Thursday, November 23, 2006

Google Student Desktop

In the past few weeks since the Google Teacher's Academy, I have been playing around with many of the Google tools and looking for ways to integrate them into the day to day life of teachers and students. The applications they showed us during the day we spent at Google: SketchUp, Blogger, Picasa, Calendar, Docs and Spreadsheets, Groups, Reader and Earth, are all very cool and have many uses in education, but there was something missing. The part that was missing for me was the way to have all of these tools available at my or my students fingertips at the same time. Google Personalized Home, has the ability to be an 'Internet portal' for teachers and students.

If you have a Gmail account, you can create your own personalized home page. You can then add widgets, some created by Google and some by third parties, to your home page. Some of the third party 'widgets' are: bookmarksThis allows you to create a 'dashboard' of services that you use on a daily basis and best of all, these services are available to you anyplace you can get to a computer with an Internet connection. Imagine you and your students having access to a wealth of tools at any computer, anyplace in the world.

When you start, you are given a page that has the Google search bar on the top third of the page and the bottom two-thirds of the page is divided into three columns, where your widgets can be loaded into and saved. If you have more widgets than your main page can hold, you can create additional pages and you can navigate between your pages using tabs across the top of the three columns.

(Screen shot of the tabs on my personalized home page)

(The screen shot below is of the three columns on my home page.)

(This is the screen shot of my 'Google Apps' page on my personalized home page. I have a widget for all of the pages I have bookmarked.)

Currently, there are certain Google tools that do not have 'widgets' to be included in the Personal Home page, but I would suspect that these items would be included soon. The two that would be the most useful to me would be Blogger and Docs and Spreadsheets. (As of 11/23 - The Docs and Spreadsheets widget was added after I took the screenshot above.)

Give it a try... I think you'll be impressed.

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