Wednesday, September 24, 2014

And The Winner Is...Google

There are lots and lots of cool educational tools that enhance learning, but in my opinion, nothing beats Google.  I love edtech gadgets and I spend lots of time searching, playing and experimenting with new things.  But no matter how hard I search, I always come back to Google.  Google drive is absolutely the most effective for teaching and learning, and for administrative purposes as well.   Here's my list of cool and effective tools that I use in my ESL classes on a regular basis.

1.  Google Drive
Documents and Presentations are used almost daily.  From simple tasks to elaborate projects, they are user-friendly, convenient and free.  Best of all, because they can be easily shared, they enable collaboration and communication between students in different classes.  Therefore, group projects aren't limited to students in the same class period.  They can also work on the projects at home and showcase them to their families. This year, I want to spend more time on spreadsheets and forms, but until now, I've only used them for gathering data and feedback, but have not had students use them in class.

2.  Blogger 
Another great Google product, blogging is a perfect free writing exercise for all students, but especially the ESL students.  My high schoolers blog daily while my middle schoolers blog at least once a week.

3.  Google Translator
For my beginners, Google translator is their lifesaver.  It helps them understand and be understood. Students use it to compose their writing, translate their classwork and also to communicate with their teachers.  Furthermore, not all students share the same native language so it helps them in communicating with their peers as well.

4.  Google Images.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  When definitions and translations don't help, images come to the rescue.  For SIFE students who have little or no literacy in their first language, pictures are the translator.  But we must beware, software filter doesn't work on images so check the pictures before you show them to your students-and warn the kids about this as well.

5.  Learner's Dictionary.  This is not a Google product, but it is invaluable to ELLs. is a Webster dictionary for ELLs.  It provides definitions in very simple language.  

6.  Evernote.  This tool I use only for lesson planning and reflection.  I found it as I was searching for a tool that would let my students create a digital interactive notebook.  While it probably could be used that way, I've only used it for my lesson plan template. It's also a good tool for teaching, reviewing and practicing academic vocabulary.

There are many other tools that are widely used in my district and from time to time, I will use them in lessons and activities.  But other than the first five, nothing else seems to stick.  Incidentally, today my Advanced ESL 8th graders were starting a collaborative project for Hispanic Heritage Month.  I gave them several choices in both content and technology.   They deliberated on the content for a while, but when it came down to choosing the edtech tool, Google presentation was the unanimous choice.  Its simplicity and ease made it a clear selection for the students so they could focus on their research and delivery.  And I have to agree with them.  As much as I seek and search for something new, I always come back to Google because it simply gets the job done and it's always a winner for me.

Until next time.....#BestYearEver

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