Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints – – Google Apps Part Deux

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic

So in last weeks HHH post, I kind of gave you a glimpse of how Google Apps could help increase productivity and organization in your homeschool. 

Today, I thought I would get a little more nitty gritty and outline some of the specific ways you can use Google Apps…

First off, you will need to sign up with a Google Account, if you haven’t already. You will also need to sign each of your homeschoolers up with an account. They are free, and relatively painless to register for. Here is the link to get started.  One Google registration is all you need to get signed up for ALL of Google’s many services, including Google Docs, Gmail, Google Talk IM, Google Calendar, and Google Sites. If you have a Blogger account, you are already covered.

One of the first things you will want to do is explore the Google Docs interface. Like I said last week, this is the keystone of the Google product line.

If you have worked with Microsoft Office at all, Google Docs will be a breeze, because it has most of the same capabilities – – word processor, spreadsheet, and presentations.  It will even upload and download in Office file extensions! For a full tutorial on how to use the Docs interface, go through this edutech lesson.

My favorite homeschool use of the program is as a lesson planner/calendar.  I create a spreadsheet grid that I use to keep track of the boys daily assignments.  The great thing is that once I share the sheet with their google accounts, they can access my spreadsheet from any computer, make changes to it, cross things off when they have completed them, etc.

(click to view in full screen)

google docs

The daily assignment sheet, in essence, becomes a collaborative effort.  Even if you are unschooling, and aren’t anally retentive like me, Google spreadsheets are still a great way to track what your kids are accomplishing, and a place for you to provide resources and suggestions for what they are currently interested in.  You can both access the spreadsheet in real time from two different computers, which is the true cool feature.

I have started having my boys submit all their written assignments in Google Docs as well.  There just isn’t a better way, in my opinion.  When they finish an essay, for instance, and share it with me, I don’t have to print it out, or worry about losing it, or anything.  I can just access it on my computer, make comments, notes, and highlight any areas that need more attention.  Then they go back in, see my notes and make their changes, and voila!  I file it in a subject-specific file and can keep it until infinity.  This is a great way to store items if you live in a state that requires portfolios of each student’s annual work.  Instant access from any computer, and you have saved several trees in the process. 

Next week, I will cover some of the even cooler, creative ways for using Google Apps in your homeschool.  Stay tuned…

To see all of my Friday’s Hardwired Hints posts, go to my HHH page!

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Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Google Apps

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic Today I’m going to push the envelope, shake the sauce, change things up…you get the drift.  I’m not going to hit you with a bunch of cool sites today, but rather highlight one really gnarly web application (hey San Fernando Valley and Silicon Valley aren’t that far apart; there was bound to be a crossover at some point).

If you homeschool and have more than one computer in your home, you will wonder after today how you ever lived without Google Apps.  Google Apps (GA) is a homeschool mom’s dream come true.  In fact, you might just throw out all those other expensive organizers when you discover that you can keep track of all your homeschool business in one easy-to-access place.

It’s called…the internet.

See, the cool thing about GA is that you can store as much stuff as you want on there, and you don’t have to be on any specific computer to access it.  Your info is stored remotely on the Google servers.  In other words, you can be at the library, the coffee shop, or on your Blackberry, and “Presto!”: instant homeschool access.

google docs So – – here’s how it works.  Google Docs is the star of the show – – it’s sort of a mocked up Office Suite.  There is a word processor, a spreadsheet app, and a presentations application.  I’ll get into some creative uses for each of those in a later post, but for now, I just want you to get a mental image of what homeschooling with Google Docs can be…

  • Rachel just finished her history assignment using Google Docs word processor and saved it in her docs file, sharing it with you.
  • Bryan took his math quiz on Google docs and shared it with you.
  • You are busy Instant Messaging with a blogging friend when an email comes to tell you that these assignments have been finished.  So you simply open up Google Docs from your laptop.  You see that Rachel kind of skimped on her 2nd and 3rd answers, so you highlight those in yellow and insert a note letting her know how she can improve her answers.  Bryan got a 100 on his quiz, so you drop his grade into his Grade Spreadsheet on Google Docs, and insert a big note of Praise in his Daily Assignment log.  As soon as he logs in for his next assignment, he sees his embarrassingly sappy “Great work from a Great Son” note, and rolls his eyes (secretly smiling with pride)
  • Rachel sees that you have looked over her history, and she gives a perfunctory glance at your notes, but decides to come back to edit it later, because she is busy working on her multimedia Aerodynamics project using Google Presentation.  She wants to be a film editor when she gets out of college, so she is having a blast creating an image and text slideshow including a video clip she took at the air fair last weekend
  • You, meanwhile, are sipping your coffee slowly, sitting on the back porch swing, and looking over tomorrow’s lesson plans on Google Spreadsheet app.  An email comes in from your friend Lyla reminding you of the homeschool field trip next Tuesday.  You copy and paste her reminder into your Google calendar, and set it to send you a polite reminder the morning of. 

This is just a Polaroid shot of what Google Apps can do for you, but I hope you can start to see the possibilities.  One application.  Any computer.  Multiple uses.  More to come next week…stay tuned!