Over the summer USM switched it’s e-mail service over to Google. Many students noticed the switch and are using the power of Google to manage their USM mail. However, the change also added new features that many students may not be familiar with. Every student can now manage their calendars, contacts, and documents in addition to their USM mail. The best way to get the most out of your classes is to get the most out of your Google.
Many students are glad that USM has switched to Gmail because it made their inboxes a bit nicer, but have you taken full advantage of the labels, filters, and search features?
Gmail has a great labeling feature which allows you to quickly sort and find emails. For example, you can keep your inbox clean by creating a newsletter label that holds all of your student group newsletters so you don’t have to plow through them to find other messages.
Gmail also provides you with unlimited filters to screen and sort your mail. For example, you could set all of your mail from a professor to skip the inbox and filter into a label for that professors class.
Gmail also has an excellent search feature to find your emails quickly. What good is ‘unlimited’ storage if you can’t find your mail? Find your mail quickly by refining your search with operators like inbox, label, or attachment.
Google Calendar is a valuable tool to help organize your classes by managing homework, group meetings, and finals. The easiest way to accomplish these tasks is to first set up an event for your class that lists the course information such as meeting time, location, course title, etc. It’s best to keep the title to the Course number such as BUS385 so your calender layout stays clean. From there you can set your class to repeat on the days of the week which you have the class until the end of the semester. You will see Google instantly populate your calendar with that class. From now on, you can go to each class event and add information such as tests, quizzes, and homework due. (Make sure that you save for ‘this event only’ and not ‘all future events’ or that one assignment will be due every class for the rest of the semester). Now that you have your Google calendar syllabus set up, you can add alerts for important classes. If your really ambitious you could go into black board and send a public link to your calendar out to your class mates so everyone can see when assignments are due!
Google Contacts have improved since their induction to rival the usability of Apple’s native contact manager. Unlike many email providers contact feature, Gmail supports adding photos and collapses empty fields so you only see information that is entered for your contact. The switch to Gmail also allows you to start typing a students name or email address and then select the correct address from a pop down list. This means if you know a classmates name but not email, you may be able to find it with out searching too hard. The true power of Google Contacts is released when you have an iPhone and the FEX (Facebook Friend Exchange) app. This app will match your contacts to your Facebook friends and download their picture to your phone which then syncs to Google. Not only will you see your friends smiling faces in your Gmail account, but also when they call your iPhone!
As dog is man’s best friend, Google Documents is student’s best friend because they make group work easy. Think of past group projects and how hard it has been to type up a report and aggregate all your partners edits into one current version. Blackboard allows you to post files but it doesn’t allow you to edit them from any computer with a web browser. With Google documents, the problem is eliminated because instead of having different versions for each partner to view on various and often incomparable software, you have one document online which can be edited by multiple people at once. If some one make changes that are not accepted by the group, the document can be reverted back to an earlier edition. Now everyone in your group can view, edit, and print the most current revision of the document from home.
Google recently rolled out a task feature that allows you to make check lists in the browser window through some instant java scripting magic. Click on the task link in your email account and a small bar pops into the bottom right corner. This bar expands on a click to let you type in items for a check list. When the item is completed, you simply check the box on the left and its crossed off your list of things to do. You can create unlimited items in unlimited lists which is really handy for jotting down assignments and tasks for classes.
Now that you’re using Gmail, Calendar and Docs it’s time to use google sync features to unify your phone, school computer, and personal computer.
Most students realize the importance of mobility and flexibility. Students like to do their work on their own time and not at the computer lab. The switch to Gmail makes this entirely possible, especially if you own an iPhone.
With an iPhone, you have the power to sync your GMail, calendars, and contacts through Google’s Mobile Sync service which runs as a Microsoft Exchange Server. Mobile Sync works over the air to sync all of your content wirelessly. Tasks are accessible through a free app called GooTasks and documents can be viewed by going to your GMail account through Safari and clicking the docs tab (or directly http://docs.google.com/a/maine.edu/m). Though your documents can’t be edited on the iPhone (yet), you can copy and paste them into the native note pad app and edit them that way.
USM’s recent move to Google gives all students the functionality of Google. Using Google and an iPhone is like putting your USM classes in your picket and taking them out whenever you need them. The hour or so you spend setting this type of system at the beginning of the semester will pay you back ten fold. You’ll have all your homework assignments, group meetings, important contacts, and school documents in one place that can be accessed from work, school, or home.
Find out what many students already know: the best way to manage your classes and time is to get your Google on.