While in 2013 Google hasn’t been quite as innovative as in 2011 (Google+ and Hangouts, Ice Cream Sandwich) and 2012 (Google Drive) there have been quite a lot of updates and new features and it has been an exciting year for Google in education. Android Tablets have reached an iPad like quality and very low, competitive prices. The biggest rival to iPads in education have turned out to be Chromebooks rather than Android tablets. In combination with Google Apps Chromebooks are also the biggest rivals to traditional Laptops with a market share of almost 25% by the end of the year.
Rather than providing a Google changelog I prefer to go for a more personal account of what has changed in 2013.
Google Drive: even though I have been using Google Docs/Drive for years now, in 2013 Google Drive has become the most important electronic tool for me as a teacher. I have increased my personal use (preparation, collecting teaching materials, etc.) as well as the collaborative use of Drive both with students and teachers. Google Drive has become a universal tool for me ranging from teaching with Google Slides to using it for ePortfolios and as a substitute for an LMS (in particular sharing materials and collecting coursework). Among the media I have started to upload to GDrive: audio files (podcasts and listening comprehension), video (many students prefer not to upload their videos to YouTube and Drive provides a more private alternative) and pictures (due to optical character recognition I often upload photos of newspaper clippings or images such as picture dictionaries).
Google+: has become my number one social network for professional learning. Moreover, I have done my first steps in using G+ with students (setting up a community for a blending learning online course).
Google+ photos: having been a user of Picasa for many years, I have made the transition to G+ photos only this year. One feature I used frequently for school, embedded slideshows, kept me from making the switch. Now I have made the transition to G+ I simply switch back to Picasa for this one function whenever needed. Still I hope that embedded slideshows will come to G+ in 2014.
Google Keep: initially being disappointed that Keep lacks many features of Evernote, I have found this notetaking tool much more useful than I thought. I use it alongside Google Tasks and Google Drive for notes which I always want to have automatically synchronized and offline on my devices.
Chromecast: I bought one because I was interested in its potential use in schools. So far I have been using it only at home. It provides online media streaming from mobile devices natively and offline media streaming via third party apps like the Avia Player. So far presentations and screen mirroring which would have the biggest potential in schools are not available.
What will 2014 bring?
Google is committed to making all of these products successful. In particular Google+ (including Hangouts and G+ Photos) can be expected to receive a bunch of new features. Likewise Drive can be expect to get some really interesting features. High on my wishlist would be audio integration (for narrated slides, direct recording to drive/podcasting, audio comments - all of these would be very useful in education).
Google Keep could become a serious competitor to Evernote and OneNote if integrated to Google Drive and getting more Google Drive features (such as OCR and collaboration).
Chromecast: it is expected that many apps will support Chromecast in 2014. It would be nice if Google added its own Google Slides (or even better, all of Drive) and Google+ Photos/Videos app (including local media).
Whatever Google has in store for its services, I am pretty sure it’s going to be an exciting and innovative year for teachers and students alike.