As librarians we’re into communication and collaboration, the topic of Thing 4. Google is the focus of this topic, but in my opinion, as educators and librarians, we are obliged to know the benefits of the commonly used communication/collaboration applications out there. In this way we will be able to speak about them with authority, and assist others when the need arises, to make a choice or to set up their accounts.
From personal experience, making use of different services, if possible, makes for more efficient working environments. Cloud computing has been a favourite of mine over the past 5 years, as it has kept me sane. Seriously.
I understand that there are people asking valid privacy questions regarding the ‘cloud’, but after spending years backing up stuff, first on floppy disks, then on CDs, then external hard drives and memory sticks, and backups of backups, it’s such a relief to pop a doc into a folder on your desktop and to know that it’s taken care of – probably for good. It’ll be there whenever and where-ever needed! (Unless of course, a disaster strikes at the location of the storage warehouse, but hey, it’s their job to make backups, right?) :p Yes, I know, I know…it’s right and proper to still keep a backup yourself. 🙂
Not having to remember what to back up, or having to lug those devices around and, most of all, not having to guard them so that they don’t get damaged, is such a bonus. When my hard drive went on my laptop a few years ago, I lost a couple of unimportant documents and a few of our latest photos, but nothing serious. My habit of placing everything in a cloud drive paid off. When the new drive was installed, it was merely a case of carry on as before, after installing the desktop folders which sync automatically.
I use cloud services from Amazon, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Flickr. Oh and iCloud, since I’m an avid Apple fan. Because of my love-hate relationship with Google, I purposely avoided Gmail and Google Drive, until a few months ago when I began as an intern librarian at an international school. School-wide they used Google Education Apps – everyone communicated and collaborated (with parents too) using Google tools. I saw the benefits first hand and realised that vast amounts of time and paper were saved while increasing cooperation and efficiency. At the time I proposed to learn more about Google’s capabilities, but it didn’t happen then. After 4 months at the school I sought out an internship at a different library. What I did do though was to follow a few very talented and skilled people on Twitter, who are Google certified teachers, to be able to learn from them. Here are two: Alice Keeler and Catlin Tucker.
So, if it sounds like I’m selling something…I am – the Cloud! Not necessarily only Google. Although Thing 4 focuses on the Google ecosystem (as I’ve heard it referred to) and make no mistake, it is impressive, personally I favour MS Office and its related apps. Here’s a shout-out to MS OneNote…a note-taking, collaborative app that I have used for years (sadly not to its fullest potential); I use it all the time, across all my devices with great success. I’ve heard it said that Google’s equivalent, Google Keep, is not quite up to the same standard.
Consequently, when I looked at Thing 4, my initial reaction was “Oh no, why the emphasis on Google!”
However, I explored and worked through the tasks. Reclaiming my Gmail account, setting up two-step authentication, checking the privacy settings, and setting up a profile took the greater part of 2 hours since it was all new to me. But admittedly, once that’s done the hard part is over. I am really impressed with the functionality of Gmail. 🙂 It is a great email app. Exploring the tools took another hour, after which I chose a few that I would use regularly, to link to my account:
- Google translate: living in a country where Arabic is the first language, I often have to translate something, and this works really well for me. We’ve been expats for so long, I sometimes need Google translate to find words in my other mother tongue, Afrikaans. (I grew up speaking English to my mom and Afrikaans most often to my dad and other relatives.)
- Google calendar: is really efficient, and just recently became even more so with this feature.
- Google maps: saves my life regularly on the roads here in Doha, with infrastructure development taking place on an ongoing basis. Now that I have set up my Google account I can personalize the map app.
- G+: a social app, similar to Facebook. Since I’ve only just set up my profile, I can’t comment on it, but it is nice to know of another manner in which like-minded professionals can connect and communicate around similar interests. I’m not on Facebook because I choose not to be at the present time, due to time constraints, but G+ appears to be more focused towards interests. I chose to follow an animal lovers group and a Smartphone Photography group for now. Will aim to search for Rudai23, and a couple of library accounts soon. A G+ account is also needed to be able to communicate using…
- Google Hangouts: Google’s chat function, either via messenger or video. I’ve seen it used in a conference setting and it worked well. Yesterday, I tried a hangout with my daughter in Australia. After initial PC sound battles, it was quite effective. Google hangouts allows up to 10 people simultaneously on video chats and many more on messenger.
- Google Drive: offers an impressive 15 GB cloud storage to subscribers. It is shared across Drive, Gmail and Google Photos, a mobile feature that some like and others are sceptical of. According to Rudaí23 writer, Stephanie Ronan, Google Photos organises, categorises and even animates some images. Not sure I’ll be testing this photo app, though, as I’m happy with Flickr.
This last week I experienced the joy of using the cloud. I had a large volume of library signs and a Powerpoint presentation to deliver to the library where I volunteer. I had designed these documents at home. Instead of emailing them, I was able to download them from my cloud storage, onto the desktop at work. Here I could edit them, resize them for printing, and collaborate with fellow librarians on their design. This method minimizes the correspondence by email. We all know that emailing large attachments can be problematic, so downloading from the cloud is truly the way to go. Sharing a link to the document by email or messenger is also a way to share, and this is used especially when you are not personally going to be at the point of download.
As an example, here is a link to the reading badges on my Google drive, for Grade 5s, that I created using online SaaS, for a school’s reading ‘Across the Genres’ programme. (If you’re a teacher and you’d like to use these, they can be downloaded with my compliments. 🙂 )
That’s my take on thing 4’s communication and collaboration tools.
Till next time, and thanks for reading this far. 😀