April 29, 2005

Google is an Educator's Best Friend

I promise I do not work for Google, I do not even have stock in the company (though I probably should) and I am in no way being paid to say this. Google is the best thing out there for homeschoolers. I have bought into Google and its various technologies the way many people adopted Microsoft whole heartedly. You have heard it said "We are a Microsoft or an IBM shop" well here at SCHOOL@HOME we are a "Google shop" Of course the main difference in my mind is Google stands behind its technology, is innovative, cutting edge and has its consumers in mind. They do not have a history and habit of making their problems my problems (read endless security software updates) and they give almost all their services away for free! To this date I have nearly always found Google's free service to be head and shoulders above some of their competitors pay for services.

If you are reading this blog I am going to assume you know all about the Google search engine. If you are tech savvy enough to read a blog regularly you likely know well enough to ALWAYS use google as your primary search engine. As an excellent researcher I often get asked "How did you find that?" followed only by "How did you do it so quick" the answer to both is google of course. Their search engine technology is outstanding, the only I have ever used that is better is Lexis Nexis. AS Lexis is highly impractical and unaffordable for most of us google is as good as it gets, and that is pretty good. You can find anything and everything there. It should always be your first place for searching for information on the internet, nothing else comes close.

However, Google is so much more than just their typical search engine. Did you know you can search for images and find thumbnails and larger pictures of nearly everything and anything. They also provide a moderately safe search filter as a default which is nice. Of course there is also froogle, where you can locate and price compare nearly anything for sale. While not always the place I buy from it is an excellent starting point for research and comparisons on products and it makes epurchasing easy.

Of course you have heard me sing the praises of gmail, as home educators I think we should all be using gmail, read my review and if you want a free account email me for one. It is well worth the hassle of switching your email address for once and for all. Where else can you get 2143 MB of storage for free?

Obviously I am a fan of Blogger. Despite all the complaints and grief people will give blogger for a free service it is one of the best out there. It is easy to use and modify, reliable and has many features included. I am a recent convert to AdSense for blogads and while the content targeting may not be perfect it works pretty well most of the time and I see it is a nice addition to my blog and it is nice that I make a little bit of money when people click on the ads - that helps support this site.

I also recently began using Picasa 2 for digital image management on my computer. I must admit I love that all my digital images are stored in an easy to use and easy to find format. The fact that with a push of a single button I can email or post pictures to my friends and blog is a wonderful feature. Again a free service that you will love and will make your life easier. Picasa 2 combined with hello is a nice and powerful combination of free software for digital picture sharing and publishing.

For the deeper intellectuals and news junkies google offers Google Scholar, searching journals, scholarly papers and the like. They also provide many advanced search features, government search and targeted news and web alerts on topics you set.

For the brave beta testers and early adopters be sure to check out Google Labs which has the latest and greatest and cutting edge technology in the works. Currently you can try out the controversial My Search History, maps and Google Suggest which offers real time suggests as you type a search term.

If you are a homeschooler and a blogger and want to give Google groups a try, join us at Homeschool Blogger.

I know I sound like I am gushing, but I really love google technology and these tools have made homeschooling more efficient and effective. I am able to do so much in so little time. They are free tools, they are helpful, they are the best I have found and they all work well together. Google is a company headed in the right direction. Join in now and let them make your homeschooling easier. Sometimes the best things in life are free.

Peace,
Tenn

3 comments:

  1. I agree with you about Google. It's great!

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  2. I agree with most of your praise of Google. Their search engine typically provides the most relevant results, and its ads off to the side are easily ignored.

    I have a few qualifications to add though:

    Regarding the Image search, their filter has three settings: strict, moderate, and none. The strict and moderate settings do a pretty good job. Nevertheless, it is very easy to change the settings; it is not password protected, and it takes about 3 clicks to switch the setting.

    Regarding their Gmail e-mail service. It is free, and it does offer a bunch of space, but the layout is different, so it takes some getting used to. I am used to it now, and I do like it. Also, Google (the company) scans your e-mail and places ads (again, mostly unobtrusive ones) on the window. This scanning process has raised privacy concerns.

    Regarding Froogle, their price comparison site, I find the layout fairly bad by Google standards. It is confusing. Sites like www.pricegrabber.com and www.bizrate.com do a better job for price comparisons and business ratings. For books in particular, I recommend www.addall.com and www.allbookstores.com.

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  3. Do you get money just for people cicking on the ads? Or do they have to buy something?

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