Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why I Use Google Docs Personally and in My Classes

Google Docs is a suite of "applications" that I use, personally and in my classes, instead of Microsoft's Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. I have been why I have made this change. There are seven reasons.
1. Google Docs is free. Microsoft charges for their suite of tools. And even though individuals and schools have purchased Office, there is a new version every two years or so. In other words, you pay over and over again. Google Docs is free for schools, for students (so they can use them at home, and for teachers' personal computers. That is a lot of money that is being saved!
2. Google Docs meets all the needs of K-12 students, and most of the needs of college students and teachers. Unless you are writing a book, or operating an accounting firm, Google Docs has all the bells and whistles that you need.
3. Google Docs is much better in a public laboratory, and for use by non-experts, than Office. There are too many bells and whistles in Office for these uses and users.
4. Google Docs is an excellent set of tools for collaborative work, unlike Office. An instructor can easily assign collaborative tasks to a group of students. And he or she can quickly determine who did what when!
5. Google Docs can be used collaboratively at a distance. That means students can work collaboratively, in real time, on projects from where ever they are. No face to face meeting is necessary.
6. In Presentations, students can make presentations from home to an audience at school, if necessary. Home with the measles but able to be up and about? A student can easily present his or her project to the class while at home.
7. The student doing the presentation from home can be seen and heard (if he or she has a camera and/or a microphone attached to their computer), or can chat with the class with text.
8. And the opposite to 6 and 7 is also true. Grandmother in Iowa can watch their grandchild present to a class in Alabama. And be heard and seen, and see and hear! And it's all FREE!
9. There are no more "lost" homework assignments. Since the Docs are in the clouds (on Google's servers), they are always accessible form any place in the world where there is an internet connection.
10. If you are in France (or anywhere) and unexpectedly need a document, spreadsheet, database, or presentation that you have done, it's there as long as you have an Internet connection.
11. Presentations done in Google Docs can easily be shared through email, saved as a web page with a URL, and embedded into a blog or web page. It is EASY in Google Docs, much less so with Office.
12. Google Docs includes an excellent Forms tool which allows you to quickly create a questionnaire, gather data, and analyze those data! This has many uses for teachers, students, classes, and regular people.

Is your school using Google Docs? Are you using Google Docs? I strongly recommend them to you. And I have instructional videos to teach you all you need to know about them. You will find them under the heading Instructional Videos by John H Strange on my current EDM 310 Class Blog. If you are a teacher, you can use the videos with your classes if you wish.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I Miss Mary

Mary Irons
My dear friend, Mary Irons, passed away a month ago. She was 96 years old, a lively conversationalist, and until the last year or so of her life, able to go places and do things (most of the time). I was assigned to Mary as Lay Eucharist Minister - to take communion to her two times a month. But before my first visit, another of Mary's friend had to vouch for me. Mary was very particular about her visitors!

We talked for at least an hour on every visit (which became more frequent over the four or five years that we shared Sunday afternoons together). She told me about growing up in Amador County California where her grandfather owned a gold mine. Later she moved to San Francisco, living not too far from Fisherman's Wharf. She had lots of stories to tell, about both places. And about Bermuda, her favorite vacation spot.

Mary was one of the first female graduates from Stanford University. That was where she met her husband, Charles Irons. They moved to Fairhope, Alabama in the early 60's. For many years Charles was Chairman of the Board of Thomas Hospital in Fairhope. Mary was proud, rightly so, of his enormous contributions to the community in this volunteer position.

Mary told me about her daughters, her grandchildren, and I even got to meet her twin great grandchildren one Sunday afternoon. I also got to visit with two of her three daughters in person, and had several long conversations with the third daughter.

Mary's Orchid IMary loved to look at my photographs. She even came to an exhibit of mine (with Jeannine Griffin) at the University of South Alabama. One of my photographs in that show was of her orchid. I named the photograph "Mary's Orchid I" Mary provided a name for a photograph of thatch I took in Mexico which was also in that show. She called it "Dirty Asparagus." I loved that!
Dirty Asparagus - a photograph as named by Mary Irons

It has been a month now since Mary died. My Sundays are not the same. But I am thankful for all the afternoons we did share together. Thank you Mary!