Google. . . an internet entity that is so powerful its name has become a verb. "Google it". Their search engine is one of the most widely used, but until recently I hadn't noticed all that they have to offer. Best of all, everything is free! With the tools and apps that Google has, your online world (including all your educational material) can be streamlined, organized, easy to access anywhere there is an internet connection, and stored on a Google server (freeing up space on your computer).
The following reviews are my own opinions based on my own personal experience that I have had with the featured site. There has been no contact between myself and the Google empire, and I am not being compensated in any way for featuring any of the sites.
This site offers a way to stay connected through group email lists and discussion boards. It is similar to Yahoo Groups, but is currently in the process of streamlining it features so it will no longer offer file storage. I wouldn't be too worried about that though, they have other free sites dedicated to file storage that you could easily access from the discussion board or the email feature. These groups are super easy to set up, share, and manage. Perfect for maintaining communication with home school families, groups, and students.
One simple word explains this site : everything. If you need somewhere to create and store all of your educational files, this site for you. Google Docs offers everything you need to create text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It stores them on their server, so your computer is free of clutter, you can share your information with anyone, and you can access your information anywhere. There is no software to install, and of course it's free :) Google Docs allows more than one person to work on a document at the same time from different locations (peer reviews, group assignments) and once your document is complete you can publish the document as a web page with a unique Google url. You can also choose to upload your own files if you are partial to a software brand.
Google Page Creator
With Google Page Creator, you or your students can easily create and publish a webpage. This site has simple to use "drag and drop" features that allow to change the layout without knowing any codes. Set up a page for your class, your local group, your family, or the topic of a recent research assignment. There is no software to download, you can upload your own images, and add links to other websites.
This is a great tool to edit and publish pictures and photo albums. This site also offers Web Albums, which upload your photos to the web, saving space on your computer and allowing you to share with your friends and family. This software is available as a free download, and once installed will locate all of the pictures on you computer and place them into folders organized by the date taken. Picasa offers editing tools that are easy to use, and you can arrange the pictures in the folder in any order you want. Great for use with reports that require lots of pictures, photos of school events, family photos, and more. If you have photos, you will want Picasa.
Wow. This thing is amazing. The official description is "an easy-to-use program that lets you and your students create, modify, and share 3D models. From history to calculus, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to see your ideas in 3D. And when you're done, you can export an image, make a movie, or print out a view of what you made." I have watched a few tutorials on youTube, and it seems like this software would take some getting used to. The end results are astonishing though! You can use this software to make a 3D anything, using your own photos or start from scratch, and you can also work in conjunction with Google Earth to put 3D models of buildings on the map! As an educator you can create 3D models of geometric equations or have your students create models of chemical reactions. Google claims that you can incorporate their SketchUp software into any subject, at any grade level. If your students are visual learners, this will be a very useful tool to have in your arsenal.