Bill Gillespie
Rosemary McDowall

Well, it has finally happened: two new sets of online learning and collaboration tools, Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Education, are now available for use by all Department of Education and Communities teachers and students. These online tools will assist schools who use a Bring Your Own Device strategy (BYOD), allowing students and staff to collaborate from any device, anywhere they have access to the internet.

The best part is that both sets of tools are available via the Department’s Portal page. All you have to do is to log on to Portal, click on the “My Learning Tools” tab and then select the tools you wish to use. When you sign into Google Apps for Education remember to use your email address. We suggest that you add both sets of tools to “My Essentials” so that they are available from the Portal front page rather than going through the “My Learning Tools” tab.

Google Apps for Education is a rich set of web applications that at its core includes website creation, collaboration, document editing and shared calendars. It provides an environment for students and staff to work with a set of customisable services. Best of all, these tools are available anytime, anywhere there is internet access.

Google Apps for Education is organised into three sections: Collaborate & Present, Organise and Investigate.

In Collaborate & Present you have Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Classroom, Sites, Google+, Blogger and Photos. Drive is where you store your files, while Docs allows you to create and share documents. Sheets and Slides give you the ability to create and share spreadsheets and presentations. Using Classroom, you can manage your Class online. Classroom lets you communicate with your classes and easily share assignments, materials, and messages. Sites allows you to present your information as a website, Google+ is the way you connect and share with your colleagues while Blogger and Photos are self-explanatory.

The Organise area provides you with Calendar, Contacts and Bookmarks. Calendar lets you share your calendar and will even sync with your mobile devices. Contacts, as the word suggests, allows you to develop distribution lists to connect with people and Bookmarks allows you to organise all your web resources in one location.

Investigate includes: News, Books, Custom Search, Finance, Maps, Map Maker and Public Data. News allows you to stay informed and research local, national and global events. Books gives you the opportunity to research, read online and write book reviews. Using Google Custom Search, you can add a search box to your homepage to help people find what they need on your website. Finance lets you “track, trace, predict and follow” business information and Maps is a version of Google Maps while Map Tracker helps you find plot, measure and investigate your world.

Microsoft Office 365 is a set of web-based applications that enable collaboration and creation in the classroom. This service includes online versions of popular Office products such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In addition, Microsoft Office 365 offers collaboration and sharing opportunities via OneDrive and OneNote which are available to download from the website.

We strongly suggest that you head to Portal and explore the latest offerings available to all teachers and students. You will not be disappointed in these new tools.

Rosemary McDowall teaches at The Forest High while Bill Gillespie teaches at Elanora Heights PS. They can be contacted at