Mane (CRIN 604)

         Digital tools in education

April 14, 2010

Collaboration and Google Apps for Education

Filed under: Google — mepada @ 6:57 pm

In May of this year Gene Roche, Evan Cordulack and I plan to offer a May Seminar on Collaborative Writing. We decided that most people at W&M have already been exposed to and familiar with wikis in some way or another we decided to introduce an app that may not be that known by most: Google Docs.

Our decision to introduce this tool is timely since W&M started now a contract with Google that offers students a new email system at no cost to the college: WM Apps.

Most students use GMail so it seemed like a natural transition for them. Our first challenge was to learn more about Google Docs and to find out what other collaboration tools does Google offer?

We found the answer through a Google initiative called Google for Educators ( It provides several tools that “bring communication and collaboration tools to the entire academic community for free.”

These are the tools included in this service:

Gmail – Offer email to your faculty, students and staff with 2 gigabytes of storage per account (we actually have 7Gb per account).
Google Talk – Teachers and students can call or send instant messages to their contacts for free — anytime, anywhere in the world. Imagine the possibilities for people collaborating on projects from different locations.
Google Calendar – Everyone can organize their schedules and share events, meetings and entire calendars with others. You can even publish the school calendar on your website to let families know about events like back-to-school nights, homecoming and vacation days.
Google Docs – Students and teachers can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations and then collaborate with each other in real-time right inside a web browser window.
Google Sites – Create a class site and edit it the same way you’d edit a document — no technical expertise required. Your site can bring together all the information you want to share with your colleagues and students, including docs, calendars, photos, videos and attachments.

We want to concentrate mainly on collaboration and discovered additional tools offered by Google as part of this initiative that would go together nicely with the above mentioned apps:

Google Video – Securely share videos that anyone can comment on, tag and rate.

Google Groups – Students and faculty can create their own moderated forums and mailing lists featuring strong sharing and management controls.

The idea of working together virtually and in real-time in addition to the benefit of being able to collaborate globally along with the ease of sharing, editing and publishing, seems worth exploring with a group of interested and motivated faculty. We plan to conduct this seminar in -mainly- Google Docs in order to provide the participants with the full effect of this app and hoping to encourage/ prompt them to initiate self-paced learning.

We also intend to design some collaborative-type activities the participants can use when they return to the classroom.

To this effect, Google’s website offers several resources:

Classroom Activities by grade levels (K-5, 6-12 and All grade levels)

Classroom Posters

Google Teacher Academy: A FREE professional development experience designed to help K-12 educators, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues and more!

Teacher Community: Discussion group

We’ll have to customize or re-design some of these activities to make them appropriate for Higher-Ed level, but these can give us ideas and could be used as starting-points!

I believe it will be an exciting May Seminar where hopefully we will have the opportunity to really understand in depth the concept of collaboration, not just cooperation and where we will -ourselves- learn the real meaning of teamwork!

Additional Resources:

Google For Educators describes some of its clients implementation strategies: Utah State University, University of Southern California, Boise State University (and others)

It also provides Customer Stories (Case Studies) where –mostly- administrators (I would like to see comments and reactions from faculty and students as well) tell their stories: