Monday, September 21, 2009

iGoogle, You Google, We All Google!

Today marked the final day of setting up iGoogle pages for the middle school students! All of the students now have Gmail accounts (we have the passwords) which of course gives them access to one of the most powerful free web tools available.

In our school we have a 1:1 program for our middle school students, but setting up an iGoogle page is a pretty handy thing even for students who don't tote around their own laptops all the time. If you have some "resident" computers in your classroom that the students can access, it's still pretty worthwhile to have students create their own iGoogle pages.

I consider iGoogle pages to be the equivalent of a digital locker. Students can pick their own theme (and change it about a million times before that gets old). They can also pick their gadgets that suit their fancy. So far this year, I've seen the total sports page with a sports theme and plenty of sports feed gadgets and sports related game gadgets. I've also seen the "monster lover's page" with some relatively weird theme (they have to be appropriate), strange quotes feeds, and "monster of the day" images! This is the great thing about the iGoogle page and the reasons why students LOVE them. They are totally personal - finding their identity is a big part of a teenager's life, so an iGoogle page can say a lot about who they are, which is great for them as they are constantly looking for an outlet for this!

What's in it for teachers you ask? Well, it's a good opportunity for us to get our own interests in. I have several gadgets I require students to have. One is a gadget that links to my class blog page and our class wiki sites. Another is their gmail gadget so they can always see their inbox. Right now I have had them all put a to-do list gadget on the page as well. Coming very soon, they will also be required to have a Delicious (bookmarking) gadget, and a gadget for their Google Calendar. All of the gadgets I (and their other teachers) require MUST be above the fold so that students can see and access them easily.

Our 1:1 students set these iGoogle pages as their homepages. I do have one class of students not in 1:1. They also have iGoogle pages, and like them very much as they can access their "homepage" from any computer with an internet connection. Even at home, they can access this page and all of their important gadgets.

If you want to get a better idea about how these pages work, try setting one up for yourself first. You just need a Gmail account (easy to set up). Then go to iGoogle and set up your page. It's that easy. I use mine as my homepage too!

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