Tuesday, August 2, 2016

5 Google Tools for Staff Professional Development

In schools we are always looking for creative ways to offer meaningful professional development to staff. This might mean:

  • Flexible PD where staff can participate at a time of day or day of the week that works best for them
  • Interactive PD where staff can communicate with others, share ideas, ask questions, and more
  • Engaging PD with the use of multimedia to go beyond typical text or slideshows

There are certainly dozens of excellent technology tools to use for delivering professional development, and we should try out a wide variety to discover which ones work best for our staff, content, and goals. Many of the free Google tools can lend themselves to providing flexible, interactive, and engaging PD. In this blog post we will take a brief look at five possible Google tools to use:

  • Google Hangout
  • Google Hangouts on Air
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Communities
  • Google Sites

See below for details on each of these tools, ideas for use in delivering professional development, and additional resources to help you learn more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Engaging Quiet Students with Google Forms

When I was a student (many, many years ago) I dreaded class participation. Now don’t get me wrong… I loved school. I was a straight-A student who excelled in all my subjects, loved to learn, and took the most challenging courses.

I just didn’t like to talk.

You see, from the time I was a little child into my early teen years, I used to have a stutter. Some days were better than others, but one thing that always brought out the stutter was speaking out loud in class. When a teacher asked a question, I most always knew the answer, but was hesitant to raise my hand. And nothing was worse than the teacher having each student in class take turns reading from the chapter in the textbook. The closer it got to me, the more nervous I became, trying to determine which paragraph would fall on me and which words I would undoubtedly stumble over.

And I am sure I was not alone. For a wide variety of reasons, student may be reluctant to speak up and participate in class:

  • Perhaps they wrestle with a speech impediment.
  • Maybe they fear they do not have the right answer or a valuable contribution.
  • Or they just need more time to think before they are ready to answer.
  • Or maybe they are shy.

Thankfully today technology provides us with more tools for students to participate in class, share their ideas, and ask questions. One great option is to use Google Forms. See the rest of this blog post below for some ideas on how Forms can not only involve the quiet kids, but improve class engagement for everyone.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Exploring Tangrams with Google Drawings

At some point in your life, probably in school, you have had the chance to play with a tangram puzzle. If somehow you are not familiar with this, a tangram is a popular Chinese puzzle made up of:

  • 2 big right triangles
  • 1 medium right triangle
  • 2 small right triangles
  • 1 square
  • And 1 parallelogram

The object of tangram puzzles is to create an image by moving, rotating, and flipping the pieces as needed. Common images to make include animals, boats, people, objects, letters, and such.

In schools, tangrams can be a great way for students to learn and explore:

  • Problem solving
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Geometry transformations - moving (translation), turning (rotation), flipping (reflection)
  • Fractions
  • Creativity - when making their own tangrams

There are lots of ways for students to explore tangrams from physical blocks you can purchase, to virtual tangrams online. One great tool for creating, solving, and exploring tangrams is Google Drawings. It makes it easy to create shapes, and then move, rotate, and flip the shapes as needed.

See below for everything you need to get started using Google Drawings for tangrams. This includes a free blank template with all the tangram pieces already created, a dozen pre-made tangram puzzles to solve, and detailed directions on how to manipulate the shapes using tools in Google Drawings and create your own tangram puzzles.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Comparing Countries with Google Maps

Maps are a powerful tool to help students understand and explore our world. However, maps are never a perfect representation, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings. For example this could include confusion on how big land masses really are when compared to each other.

A big reason for this is the popularity of the Mercator projection map. This is the map we are used to seeing, which takes the spherical world and lays it out on a flat map. To do this, the map has to stretch out the landmasses as you move further North or South from the equator. As a result, areas such as Antarctica or Greenland end up looking much larger than they really are.

Recently I came across a neat website called “The True Size Of” which is built on top of Google Maps. The site does a great job of helping users compare the real sizes of states and countries, relative to each other. This can help students get a better idea of how large other countries really are and improve their understanding of the world.

See below for a quick overview of how the site works, along with some examples of the comparisons you can make.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

11 Ways to Teach Math with Google Drawings

Google Drawings is one of my favorite parts of the Google Drive suite, even though it seems to often get overlooked. Perhaps that is because Google itself hides the Drawings link under the “More” menu in Drive rather than letting it sit at the grown up table with Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

However, I think Drawings deserves much more attention especially in the classroom where it has so many educational uses. These include:


In addition to those ideas, one of my favorite uses for Google Drawings is teaching math. Drawings lends itself very well to mathematics with its shapes, rotations, tables, lines, and much more.

See below for 11 ideas for how to use Google Drawings to teach and learn math. In each case I have included a brief explanation of the idea, a Google Drawing template or example, and Common Core math standards addressed.

Monday, June 27, 2016

New Google Forms Quiz Feature vs Flubaroo

Google Forms has long been a favorite tool for schools, and one of the most popular uses for Forms has always been online assessments. Digital quizzes have many benefits for schools including:

  • Automatic grading for quick feedback for teachers and students.
  • Easy analysis of the results to determine who needs help and what content needs retaught.
  • Use of assistive technology to have text read aloud or zoomed in for easier reading.
  • Preparation for high-stakes online tests.
  • Savings on paper and printing.
  • Easy to update in the future or share with others for collaborative editing.

Google Forms has always made it super easy to create quizzes, send them out to students, and collect all the responses. The only pain point has been how to grade the student submissions.

Thankfully for years we have have the awesome add-on for Google Sheets called Flubaroo. This add-on allows educators to automatically grade the quiz responses as they get submitted from a Google Forms and collected in a Google Sheet. Over time more and more valuable features have been added to Flubaroo to make it a powerful tool for online assessment.

Suddenly though, there is a new option. At ISTE 2016 Google announced that Forms will now natively support the grading of online assessments without the need of an add-on such as Flubaroo. What does this mean for all the schools who have been using Flubaroo for years? Does it still have a place? Do these new features make it obsolete?

For all the details, see the rest of the blog post below for an in depth comparison of what Forms does, what Flubaroo does, and where they are different. Spoiler alert: Don't throw out Flubaroo just yet. Also, I cover a detailed overview of how to use the new Google Forms Quiz feature.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

You can take it with you! Moving your Google account with GradGopher

Change is a part of life:

  • You are a high school student, then you graduate.
  • You are in college, then your graduate again.
  • You get a job.
  • You move from one job to another (repeat as needed).
  • You retire from your job.

At each stage it is very possible you may have a Google account. Google Apps may be used at your high school, your college, and any one of your jobs. Not to mention the personal Gmail account you may have.

So what happens to your Google account when you graduate high school, graduate college, move from one job to another, and eventually retire? You will have built up years of emails, contacts, documents, slideshows, and much more. Is there an easy way to take all those files and all that data with you? What would be great would be a simply tool to copy all of your files to a different Google account (such as your personal Gmail account).

Google does provide an option called Google Takeout, which is nice, but has some drawbacks. Most notably, Takeout converts all your Google files into other formats, such as Microsoft Office format, so instead of transferring your files to another Google account, the files are all converted into something non-Google. Also, Takeout only exports files you own, but not files that are shared with you

And of course there is the option of copying all of your files manually. You could share all your files to a different Google account, and then make copies of them all. This can take quite a long time, although there are nice add-ons such as Copy Folder that can help with this.

Thankfully there is another option which is an easy solution in the form of a tool called GradGopher. This low cost service will copy all of your Gmail messages, Calendar entries, Contacts, and Drive files to a different Google account. See below for a step-by-step overview of how the service works.