Gmail celebrated its 10th birthday on April 1st. Reflecting back, they altered higher education more than we know according to Inside Higher Ed.
Transitioning from enterprise platforms to consumer platforms, Gmail is helping the technological world retreat from centralized technology control with a slick, free platform that any higher ed institution can use. UW Bothell has already gone aboard to using Gmail and other Google apps.
This transition is especially great for students who prefer to utilize their own technology at school. Remember only 10 years ago when schools rolled out carts of uniform laptops loaded with the same software? Now students have the option to stop relying on Outlook or Microsoft Office and use the wonders of Gmail, Google Drive, and other online applications. Because of these programs, schools no longer need to worry as much about mandatory software and their updates.
Teaching group work is difficult. Students often dislike group work, because one or two people carry the weight for everyone else. To solve this problem, one best practice for group project assignments, particularly those that require sustained collaboration and shared leadership over the course of many weeks in the quarter, is to build in an anonymous peer review assignment where each group member is anonymously reviewed by the other group members. The peer review assignment puts in place a system of accountability for the group members and therefore creates a more solid foundation for collaboration.
One way instructors can build this assignment into their course is to use a Google Form that is tied to a Google Spreadsheet. Each student fills out the form once for each member in their group. If the form that accepts the data is designed correctly, the spreadsheet will allow the instructor to quickly view peer reviews by reviewer and reviewee.
A recent study published on Educause takes a look into the mobile learning practices of students in higher education.
The study notes that mobile device usage has increased significantly among college students, and that they favor small and lightweight devices such as smartphones and tablets. However 85% of students still consider a laptop to be the most important device for academic success.
As mobile device use expands on campus, the study looks to understand how the students are using their devices. Students were given a survey to determine device prevalence and if they were being used for academic purposes. The study found that 91% of student owned a smartphone while only 58% of those students used them for academic purposes. Tablet ownership was only 37% of those questioned, though 82% of owners used them for school.
With prices starting at $240, students cannot help but to be attracted to Google’s Chromebooks. Its operating system is simple, to the point, and extremely fast, relying on Chrome and Google Drive. The catch? You cannot install desktop software such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, or any PC games.
This may be a letdown for some people, but for others the simplicity is much appreciated. EdTech reports that Chromebooks are beginning to sneak their way into the classroom. Why not? Students are able to access the web so they can pursue research, and with Google Drive students can also write reports and create presentations just like they can with Microsoft Office.
The only case where Chromebooks could be problematic in the education world is with STEM programs who require higher end applications such as Integrated Development Environments (IDEs).
In today’s classrooms, technology is a vital tool in making teaching and learning much more interactive, engaging, and empowering. Students use their mobile devices and computers to access the Internet, electronic resources, and other educational software/applications, resulting in an independent, student-driven learning environment.
For instructors and educators who are curious as to their effectiveness in using technology in their classrooms, the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) recently released their latest version of its annual report, ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013, which describes and illustrates how students feel about the use of technology in their classrooms.