Tips & Tricks: Google makes homework easier for parents

  • TECH
  • Monday, 30 Sep 2013

HELPING OUT: There are many tools parents can use to help their kids study. - AFP

Not too long ago helping out kids with their homework meant reviewing handwritten papers or answers in textbooks. Today, kids are much more likely to be doing their homework on a computer or tablet than on a piece of paper and lots of them are at schools that use Google Apps.

Many parents would have heard their kids talking about Google Docs or Drive and while you know that your eight-year-old is probably not taking medical or automotive courses, you may not be sure exactly what these things are and how they work.

To help you get up to speed on these tools, Google has put together a “School guide for parents.” From putting comments on homework, to planning the weekly activity schedule, to answering a quick question over video conference, this guide show you how easy it is to be involved in your child’s learning, whether you’re working together at home or helping out from the office.

What you’ll need:

A Google account. Sign up here
A computer/laptop
A smartphone (iOS or Android)

1. Get to know the tools and what learning on the web is all about

Google Apps includes tools for e-mail, calendar, documents and more. The big difference between these tools and traditional software is that Google Apps is web-based.  This means that there is no need to e-mail files back and forward, multiple people can work on and view the same file at the same time and you can access everything from your tablet at home, your computer at work or your smartphone on the go.

The main tools in your child’s online toolkit are:

Drive - a place store and share documents, photos, videos and other files. Kind of like an online locker that your child can use to keep and share their work.

Calendar - an online organiser that can be viewed and shared with multiple people.

Gmail - an e-mail service that includes an instant messaging and video conferencing tools called ‘Hangouts’.

Docs - a document creator that can incorporate images, tables, equations, drawings and links. Docs can be viewed and worked on by multiple people at the same time.

Slides - a tool for creating and sharing presentations that include embedded videos, and animations. Like Docs, Slides can be viewed and worked on by multiple people at the same time.

Sheets - a spreadsheet editor you can use to create and share lists or even analyze data. Sheets can be viewed and worked on by multiple people at the same time too.

Sites - are a free and easy way to create and share web pages.

2. Sharing is caring, commenting and chatting

Now you've set up a Google account and you know what these tools are, it’s time to get involved! Your child can share the files they create and keep in their Drive. To share a document, presentation or spreadsheet, they just need to put your email address into their sharing settings and you’ll be notified. Once you’re shared on a file you’ll be able to access it from anywhere.

Say you’re at the office and your son or daughter is working at home, you can still help out by making edits directly into the doc or leaving comments or suggestions. If you notice that they’re in the document you’ll see their profile icon at the top of the document and you’ll be able to chat within the document together.

Spreadsheets and Presentations allow the same kind of collaboration so you can do the same for all kinds of things from science presentations to Math problems.

3. Help is just a Hangout away

If you’re working on something together and your child gets stuck or has a question why not try  hanging out? A Hangout is a multi-person video and chat service. While you’re in the Hangout you can also open a Google Document right in the Hangout window to look at together and share links if you’re researching online at the same time. To start a Hangout, go to Gmail and open a chat window then press the video icon at the top of the chat box.  

4. Set up a homework and activities schedule with Google Calendar

A big part of staying on track with schoolwork and extracurricular activities is helping your kid get organised. One way to do this is with Google Calendar. Once you are shared on your child’s calendar you can send them invitations for their appointments so their week is planned out — or get them to do it themselves. You can set up times for their music lessons or sports training and block out times for homework and certain subjects.  You can set these to be recurring events so you only have to do it once.

A good time to do this would be the beginning of term when you know what activities they have on for the year and what subjects they’re doing.

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