Google’s new presentation app has room to grow

Google PresentationsGoogle has just released a presentation program that runs right in your browser. Now you can create and share presentations online. With the addition of presentations, many are claiming that Google Docs now has three tools (they also have a word processor and a spreadsheet program) that can rival Microsoft Office.

Rival? Not really. While I like the ability to work together with people all across the Internet to create a slideshow, I’m disappointed with Google’s new tool. After uploading a PowerPoint file, I saw that its functions are quite basic. Google’s PowerPoint ‘wanna-be’ has a long way to go.

He’s what I think Google’s presentation software needs:

  • Animations and transitions: If Google really wants to stand out, they need to add a little motion. (The folks at SlideRocket are doing exciting things in this area.)
  • An easy way to embed slideshows: The whole point of putting a presentation online is to share it with a wider audience. Where is the button that shows me how to embed my presentation into my website?
  • Sound would be nice: Let’s face it, without the presenter many slideshows are quite boring. Google needs to add audio so the presentations can at least have narrations.

For now, Google’s presentation program is just a toy. It’s worth looking at and it might be fun to dream about what it will someday become, but I don’t see anything useful here. If you want your presentations online, I suggest you create them offline with PowerPoint or Keynote (or OpenOffice for free) and then share your work at SlideShare.

Plan your lessons in Google Calendar

Each year I begin with every intention to write out my lesson plans for each day of the school year. For eight years, I started with the lesson plan book. I labeled the dates for the entire school year, added important school events, and began penciling in my lessons. Somewhere around mid-October the wheels fall off. Somehow this task gets pushed way down on my to-do list.

Google CalendarLast year was different. I decided to throw out the lesson plan book and use Google’s Calendar instead. For the first time, I maintained my lesson plans for the entire school year.

Here are the three reasons why Google Calendar works so well for my lesson plans:

  1. I can see the big picture. With Google Calendar, switching views from day to week to month is a snap. I can also add other calendars. I can see if the lesson plan for Physics conflicts with what I’m planning to do in Physical Science. I also compare the lesson plans to my personal calendar and my wife’s work schedule. You can even import your school’s sports schedule to plan around the big game.
  2. Google CalendarUpdating is a breeze. If Tuesday’s lab takes longer than I expect, I can drag the next activity over to Wednesday. No more erasing and recopying. In the description field I can put notes about the on-the-fly changes I made to the activity.
  3. Students and parents can follow along. Google let’s you share your calendar so others can subscribe to it or just view it on your website. Now students who were absent come to class knowing exactly what they missed because they read it online the night before.  Nothing motivates you more to keep the calendar up to date when you know others are going to see if you fall behind.

If you’re looking for a way to create lesson plans that are sharable, easy to use and provide access from anywhere, give Google Calendar a try.

Carpool with Google’s My Maps feature

mymap2.jpgI took some time to play around with Google’s new My Maps feature. Now you can create personalized maps for just about anything. Last month I created a map for me and my wife before we set off on vacation to celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary. It really helped me plan for the trip. The map gave me a perspective of several unfamiliar locations.

Google also lets you open your map in Google Earth. If you have Google Earth installed, simply click the view_as_kml.png KML icon at the top of your map and you’re off. If you’re not familiar with Google Earth, this is an easy way to get started.

That was for fun. Now let’s put the map to work. I created a map for our science teacher organization’s upcoming board meeting. I put a pin for each person invited to the meeting with a pop-up bubble containing their role in our organization, picture and contact information (that’s why I’m not sharing this one).

With a tool like this (and current gas prices), I suspect several meeting-goers will be inspired to carpool.

Google SketchUp: Free 3d Modeling Tool

I’ve been playing with Google SketchUp— a free and easy-to-use 3D modeling tool. It allows you to make a model of just about anything. I think it is a great tool for drawing science equipment.

Below is one of my first creations– it’s a ringstand.

ringstand.jpg

Go to CNET to read their review or watch their video of Google SketchUp in action.

Before you start playing with Google SketchUp, I highly recommend that you watch the three tutorials that Google offers– they were a big help.

Don’t have time to create 3D models? See what others have done. Google allows SketchUp users to share their creations in the 3D Warehouse. Happy modeling!