I've been thinking about how Google has become increasingly omnipresent in our homeschool. Besides Chrome being my main browser, and Google, my default search engine -- (BTW: here’s a useful infographic with tips for doing better searches) -- there’s Gmail, of course, and social sharing through G+, plus all the tools relating to them, such as:
I’ve always done “paperless planning,” -- creating, in Word, my own at-a-glance templates showing two grades at once – which, I figured, was mildly clever. Then I read about how some much more clever homeschoolers were using Google Calendar, and I made the switch. Although late to the party, I'm glad I finally arrived. Now, I have a calendar for each kid, and it’s very easy for them to just click into each subject and see what they’re doing that day. I attach any documents or websites we’re using, so all the information is in one convenient place. The calendar can also be set to send reminders via Gmail.
Google Docs are awesome tools for creating your own paperless lessons/worksheets on any topic. You can include links to videos and other resources, embed images, charts, and drawings, and include questions your learner can fill in right in the same doc. Here's an example. Click on the image to go to the document.
The sharing aspects of Google Docs are particularly useful. For example, If you make a copy of the above document, you can edit it: use it as is, or tweak it to suit your needs. Or make a copy and delete the resource areas so you have a blank to use as a template. It's a neat way for homeschoolers to share resources.
Group Learning With Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts is a text and video chat tool that can be used with a closed group, like a literature discussion circle. While I haven’t used this yet, I think it would have worked well for some co-op classes I was involved in. Our co-op met two or three Fridays a month, and one of the challenges we experienced, especially with ongoing projects, was keeping the kids engaged during the weeks we did not meet. We could have used Hangouts during those off weeks to brainstorm, collaborate, plan, and keep everyone on track, particularly in our video production class, and our journalism class where we were creating our own newsletters.
Even More Google Sites
As if that’s not enough, there is a diverse and ever-growing list of Google-related sites we’ve used, or will be using, at some point, such as:
US History Tours, also powered by Google Earth, enables you to visit and answer questions about historical events such as the American Revolution, the Lewis and Clark expedition, Civil War battles, and others.
RealWorld Math enables students to take the math concepts they’re learning and apply them to a variety of tasks using information, images and tools in Google Earth. One lesson gives students practice solving volume problems using some famous geometric places (the Great Pyramid of Giza; the Leaning Tower of Pisa; the World Trade Center site). Other activities include: calculating time zone differences; estimating and measuring distances between landmarks, and others.
GeoGuesser shows you a street view image of someplace in the world and you have to guess where you are by searching for clues in the picture (street signs, stores, people, etc.) You can narrow things down by continent, country, city and famous places, but it’s still pretty challenging. You can play by yourself, or email a challenge to a friend. When you’re both done with the contest, the results are emailed to you.
My Maps can be used to make your own maps, (like, potential sites for my Eagle project). You can use different colors and markers to label locations. And, since it’s Google, your map can be shared with others if you’re doing group learning or collaboration.
STEMBite, a YouTube Channel started by a teacher who uses Google Glass to provide a first-person perspective on such topics as the physics of toys, chemistry in the kitchen, and biology in the backyard.
The internet has certainly introduced a plethora of new learning opportunities for all kinds of students. How do you use Google in your homeschool?