Google has a lot of great features that are hidden deep within their website. They are more than just a search engine. Most people know that Google provides free productivity tools (Google Apps) for schools and free email (Gmail) for everyone. Did you know you know that you can use Google to create a digital sign or build an online course? This week's blog takes a look at some of these features.
You can use a Chromebox or other Chrome Device to create digital signage for your school. Typically, schools would purchase expensive software or hardware to create displays near the school entrance, menus for the cafeteria, or announcement boards in a common space. Chrome Sign Builder is a free app from Google that lets you do this for free! You can schedule different messages to appear at specified times throughout the day. For example, during the day important student information can rotate through on the digital displays in the common area. However, that evening there is an Open House. You can program the application to automatically display a Welcome message for parents and the Open House schedule to those monitors at 5:30pm. Chrome Sign Builder displays Google Slide presentations, YouTube videos, and other web content. You can get this app from the Chrome Web Store.
The Google Cultural Institute allows the world's culture to be accessible to everyone, everywhere. There are three main projects: Art Project, Historic Moments, and World Wonders. These are virtual collections and exhibits from museums and archives from all over the world. There are previously created galleries or you can create your own. According to Google, the Cultural Institute is "an effort to make important cultural material accessible and available to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generation". Google has Teacher's Guides available for the World Wonders Project on how to use and incorporate it in the classroom.
This is a great tool to use with your students to develop their writing skills. No Google account is needed (great for younger students) and it is easy for students to work their way through the steps of creating a story. You start by creating your characters and then enter the "text" or storyline/conversation. This is great for collaborative writing projects. Once the story is written, students can then add music and create a video link to share their story with others. There are also the Master's Edition which allows you to collaborate with famous authors. Watch Google + for live collaboration opportunities with others as well!
Google Sky is part of the Google Earth project. Google Sky allows you to explore the universe. These images have been gathered from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Digital Sky Survey, and the Hubble Space Telescope. You can explore constellations, planets, and other galaxies. Just type in what you want to look at and Google Sky will take you there. There are explorations of the Moon and Mars available as well.
Google is a strong supporter of open, online education. They have created an online toolkit to create your Massive Open Online Course or MOOC. This is not for the faint of heart. This takes a lot of planning and work to create. However, the end product can be shared with others around the world. I really feel that this is more for secondary and higher education classrooms. Google provides a lot of resources and examples of finished products. Here is an example of a MOOC for Educational Robots for Absolute Beginners - NXT Robots.
These are just a few examples of the hidden jewels that Google offers. Keep a watch out on Google's blogs for more products that they offer. There are several blogs that I like to follow.