files like in Microsoft Word, or spreadsheets like in Excel, or presentations like in Powerpoint.
o   Gmail is Google’s mail service.
o   Calendar – Google’s calendar and date book app, like Outlook’s calendar function.
o   Groups – A platform to set up groups of users, have discussions and share resources around a specific topic.
o   Sites – Google’s platform for creating personal web sites. You can use this to set up a class web site to post assignments, share notes, etc.
o   There are several other Google offerings that the company includes under the ‘apps’ grouping, including Blogger, Reader, YouTube, and Google +.

While many of these apps sound quite similar to programs you may already be using, there are some key functions that make Google’s suite of apps unique:
It’s in the cloud. If you have ever worked on a Word doc with other people and had to contend with the frustrations of emailing versions of the document back and forth, confusing multiple versions, etc., the Google approach is a little different. All of your files reside online, on Google’s servers (they are password protected and secured). You may have heard the phrase “in the cloud” used recently in discussions of online entities. Well, this notion of storing files online is precisely what this cloud concept is referring to. And it has a lot of advantages. You can access your files anywhere you have internet access, on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. And perhaps even more significantly, you can share your files with others and allow them to work on and update files in real time collaboratively with you.
It’s free. You can access Google Apps in one of two ways: you can sign up for a free Gmail account, which gives you automatic access to all Google Apps, or your school can sign up as an institution for Google Apps for Education. The latter option would allow every staff member and student to be assigned an email address that is @ your school’s online address (as opposed to @gmail.com), as well as get access to all the other Google Apps, and it is completely free. Many public and private schools have already outsourced their entire email to Google Apps for Education, eliminating the costs involved with running and troubleshooting an in house email server.
It just works. One of the hallmarks of a Google product is its ease of use. Play around with Gmail, or the calendar, and it becomes immediately clear that the program is designed in an intuitive way.

You probably already have it! Many people already have a Gmail account that they use for their email. Well, if you have Gmail, you already have access to Google Apps! In many situations, if you are trying to get a group of people on board to use a new product, it may require purchasing items, or cumbersome sign ups that can leave the tech-phobic even more hesitant to jump in. With Google Apps, you will find that often most people already access to the programs by virtue of their Gmail account.

Now that you’ve learned a little about what Google Apps are, it’s time for the fun stuff – be sure to attend the webinar on Thursday to learn about the incredible real time collaboration that Google Apps allows you to foster in your classroom, and to learn about the magic of Google Forms! See you there! Register for the webinar HERE!


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