Friday, April 6, 2012

Google Apps

It occurs to me that I have never done a post about all the things students and Cameron employees have access to now that we're on Google Apps. While more email storage, mobile access, cheaper, and no servers to maintain on campus certainly played a part in the discussion to move to Gmail, we also were excited with the possibilities that the suite of applications provided our students. One blog post wouldn't be enough room to talk about all of the various apps you can use with your Cameron account!

Even if you're just forwarding your gmail account to another account, you need to look into some of the other applications to which you now have access. Here's a highlight of some of the more important ones.

Google Docs
For me, this is one of the most important ones. Google Docs is web-based word processing. You can edit your documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other files from anywhere using a browser. With a little setup, you can even work on your files offline and then they are synced the next time you connect to the internet. If you need to print the files, just login to a computer with a printer. If you're using other types of files, you can also upload them to your Google docs and use the area to store them instead of carrying around a flash drive. Google Docs will even convert pdf's to text for you to edit them.

However, one of the greatest features of Google Docs is the ability to share them with anyone else that has a Google account, including your instructor, classmates, and friends. When doing group work, your entire group can access the same document instead of emailing one back and forth or trying to merge several copies into one. You can even be on the same document at the same time with a chat window open as you discuss changes. Merge that with Google+ hangouts  and you can video chat, share screens, and draw on a sketchpad all while you also type into the document. How's that for a virtual meeting?

Google Calendar
Each person with a Google account has access to a personal calendar. You can also set up additional calendars and share them with other people so that multiple people can maintain a calendar and even embed it into a website. After we moved to gmail for students, we converted our webpage calendars to gcals to make it easy for you to click and add events and even entire calendars to your own calendar. The calendars can be set up to send you reminders as well so you won't miss an event. This is a great opportunity for campus organizations to get event information out to their members.

Google Sites
Speaking of organizations and group work, Google Apps for Education also includes Google Sites. These are websites that are created using a simple gui interface. They can include a wiki and can even be set up so that only certain people have access to certain parts of the webpage. Perhaps the organization's advisor has administrative control but then one member maintains a blog while another member keeps the calendar updated and yet another member posts pictures from past events. Google sites makes it easy for multiple people in a class group or organization to work on a joint website.

Google Groups
Think of Google Groups as a group email. You can post messages to it and everyone receives the email. It also archives messages so the group can view them at any time. You can set up your own personal groups based on class groups or friends, or an organization can set one up and add all of their members. Once a group is set up, you can also share your calendar, site, or even documents to the entire group rather than typing individual emails into the share.

Here are just a few others with links to more information:
Google Reader
Picasa Web Albums

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