Creative Uses of Google Apps for Teaching and Learning

Since the University of Washington worked with Google to make available a UW-branded version of the popular Google Applications (Gmail, Google Documents, Google Sites, Google+, Blogger), the apps have been used for various teaching and learning initiatives at UW Bothell. The Center for University Studies and Programs (CUSP) program and the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences (SIAS), for example, both use Google Sites for student electronic portfolios.

But, you might ask, beyond the commonly used apps and the common ways to use them, is anyone making creative use of these tools for teaching and learning? Yes! Here are two examples.

Class Wikis

Dr. Robin Oppenheimer, Lecturer in CUSP and IAS, uses Google Sites in a number of her classes to create class wikis.

“Based on a class textbook, students are divided into groups and each group reads and researches a part of the book,” explains Dr. Oppenheimer. “Their goal is to create a wiki page based on the group’s collective collaboration, research, writing, and resulting knowledge of their topics made visible through their written texts, still and video images, hyperlinks to other electronic information, charts, graphs, etc. They then present their wiki page as a group in front of the class, teaching each other what they have learned about the topic and as a collaborative group exercise.”

Dr. Oppenheimer goes on to say that, although Google Sites has limited design features for students, it is “easy to use,” and that her class wiki assignment prepares those students who will go on to use Google Sites for the eportfolio assignments in CUSP and SIAS.

Collaborative Note-Taking

Dr. Kenneth Rufo, a Lecturer in CUSP, uses Google Documents in his classes for collaborative note-taking.

Using the Google Docs integration with Canvas, Dr. Rufo creates a document in which the entire class can type notes.

“We have all this new technology and we finally have a chance to solve one of the really vexing parts of a classroom, which is different [student] notes,” says Dr. Rufo. “So the idea with using Google Docs for a classroom is that it allows for a single collective note, and it allows for forms of participation for those people who don’t like to talk in class.”

Although there are issues with having students use laptops in classroom (for example, checking Facebook instead of participating), and there is the ‘freeloader’ problem (students benefit from other students’ work without contributing to a class or project themselves), acknowledges Rufo, he argues “freeloading is not as much of a problem as not learning.” His goal is to enhance student engagement in class and to enable them to return to class content later.

So, what about you?

Are you using Google Apps in creative ways? Please comment on this post to tell us: 1) what you do; 2) how you do it; and 3) the learning goals or outcomes you hope to achieve by using Google Apps.



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