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This is my first post using the new format to review items, please let me know what you think of the categories I have setup to write about. I plan to start teaching students how to use Google Calendar in my classroom as an organizational tool, so I thought that I might write a review on something that I am going to actually use with my students.
Product Name: Google Calendar (gCal)
Type: Web Application
Company Product Description: “This is a free web-based calendar service that makes it easier to keep all the calendar information important to you in one place, including calendars shared by friends and groups. Adding your own events is easy, and you can also import them from other applications you use. Handy event reminders, including text messages sent to your phone, help you keep track of everything that’s on your agenda.
Google Calendar also lets you share your calendar information with others, whether you want to send party invitations to friends, or publicize events from your website. Add holiday calendars, sports team schedules, and birthdays for people in your address book to your Google Calendar with just a few clicks. And Google Calendar uses open standards like iCal and XML, so it plays nicely with many other calendar formats.” This information was taken from Google’s product description website which may be accessed here: Google Press Center
How much does it cost?Free and is part of both gMail.com and Google Apps.
Is this the first time reviewing this product: This will be my first review of only Google Calendar. I have always included it as part of my review of Google’s productivity suite and never done a stand-alone review of gCal before.
Do my students have easy access the product? Yes, it is part of Google Apps for Education which we have available to us at school.
Do I currently use Google Calendar in my classroom? I use Google Calendar synced with iCalendar for my personal use and have set it up so that gCal is part of my Class Portal so that my students see Mr. Shaw’s Class calendar daily. Without this tool, I would be lost when keeping track of all my meetings, appointments, training, etc. Starting this week, I plan to begin showing my students how to use Google Calendar as a tool to help them organize themselves.
Is Google Calendar intuitive and easy to use or is there a steep learning curve? Google Calendar is a very intuitive program, but it does have a few idiosyncrasies that you have to master, to use all of the functions quickly and easily. An example of this is how you set up repeating events, initially getting everything setup was not intuitive, but now that I have done it for quite a while, I can’t imagine making repeating events any other way.
How does Google Calendar apply to Special Education? Many of my students are lacking good organizational skills and often don’t remember when work is due, a test is coming up or miss an appointment because they forgot which causes stress for the student, parent and teachers. For most of them using the old paper planner notebook doesn’t work, they tend to “loose” them, purposely throw them away or just don’t use the “damn” things (as one student succinctly told me this fall).
I just have to find a way to have them using Google Calendar become simply a part of their routine in my class. Eventually I want them to be able to sync with iCalendar for when they don’t have access to the Internet. Will using Google Calendar work for all of them – probably not, but if I can provide my students the basics about using an electronic calendar, it is another tool available for them when they are or will be looking for something like this.
For a Special Educator, having a way to keep track of all the meetings, deadlines and appointments in one place that is quickly accessible (with the ability to make changes quickly and easily) is absolutely necessary. I like that I am not tied to one computer or operating system, that I can access it from any device that connects to the Internet and it is free to use. I know that many places use Outlook as their primary Calendaring solution, but as I have used gCal more and more, I think it is an excellent alternative.
- Student comments about Google Calendar:None yet, maybe by the end of the week.
- Does Google Calendar sync with my iPhone or does it have an iPhone application? I use Spanning Sync to sync Google Calendar and iCalendar which syncs natively to the iPhone. I have setup gCal with its own icon on my iPhone and wonder how that will affect my use of gCal, considering the native iPhone Calendar program is pretty easy to use.
- What features really make me go WOW!There are no features that really make me go WOW in Google Calendar.I have become accustomed to the ease and functionality of this gCal, pretty much to the point where I take it for granted – It just works for me.But if I had to pick two things that I really like are the ability to share my calendar with other users and how it integrates easily with other programs I use; i.e Hiveminder, Google Sites, blogs, etc.
- What are the other options that do the same function that I have used, how does G compare to those? There are several calendar programs available out there with the two biggest ones probably being Apple’s iCalendar and Microsoft’s Outlook.I have used both extensively, but I always seem to need to sync them up with gCal. Many people believe iCal and Outlook both have better graphical interface (look better) than iCal, but they all work about the same. They all setup events, repeating events, import or export data, provide multiple calendar views and the multitude of other things that we require of our calendar programs.
- Limitations: Not all my students have Internet at home and this is a weakness when it comes to promoting Google Calendar to my students, since it is not available without the Internet. This is the reason why I sync to iCalendar which is desktop software and available when there is no Internet. There are rumors around that Google is going to increase their web applications ability to be accessed offline, for those times the Internet is not available. I hope that gCal is one of those applications.
In reality Google Calendar is a tool that I use and check daily and as I have said before, I do take how powerful gCal is for granted.I used to hate having to worry about backing up my data when I relied on desktop calendar programs and when a program crashed, how much information did I loose, now I just let Google worry about the back-end management and I just use the product.
Besides Google is more likely to have a better backup plan than I ever did or would. I also like how I can access gCal from any device that connects to the Internet without worrying about if I have synced everything correctly and I know that I have current data that I have put in available to me.
Recommendation: I use it every day.