Educational Technology Tools Review – By Martha Lopez

Google Apps for Education

Purpose and Description

There is a constant digital shift in educational technology, and classic educational practices have to catch up with digital demands.  The shift is happening mostly in digital media and the way  students learn online.  As educators, we should harness and welcome the new learning methods instead of continuing to insist on providing scaffolding that will navigate our students from a simple subject matter to a more rigorous one.  Instead, we should allow students to challenge real-time problems and find solutions that would spark their curiosity to challenge their own thinking.  Creative solutions are everywhere online and we as educators should also adopt new digital learning strategies.

Google Apps for Education is a suite of collaboration and communication applications.  Students can develop 21st century skills that they currently lack to be successful in college and most careers.  One of the most powerful tools in GAFE is the ability to collaborate on many levels.  Students have access to traditional tools, but GAFE is innovative and new features are constantly released.

Google Apps can host policies for the students and easy-to-use management systems for teachers to use in the classroom.  This gives the teacher the opportunity to expose students to content rich technology.  With Google docs, students still have access to traditional word processing, presentation and spreadsheet tools, but students can learn to collaborate in real-time with Google Docs.  Google Sites can be used to personalize classroom activity or they can be used as a tool to build professional sites.  Google apps can be used interactively by many students and tools are intuitive enough for elementary grade level students.

Challenges

As we focus on working collaboratively to do joint research projects, we learn at a faster pace with other online communities or OPLC’s Online Professional Learning Communities.  Such a community is supported and maintained by GAFE, but product demands and system demands are not always compatible with one another.  A common challenge is upgrading network capacity to maintain all the new mobile devices coming into the classroom.  Unless the training for teachers, admins and support staff is constantly provided, communities can continue to be challenged by innovation.

Benefits

Google enterprise has found a solution with cloud computing and by students having common hardware and software products  Managing the systems can be easier but the support staff still needs to be readily available to solve  daily challenges trying to make everything compatible.  School communities, administrators and tech support personnel can focus on academic rather than troubleshooting systems.  Online computing avoids having to update and install regularly.  With Google Apps for Education, a local management system or LMS can easily deploy applications used by the teachers in the classrooms.  Google Apps for Ed or GAFE is systematic and replaces complex environments that can be managed by Google apps.  Using Google Apps for Education, teachers can use screened applications that are aligned with Common Core State Standards without having too many concerns about pedagogy.  These applications can be hosted by data centers and can be accessed by any devices that can use the internet.  This way, teachers can focus rigorous curriculum.

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