Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bringing it all together with iGoogle

In my last few posts, I have explained some of the benefits to using various Google apps in the classroom: Google Docs, Google Calendar, Blogger, and Google Reader. I'm hoping it has become a little more clear why more and more schools are embracing these apps.

In August, Maryland joined Oregon, Iowa, and Colorado to adopt Google Apps for Education on the state level. Every public and private school district, as well as public and private colleges/universities in those states will now be using Google apps in their schools! Many other school districts around the globe have also "Gone Google" on their own. I do predict that my own district will go to cloud computing in the next five years if not sooner.

As great as all of these apps are, it can be tough to keep everything organized. This is where iGoogle comes in! This personalized Google homepage allows you to add many different "gadgets" and rearrange them so you can access all of your important information quickly and easily. You can also add a theme to the page, letting your personality come through. The video below gives a quick tutorial on how this would look.


As you can see in the video, you can add all sorts of information ranging from horoscopes and sport scores to news headlines and the weather. The key gadgets I recommend adding are all of those Google tools: Gmail (to see if you have email), Google Reader (to see if you have new blog posts to read) , and Google Calendar (to see what's coming up in the next few days). The image below is a screen shot of my iGoogle page. 

As you can tell, I am obviously a Steelers fan! Also, you will notice my Google Calendar and Google Reader to the right. I just finished reading everything so it tells me I have nothing new to read. I also have the Google News gadget which gives me a nice selection of headlines. I usually have my Gmail gadget right at the top, but I moved it for the screen shot for privacy reasons. What you can't see is that I have numerous other gadgets when I scroll down (listed to the left) that give me more science/technology headlines as well as some bargain websites.

 My Recommendations

I feel strongly that everyone should set iGoogle to be their "homepage". In other words, when I open up my web browser of choice, it automatically goes to iGoogle. I know of many people who use a default Google search screen or maybe the website of their school for their home page, and it's just not an efficient way of gathering information online.

Ideas for Using iGoogle

Ditch the desk calendar
  • There is no need to have a paper calendar taking up space on your teacher desk when you have a laptop. Whenever you go online, you can see upcoming events on your Google Calendar gadget. 
Encourage students to use iGoogle to keep themselves organized with school
  • Even if you have a team Google Calendar online, students must still go to the website to look at the calendar. This takes effort. With an iGoogle homepage, the calendar is there staring them in the face each time they go online (which as we know, is quite often).
  • Students can change gadgets as needed throughout the year for different units or projects.
Increase communication and collaboration among students
  • iGoogle (and Gmail) has a built-in chat feature. Students can chat with each other and collaborate over homework assignments. 
  • If teachers are online and make themselves visible to their students, students could chat with them as well with questions they may have.   
Additional Resources

iGoogle in the Classroom (pdf)
iGoogle YouTube Tutorial

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