The Internet TESL Journal

Teaching Using Google

Claudio de Paiva Franco
cpaivafranco [at]
UFRJ / Colégio Pedro II (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
This article offers teachers a brief overview of some Google applications and resources, which may be incorporated into teaching, whether in face to face, hybrid or online contexts. The paper also provides examples of how to utilize Google services and suggests some classroom activities to be implemented.


Google is a very popular search engine on the Web. This company has built a reputable name in the market by improving the quality of search results and over time has launched online tools such as a translator (, a blog constructor ( and a web browser (  What few people may know, however, is that Google has made tools available for educational purposes. Google for Educators ( offers applications to be used in the classroom, classroom activities, posters, lesson plans, tips, videos, a discussion group and other resources to support teachers. A selection of relevant Google tools as well as useful ideas for using them in the classroom are presented in this article.

Google Custom Search

It is possible to customize your search with Google Custom Search (GCS) ( by creating a search engine to display on your website. Designed to tailor to your needs, this tool enables you to include specific websites, providing your students with search results you regard as most significant and avoiding unexpected content. In other words, GCS refines your search once you can determine which websites will be displayed on the results page.

The next picture is a results page from a search engine created with GCS – Reading in English – whose objective is to offer EFL (English as a Foreign Language) learners material on reading. In this example, the results for the query “tips” are ranked from preselected websites.

Figure 1: Example of a result list with Google Custom Search

If you teach young learners and they are being introduced to the Internet, this customized search will be a major time-saver for your classes as the students will be focused on the websites you included, not to mention that the search is improved when inappropriate webpages (with spam, pornography, ads) are left out. However, if you would like your learners to gain a more thorough web search experience, you may set your engine to search the entire web. This option lists the results with greater emphasis on the websites you select.

Google offers two editions of Custom Search: standard and business. The standard edition is free of charge and allows you to customize the look of your search and host the search box and results on your website. This edition shows ads along the search results, but they can be disabled since you are creating a search engine for educational purposes, i.e. for a nonprofit organization, university or educational institution. For the business edition there is a charge and it comes with additional options. Even though you opt for the standard edition of GCS, you must have a Google account to create your search engine.

Google Scholar

This search engine ( provides an academic, scholarly search with a broad scope of sources from around the world. It is feasible to search from articles, theses, books, abstracts or court opinions from different subject areas and from a wide range of academic publishers, professionals and universities. Teachers may find Google Scholar useful to help learners search for trustworthy content (at least less inaccurate and misleading information) on the web as it gives access to reputable webpages and reliable top-level domains - e.g. educational websites (.edu), U.S governmental/non-military websites (.gov), U.S. nonprofit organizations (.org) - and usually provides works in printable file formats like PDF and DOC files.

Google Scholar ranks its documents for researchers, providing the author, the date of publication, as well as how often it has been cited in other scholarly literature. Results marked as citation are papers not retrieved online, but may help researchers find relevant information such as the complete reference for a document which is not available online yet.

For a more accurate search, it is also possible to specify the year in which articles were published or, should you choose the advanced scholar search, articles can be traced by author. In the same way as with the traditional Google search engine, Scholar does not require a Google account to be utilized.

Google Docs

Google Docs ( is a web-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation program that enables the creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations. You can also create web-based surveys and display them on your blog or educational website in order to gather information from your students. Apart from being able to create basic documents and upload most popular file formats (e.g. DOC, RTF, XLS, PPT), you can instantly share your files with your students or other teachers. They can view and edit the documents in real time, which means you can work collaboratively at a rapid pace. There is an on-screen chat window available that shows who changed what, and when. The people you invite to be collaborators may add information, edit the layout and make several revisions to the document any time, from anywhere. All contributors, however, must have Google accounts.

As group collaboration seems to be crucial in facilitating writing as a process, Google Docs can be really helpful in serving this purpose. It not only facilitates process writing by encouraging students to work together on a document, but also makes it possible to receive instant feedback from colleagues and the teacher. Another advantage is that you do not need any additional software on your computer to access the documents. Any computer connected to the Internet allows participants to effortlessly have access and save documents for free. Documents can be published to the entire world, a few people or even be posted to a website.

Keeping an electronic student’s diary, building a portfolio, sharing the course agenda, completing writing assignments and comparing experiments online are just some examples of what could be done with Google Docs. For more ideas on how to build online documents, the Google for Educators site ( offers teacher-submitted docs and ready-to-use templates. These include class activities and lesson plans organized according to the grade and school subject.

Google Groups

Google Groups ( is a free, online service that allows the formation of discussion groups. Interaction among group members is facilitated as they can communicate without difficulty and effectively via Web or email and share files. Google Groups are suitable for extending classroom discussion online, can be used as a component of an online course or deliver an entire web-based course, where participants conduct debates and exchange ideas. Additionally, teachers can make classroom materials and online resources available to students.

If you are a teacher and would like to take part in a discussion group to share ideas with fellow educators, you may join the Google for Educators Discussion Group ( This group attempts to build an online community of educators where members ask questions about education, submit lesson plans, teaching resources, and classroom activities. It is compulsory to have a Google account in order to participate in the Google Groups service.

Google News

Google News ( allows you to have access to news from a wide variety of sources in a single place, as well as personalize your news page to see what interests you most. It is also possible to stay tuned for the news and have them sent directly to your email. Teachers may encourage students to produce their own newspaper. Once you choose to personalize a news page, custom sections can be added with your keywords. Students could compare and contrast their views on daily or weekly news items.

Google Reader

Google Reader ( makes it easy to keep up with your favorite webpages and blogs. The service constantly checks for updates from selected websites and shows the new content in a single place to be read, sorted, and shared.  Teachers and students can read items shared by one another and also make notes on the news articles.

Google Translate

Google Translate ( is a very practical online translator for foreign language students. One of its latest improvements enables users to contribute a more appropriate translation, as we can see in the following figure.

Figure 2: Example of how to suggest a better translation with Google Translator

Google Buzz

Google Buzz ( allows sharing a wide range of documents (e.g. texts, videos, pictures) with your colleagues or publicly. You can make posts and get comments on your posts. If you share a blog post in Google Reader, it automatically is added to Google Buzz. Teachers and students may find it quite easy to share content online if they are Gmail users. Buzz requires a Gmail account and is available for mobiles as well.


Here is a compilation of websites cited in this article (accessed 24 February 2010).

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XVI, No. 2, February 2010