Dear Google Apps: A Love Letter from the Learning Specialist

Dear Google Apps,

I love you.

I am writing you a love letter and it is automatically saving as I type it. I know this because, as my fingers glide across my keyboard, the word “Saving” gently flashes at the top of my screen, and then, when I stop typing, I see the comforting reminder, “All changes saved in Drive.” This is just one of the reasons why I love you.

We are now a school that uses Google Apps for Education. We use your Gmail, Gcal, Google Drive with Google Docs and Haiku sites. Together, your apps help me solve one of the learning specialist’s greatest challenges—making the unmade bed.

Ahh…the unmade bed. It’s a ubiquitous phrase used by teachers and parents to describe the child who is constantly losing things—the one who, on a regular basis, can’t locate the North Face fleece, iPad charger (or iPad for that matter), the water bottle from practice, or Spanish homework due this morning. The one whose school supplies trail behind him or her in a little Hansel and Gretel path. The unmade bed is the student who forgot to print the assignment, forgot which laptop he or she saved it on and the one who lost the handout, the study guide, the assignment sheet. You know the unmade bed, don’t you? I think you do because you are helping me help them, and I love you for it.

In my office, we not only specialize in the unmade bed, we love the unmade bed. These are our people. We spend our day in the backpacks of unmade beds—rife with crinkly papers, extra hockey socks, granola bar wrappers and binders that have the same multi-layered effect of a blooming onion appetizer at the Outback Steakhouse. “Is this important?” we ask, holding up what looks not like the practice problems for a physics quiz, but like a little handmade fan for sweltering summer nights on the veranda. We help these students make and keep appointments with teachers, learn what’s on the test, locate and turn in homework assignments, wherever they may be. While all of this gives us great satisfaction there is a catch. Too often, when they come back to see us the next week, we have started all over again. We make the bed and then it gets unmade, sometimes in a matter of a few hours.

This, Google Apps, is where you step in. This is where I know you were already thinking of me in my office in the Shattuck Schoolhouse as I was filing handouts in three-ring binders, printing copies of student schedules and handwriting teacher meetings on them and powering on each laptop in the laptop cart to find the one where the paper got saved. You know me, right?

How do I love thee Google? Let me count the apps:

1. I love your Google Drive: We now teach students how to create and save documents and projects using their Google Drive. Once saved in Drive, these documents can be accessed from any device with an internet connection. That means that, regardless of where they created the document—at home, on their iPad, on their phone even—students can share, print or collaborate using Google Drive. Students use Drive to turn in assignments, because they don’t have a working printer at home or to collaborate on a project even when the group members are in different locations. No more flash drives or memory sticks, no more printing from home and then losing it, or not printing from home and then not being able to access it because it’s saved on the desktop of the home computer. In Drive, we help students create folders to organize their work. Google Drive means that backpacks have less paper in them, more assignments are turned in on time and we spend less time looking for lost stuff and more time working on the big stuff. This is mostly because, now, almost everything important lives on Google Drive.

2. I love Google documents: A Google doc automatically saves as it is being created. I cannot express how important this is or how much I love that you figured out how to do this. Gone are the days of reminding students to click save after each sentence or the horror of realizing that they didn’t do it and then the battery on their laptop died. Students can create a Google doc on a laptop in the Alcoves and then continue working on it from their home computer. Google docs are easily shared with teachers who can give instant feedback or with classmates who can collaborate in real time. No more attaching files that won’t open or saving files to a memory stick that won’t work. Teachers are using Google docs to share handouts and assignments and study guides, and guess where they all live? Not in the binders (or scrunched way down in the bottom of backpacks) anymore. That’s right, they live in Drive! I hear beds making themselves all over campus as I write this!

3. Gmail: Our whole school uses Gmail now. Gmail is awesome. Everyone knows that. In fact, I did a Google search for “Why Gmail is awesome” and I got 99,700,000 results. For my students, I love the labels and folders, the options to search for emails, the ability to open and save attachments into Drive, and especially the attachment reminder feature. This last thing, in itself, is amazing.

4. I love Google calendar: When we can convince students to use Gcal, they become instantly more organized. They can set up meetings with teachers and then set an alert to remind them. As they think of things to ask their teacher at that meeting, we showed them how to add that information to the event in their calendar. That way, when they show up to the meeting, they have all of their questions ready to go and they can access it from any computer. Students can also input meetings or events into their calendar directly from emails. We even show them how to use Gcal to schedule time on the weekend to complete specific assignments. Truth be told, the reason why I am getting this article completed on time is that I set an alert in Gcal to remind me to write.

5. Finally, I love Haiku: The LMS (learning management system), has not only enriched the lives of our students, but it helps keep them organized. With Haiku, students can easily access assignments, grades, study guides, videos, handouts, practice tests and more. Haiku allows teachers to keep everything in one place—from weekly assignments to their grade book—and beyond that, students can communicate and collaborate with classmates and teachers. It’s a whole learning environment. Homework and papers can be turned in here, feedback on writing happens here and online discussions occur here. Can’t find the handout from class today? Check the Haiku site. Want to see some of the slides from the presentation on cell respiration? The whole thing is probably there. Some teachers even allow students to see their current grade by logging in to the site. All of this helps me. Haiku allows me to not only know what happened in class this week, but what’s coming up next week and what’s going to be on the test and when the paper is due. This helps me help my students in so many ways.

And so, that’s why I love you, Google Apps. Thank you for coming to Nobles!

Gia Batty
Learning Specialist

This post originally appeared in the January 2014 Nobles Parents’ E-Newsletter

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