Friday, December 15, 2017

10 Excellent Extensions for Chrome

On the 10th day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… 10 Excellent Extensions.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

It's no secret that I love Chrome web extensions. They are an awesome way to add new features and tools to your Chrome web browser. Extensions can be a powerful benefit for schools as they provide options for creation, curation, accessibility, readability, efficiency, and much more!

Many of my blog posts have dealt with Chrome extensions, such as:

I even have a Google Sheet where I keep a list of all of my favorite Chrome extensions, with links to install them, and a short description of what each does. You can access the current version of my list here:


Having said all of that, there are some extensions that I have not really covered on the blog yet. For this post I wanted to highlight ten cool extensions that are worth checking out. Some of these are relatively recent, while others have been around for a while. Some you may have heard of, but others may be new to you. Whatever the case, all of these are valuable for teachers and students.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

9 Terrific Trainings - The FREE 2017 Ditch That Textbook Digital Summit

On the 9th day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… 9 Terrific Trainings.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

With the holiday season here, you have probably been busy trying to find the perfect gifts for the people in your life. But what about you? Don't you deserve to get something for yourself?

Well you are in luck! You may not be able to find any Hatchimals in the stores, but you can still get yourself nine days of free professional development on technology, pedagogy, and more!

Back for its second year is the "Ditch That Textbook Digital Summit". Starting on December 15th there will be a new video from a new speaker each day for nine days. This is a fantastic way to get free professional development at your pace, on your schedule, in your pajamas (if you want).

See below for all the details on how to take advantage of this awesome opportunity, before it goes away (like all the Hatchimals).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

8 Ways to Supercharge Google Docs with Drawings

On the 8th day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… 8 Docs Drawings.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

"You can't do that in Google Docs!"

If you have ever made that claim, then you know the frustration of loving all the awesome things you can do in Docs, but still bumping up against limitations.

Sometimes we can extend the capabilities of Docs by installing add-ons or extensions. However, there is another powerful tool that's been sitting right there in the Docs menu all this time, which can provide you with loads of extra features that you may not have realized you had.

That tool ... Google Drawings.

That's right. You can embed Google Drawings into your Doc right from the "Insert" menu. Being able to insert a live, editable Google Drawing inside your document can let you do lots of things you normally cannot do in Google Docs.

In this blog post we are going to take a look at eight things you can do with Drawings inside of Docs. These can be great to make your documents more interactive for students, to add multimedia, to create HyperDocs, for student projects, and much more.

See below for details, directions, and examples for each, as well as recorded video tutorials demonstrating how each works.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

7 Helpful Hacks for Google Tools

On the 7th day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… 7 Helpful Hacks.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

Google tools have so many awesome features, options, and settings, that it is easy to miss some of the cool things their products can do for you. In this blog post we are going to take a look at seven helpful hacks to get more out of your Google experience.

The criteria I used for coming up with this list of tips and tricks include:

  • These are built-in features in the Google tools, rather than something that needs to be installed separately such as extensions or add-ons.
  • These should provide some benefit to you such as saving time, improving organization, avoiding problems, or making you more efficient.
  • These tips should be lesser known features of common Google tools.

Certainly you may be familiar with some of these tips, but hopefully you will learn a few new tricks, or at least be reminded and encouraged to use some of these options. As always, I would love to hear your favorite lesser known Google tips. Please share your ideas in the comments at the bottom of the post.

Monday, December 11, 2017

6 Googley Wintertime Activities for Kids

On the 6th day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… 6 Wintry Wonders.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

As we get closer to the holiday break, it is expected and understandable that our students start getting a little distracted. They are looking forward to lots of days off, holiday celebrations, gifts, and more. Let's be honest … we may be a little distracted as well.

This is a time of year when we look for some fun activities to keep our students focused and active. But we don't just want busy work. If possible it is great to find projects that are fun, tie into wintertime themes, and still provide our students with a chance to be creative, write, or improve some content area skills.

To help out with that, I have put together six sample wintertime-themed activities that use free Google tools, including Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drawings. Some of these are projects I have shared in the past, while others are new twists on previous posts, and others are brand new. Hopefully some of these will be a good match for your students to keep them busy AND learning as we head into the holidays.

Friday, December 8, 2017

5 Favorite EdTech Quotes


On the 5th day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… five golden nuggets.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

When I used to be a technology director, "getting a quote" meant asking a vendor for the latest pricing for CAT5 cables or Chromebooks. Since I have been a technology integrationist, I now get to focus on the other meaning of "quote" … a short, but thought-provoking statement.

A quote takes a complicated concept or inspiring idea or reflection on the human condition, and condenses it down to a few powerful words. When you dig into a quote, you find there is much more there than meets the eye. Like Doctor Who's TARDIS, quotes are bigger on the inside.

I have a love of quotes in all areas of my life including my profession… educational technology. I am always excited to catch a golden nugget shared by an educator in a Twitter post, a blog entry, a book, or a live presentation.

For this blog post I have chosen five quotes that have resonated with me when it comes to teaching, learning, and technology. Certainly there are way more than five quotes I could have chosen, and maybe in the future I will do follow-up posts with more. I kept it to only five though because I don't want to just share the quotes, but wish to dive a little deeper.

For each quote I have created a graphic and written a short response about my own thoughts. I hope some or all of these will inspire and encourage you, as they have done for me. Please feel free to share some of your favorite education and technology quotes in the comments at the end of this post. I would love to read them!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

4 Fantastic Rubric Tools for Google Docs

On the 4th day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… four rubric writers.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

It has been said that grading is more of an art than a science. It can be easy to perform mathematical gymnastics on a stack of numbers, and then feel like we have arrived at a truly accurate grade because the result goes out to three decimal places.

In reality points and percentages can only go so far when evaluating student work. If possible, we can benefit greatly from taking a step back to get a holistic view of what a student has produced. Rather than just counting the number of problems they have missed, we (and they) are better served when we look for the patterns that reveal the reasons behind the mistakes.

One tool that can help move us closer to a fair assessment of student learning is a rubric. A rubric is an evaluation tool that uses a range of criteria to assess a student's skills or performance on a continuum from excellent to poor, with qualitative descriptions for the different levels.

As useful as rubrics can be though, since they are more sophisticated, they can also be a challenge to manage in a digital world. Thankfully there are many tools that we can use to create, deploy, and grade with electronic rubrics. In this blog post we will look at four such rubric tools and how they work. The tools range from simple to complex, so hopefully you will find one that matches your needs, or inspires you to try out a rubric for an upcoming assignment.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

3 Tools for Making Memes in School

On the third day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… three meme makers.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

Memes are everywhere. As a popular meme might say, "One does not simply go on the Internet without encountering memes."

However, if somehow you are not familiar with these ubiquitous images, a meme is a picture with superimposed text, used to convey a message. They often have an element of humor, and the text usually follows a pattern based on the image chosen.

We see memes daily in social media posts, on websites, and in advertisements. However, they can also be used as a fun and creative tool for education. Memes can be used by teachers and students to:
  • Define a vocabulary word
  • Explain a science concept
  • Give an opinion on a historic event
  • Illustrate a theme from a novel
  • Demonstrate a mathematical law
  • Create class rules
  • And more!
Rather than just use memes made by others, students can create their own to show their learning and communicate ideas. There are loads of tools that can be used for this purpose, but in this blog post we will take a look at three useful, but very different, options for making memes.

Fair warning though, students will have a blast doing this project. So "Brace yourself. Memes are coming!"

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Teaching Coding with Turtles

On the second day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… two turtle coders.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

Over the last few years coding has become a much more common topic in schools. Students of all ages are learning about coding thanks to the rise of Hour of Code, STEM programs, robotics, and more.

One of the most popular coding tools for kids is Scratch from MIT . In the Scratch programming tool students use block coding to move and manipulate Scratch the cat to create games, stories, and animations.

Well you may know about the cat, but do you know about the turtle?

Back when I was a student (in the 70's and 80's) I loved computers (big surprise) and especially coding. At that time, one of the main options for coding in schools was Logo. Basically Logo was a programming tool where you wrote commands to move a "turtle" around the screen to draw pictures and learn the basics of coding. Logo was a direct influence on the development of Scratch many years later (so the turtle is actually the parent of the cat!)

This year is Logo's 50th anniversary, and with this being "Hour of Code" week, it is the perfect time to revisit one of the first programming languages ever developed specifically to teach children how to code. Below we will take a look at a brief overview of Logo, as well as two online tools for your students to learn and use Logo today.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Supercharge Google Slides with Pear Deck Add-on

On the first day of Tech-Mas my true love gave to me… an add-on for a Pear Deck.

Note: This post is part of my "12 Days of Tech-Mas" series for 2017. You can see all of the posts for each day as they get released in the main post here: "12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017".

It is no surprise that "Death by PowerPoint" is a well-known expression. Whether it be PowerPoint or Google Slides or any other multimedia presentation tool, we all know the potential boredom that can come from presenting with and learning from a slideshow.

Certainly we do our best to be engaging presenters, to include humor, interesting information, and maybe some animations to keep the audience's attention. Still we know that our students will learn more if we can engage them and make the presentation more interactive.

Well thankfully we have just the tool for that! Recently when Google rolled out add-ons for Slides, one of the first add-ons to be released was Pear Deck. This tool was already a popular resource on its own, but now with the improved integration with Google Slides it is easier than ever to add true interactivity to your slideshows.

See below for directions on how to add and use the Pear Deck add-on for Google Slides. For more details on this, also be sure to catch my upcoming webinar in January all about Google Slides add-ons.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

What's New in Google - November 2017

Catch up on everything new in G Suite for Education from November 2017, and see great ideas and resources!

Below is the recorded video from our November 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and G Suite updates from the last month. This includes 21 new Google updates and 42 Google resources for your class.

The monthly meetings are hosted by the Google Educator Group of Ohio, but are open to anyone from any location. The purpose of these meetings is to:
  • Connect Google-using educators
  • Share the latest Google Apps news and features
  • Provide tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to’s
  • Share best practices of how Google Apps is being used within schools
  • Ask questions and get answers
The video from the meeting is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the November 2017 meeting:

Friday, December 1, 2017

The 12 Days of Tech-Mas 2017

With the holiday season here, I am excited to share some of my favorite things in educational technology!

I will be doing this in a series of blog posts throughout the month of December that I am calling "The 12 Days of Tech-Mas".

Each blog post will provide a list of useful resources corresponding to the number of that entry, from 1 through 12.

See below for options on how to access each entry for "The 12 Days of Tech-Mas".

Saturday, November 18, 2017

How to Force a Docs Copy WITH Pre-Loaded Comments to Help your Students

We are always looking for new and improved ways to provide additional assistance to our students when they are doing digital work. Recently Google rolled out a new feature in Google Docs that, with a little tweaking, can give teachers new ways to provide support for students in their assignments.

The new option is available when you make a copy of a Google Doc. With this update you are now able to also copy any comments that are in the document. This is a great feature for you as an individual to keep comments in the copies you make. However, this can also be a creative way to provide additional resources, links, and assistance to your students in their projects.

Instead of just getting a copy of a worksheet, HyperDoc, study guide, or other document, students can also have comments pre-loaded into their copy of the document. These comments can provide them with:

  • Additional directions
  • Hyperlinks to resources
  • Voice recordings from the teacher
  • A checklist of items for the student to resolve
  • And more

See below for details on the URL trick you can use to force a copy of a document with the comments included, as well as several examples of how this could benefit students.

Note: If you do not have the "copy comment" feature yet, it is still rolling out to some users. According to Google, full rollout should be complete by November 29th.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Awesome Android Apps for Chromebooks

A while back I shared a blog post on how to install, manage, and run Android apps on Chromebooks. That post focused on the administrative and management end of the process, and can be seen here: Using Android Apps on Chromebooks

In this post we are going to build on top of that. Now that we know how to install and manage Android apps on Chromebooks, the next question becomes, "What are the best Android apps to run on your Chromebook?"

Certainly there is no definitive list that everyone would agree on. However, there are a lot of excellent Android apps that would provide benefit to students on Chromebooks in a school setting. To make this list I considered the following:

  • Android apps that are free
  • Android apps that provide something educational or support learning, communication, creativity, and such
  • Android apps that provide something more than their web-based versions (why install the Android version if the web version is already available in Chrome, works fine, and maybe even does more than the mobile version?)

With those points in mind, see below for a list of some of the best Android apps today that students can use for learning on their Chromebooks.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Play "Mystery Animal" with Google

"20 Questions" has been a tried and true game for my family to pass the time on long road trips or rainy afternoons. Over the years my kids have asked and answered many questions about a mystery animal, person, place, food, or such.

In addition to being a fun way to pass time, "20 Questions" actually helps build important skills including making good questions, communicating clearly, and critical thinking to narrow down the possibilities.

Now Google has provided a newfangled way to play this age-old game with the launch of their "Mystery Animal" activity. With this game you and your students speak aloud to ask Google questions to try to guess a mystery animal. See below for the details on how to access and play this fun and educational activity.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Making Google Forms Quizzes with Math (Free, Easy, and Quick)

Recently I received a question asking about inserting math symbols, expressions, and equations into Google Forms for quizzes. In the past I have blogged about the Equatio extension for this purpose, but the educator was looking for a no cost solution.

As a previous math teacher, I am very sympathetic to the need for easier ways to represent math digitally. I also totally understand the financial constraints schools deal with, as I have worked in and with districts facing the same budget concerns.

So as much as I love the Equatio extension (and still do recommend it, if it is within your budget) I wanted to see if I could come up with an alternative. The conditions for my task were:
  • The solution needed to be free
  • The process needed to be as easy as possible (nothing unreasonably difficult to learn)
  • The process needed to be quick (not lots of steps and hoops to jump through)
In the end I think I came up with a solution that meets all of those requirements. With this process, teachers can quickly, easily, and freely add mathematical (and scientific) symbols, expressions, and equations to Google Forms for quizzes they are creating.

(Update: Google news! Equatio is now free for teachers. Be sure to check out my earlier post on how you can use Equatio to create and insert math and science symbols and expressions into Docs, Forms, and more.)

See below for a video and written explanation of the tools and steps needed for this. In a later post to follow, I will address the flip side and cover how students can submit mathematical expressions for answers in a quiz. For this post though, we will just cover the first part explaining how teachers can make Google Form quizzes with math expressions.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Turkey Templates for Thanksgiving Creativity and Writing

Last month I shared my "Build a Jack-O-Lantern" Google Slides activity, which I based off of my "Build a Snowman" activity from last year. Each one of these was designed to let students be creative, learn some tech skills, and practice their writing.

Over the past week or so I have received several emails and Tweets asking if I also had made anything for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately I have not created any Thanksgiving-themed activities (yet), but I am so excited to share that other folks have.

Two awesome educators worked from my Snowman and Jack-O-Lantern templates to create their own Turkey versions. Although based on my original templates, these educators clearly put a lot of time and creativity into making their own versions for Thanksgiving.

See below for a brief description of the two templates, as well as links to get your own copies for your students to use.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Take a Snapshot Alternative for Docs, Slides, and Drawings

Recently Google announced that they would be rolling out an update to how we currently insert images in Google Docs, Slides, and Drawings. The new version looks to be simpler, which is a good thing, but unfortunately something got lost in the update.

According to Google, the new option allows you to insert an image in five ways: "Upload from computer", "Search the web", "Drive", "Photos", and "By URL". However this is missing an awesome option we have had for years, which is "Take a Snapshot". That feature allowed you to take a picture with your webcam, and then easily insert it into the document, presentation, or drawing you were working on.

This is a much used and loved feature for teachers and students to allow users to add real-life pictures quickly and easily. I have referenced it in many of my activities including "Stop Motion Animation with Google Slides" and "Learn Math with your Face".

So what are we to do if "Take a Snapshot" is really going away? In this blog post I will share with you the best alternative I have found so far. It is actually very simple to use, with just one small extra step in the process, and works great with Docs, Slides, and Drawings. See below for the details.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

800+ Fantastic Fonts for Google Projects

I'll admin it. I am a typophile. That is, I love fonts.

Even since I was a kid I have always been intrigued by the way different typefaces could convey such a range of moods and styles. Nerd alert… as a teenager in the mid-80's I actually developed my own fonts using an old program called Fontrix. I was very popular in high school.

Today, fonts are as important as ever:
  • They can set the tone and intention for a document, slideshow, spreadsheet, or image
  • They can make it easier for someone to read the information you are sharing
  • They allow for creativity when expressing your ideas
  • They can even be used poorly like in this hilarious video about the Papyrus font
However, if you are a user of the Google suite of programs, at first glance you may think you are limited to about two dozen fonts, since that is all that show up by default in the font choice drop-down menu. Quite the opposite though, Google actually provides over 800 web fonts to choose from for your Google projects!

In this blog post we will take a look at how to explore all of the web fonts available from Google, how to add them to your list of available fonts, how to use them, and some of the most interesting fonts for you to try out.

Friday, November 3, 2017

4 Ways to Play Videos in Google Docs

Google Docs lets you add lots of different content including text, links, images, emojis, tables, charts, and more. However, one thing we all wish we could add is videos.

Having multimedia content in a Google Doc would be a powerful and engaging way to share information, provide learning content, supercharge a report, liven up a newsletter, create a HyperDoc and more.

Unfortunately this blog post is not to announce that this feature has suddenly been released, although I hope someday that will happen and make this post obsolete. However, in the meantime there are some clever workarounds for including video content with a Google Doc.

In this blog post we will take a look at four different options, starting with the most basic and working our way up to the most advanced. See below for directions and examples for each of these four workarounds for adding video to a Google Doc.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Learning for Littles with LEGO Education STEAM Park

Like most folks, I have loved LEGO bricks since I was kid. There was nothing quite like dumping the tub of pieces on the floor, letting my creativity run, and building whatever my imagination could dream up. As an adult I have continued to create with LEGO, such as my recent stop-motion animation activity with Google Slides.

Over the years I have had a blast getting to play and learn with LEGO with my own children, and now with my first grandson here, I get to pass on my love to one more generation!

He's only three-months old at the moment, but thankfully I won't have to wait long to get him building and learning. I recently got a chance to attend a LEGO Education event where they launched their latest product... STEAM Park.

STEAM Park is an early learning set of LEGO DUPLO bricks designed to help preschoolers learn about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) by working together on activities with gears, ramps, and more. See below for all the details and resources about this new learning set.

Monday, October 30, 2017

What's New in Google - October 2017

Catch up on everything new in G Suite for Education from October 2017, and see great ideas and resources!

Below is the recorded video from our October 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and G Suite updates from the last month. This includes 24 new Google updates and 41 Google resources for your class.

The monthly meetings are hosted by the Google Educator Group of Ohio, but are open to anyone from any location. The purpose of these meetings is to:
  • Connect Google-using educators
  • Share the latest Google Apps news and features
  • Provide tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to’s
  • Share best practices of how Google Apps is being used within schools
  • Ask questions and get answers
The video from the meeting is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the October 2017 meeting:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Using Android Apps on Chromebooks

One of the best new features for Chromebooks is the ability to run Android apps. In addition to all of the things Chromebooks can already access and run, such as web sites, web apps, and web extensions, many Chromebooks can now also run Android apps, opening the door to a vast amount of new learning tools for students.

However, to be able to run these Android apps, there are certain requirements to meet and steps to take. In this blog post we will take a look at what is needed to accomplish this, both for personal Chromebooks and for those managed by a school. In a later post, we will build on this to take a look at many examples of great Android apps to use in the classroom.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Seven Summarization Tools for Students

When students go to read an article online, it can be helpful to start with a simpler, shorter, summarized version.

Having a summarized version of an article can help student comprehension in several ways:

  • It can serve as an advanced organizer to help the students know the main ideas to look for in the full article.
  • It can provide the student with the key points of the article, if they struggle with pulling out this information themselves.
  • It can be a replacement for the full article for a struggling student who wants to read the same article as other students but would benefit from a shorter version.

Thankfully there are many summarization tools available online for students to use. Most all of these tools work by analyzing the full article, using algorithms to weigh the relative importance of each word and sentence in the text, and then pulling out what is determined to be the most critical information.

See below for a list of seven such tools. Most of these are Chrome Web Extensions, but the list also includes a bookmark tool and a website.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Google Tour Builder for any Subject

Google Tour Builder is one of my favorite lesser-known Google tools. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you have probably seen me mention it a number of times including posts such as "Hipster Google" and "Create your own Lit Trips". After doing several posts on different aspects of the tool, I figured it was time to give it the full treatment of a video training webinar.

For those not familiar with the tool, Google Tour Builder allows you and your students to create virtual tours on a map, including locations, images, videos, descriptions, hyperlinks, and more. These tours can be used in any subject area such as retelling the events from a novel, tracing the locations of a historical event, visiting different biomes or landforms around the world, and more. Tours can be viewed by others in Tour Builder, or even imported into Google Earth for a full 3D experience.

See below for my 1-hour video training webinar on "Google Tour Builder for any Subject". In addition you will find links to all of the resources mentioned in the video.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

24 Tips for Google Forms Quizzes

Google Forms has come along way over the last few years! First it received a major face lift from "Old Forms" to "New Forms", and then it got the Quiz feature to auto-grade online assessments, and now Google continues to add new options and features each month.

So much has changed over the last few years, I thought it was time to make a new version of my webinar on "Google Forms for Online Assessments". In my new training I cover (at least) 24 tips and tricks for getting the most out of the new features in Google Forms for when you make online quizzes for your students. These include questions with multiple right answers, open-ended questions, extra credit, assistive tech tools for students taking the quiz, importing scores into Classroom, and much more.

See below for a full list of the 24 tips that get covered in the webinar. You will also find the recorded video from the training which you can watch to see each and every one of these tips demonstrated for you. Even if you have been using Forms for a while, I hope you learn something new!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Multiple Correct Answers in Google Form Quizzes

One of the most popular uses for Google Forms is creating online assessments for students. It is a quick, easy, and powerful way to create auto-grading quizzes. As with all Google tools, new features are continually being added, making Forms even more versatile for assessment.

Recently I came across an update for Forms (at least it was new to me) that allows teachers to create "Short Answer" questions which can support more than one correct answer. In the past you needed to use an additional tool, such as the Flubaroo add-on for Sheets, to be able to accept more than one right answer, but now you can do that with Google Form's built-in quiz feature.

See below for directions on how this works, and how you may want to take advantage of this neat option.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

What's New in Google - September 2017

Catch up on everything new in G Suite for Education from September 2017, and see great ideas and resources!

Below is the recorded video from our September 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and G Suite updates from the last month. This includes 28 new Google updates and 32 Google resources for your class.

The monthly meetings are hosted by the Google Educator Group of Ohio, but are open to anyone from any location. The purpose of these meetings is to:
  • Connect Google-using educators
  • Share the latest Google Apps news and features
  • Provide tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to’s
  • Share best practices of how Google Apps is being used within schools
  • Ask questions and get answers
The video from the meeting is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the September 2017 meeting:

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Build a Jack-O-Lantern with Google Slides

Last winter I posted my "Build a Snowman" activity which was a load of fun and learning for students all over. Now with Fall here, it is time to carve a pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern!

You can do this with this fun, and educational, Google Slides activity. This is a great way for students to be creative and to work on their writing skills by describing or writing about their Jack-O-Lantern.

Here’s how:
  • Make a copy of the Google Slides "Build a Jack-O-Lantern" template, found further down in the blog post.
  • The template has a blank pumpkin and several slides full of items to add to your Jack-O-Lantern including eyes, mouths, hats, arms, feet, and more.
  • Copy and paste the items to build your Jack-O-Lantern.
  • If you need different pictures, you can search for more.
  • You can even add or draw your own shapes as needed.
  • When done building, write about your Jack-O-Lantern in the textbox. You can describe it, tell a story about it, or explain who it is.
  • When all done you can download a picture of your Jack-O-Lantern and writing to share with others.
See below to get your own copy of the template, as well as more detailed directions on how to do the activity.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

23 Google Projects for your Students

I recently had the privilege to be a guest on Vicki Davis' show "The 10-Minute Teacher Podcast". Vicki is an amazing educator who I have been following and getting inspiration from for many years, so it was an absolute honor to get to be on her podcast.

Vicki uses her show to highlight educators from all over the world, so we can all grow and learn from each other. This mindset is perfectly captured in my all-time favorite quote of her's ... "Leaders don’t play king of the hill, they make a bigger hill."

For this particular episode the topic was creative ways to use Google tools for student activities (a real surprise from me, right?) I ended up covering about 23 example projects and ideas for Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings.

You can listed to the audio through the embedded player below:



Or go to Vicki's blog for the original post complete with a full transcript of the episode and all of the linked resources I shared. That can be found at:

http://www.coolcatteacher.com/e112/

A big thanks again to Vicki for "making room on the hill" for me to share, connect, and learn with everyone!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Launch Tour Builder Tours in Google Earth with One Click

I have been a big fan of Google Tour Builder for a long time. It is a great tool for students to create virtual tours, including locations, images, videos, descriptions, hyperlinks, and more. These tours can be used in any subject area such as retelling the events from a novel, tracing the locations of a historical event, visiting different biomes or landforms around the world, and more.

A while back I added a blog post on how to use Tour Builder to create a tour and then open that tour in the new web version of Google Earth (see here: Create your own Lit Trips (and more) for Google Earth). As awesome as that was, there was a bit of a pain point near the end when you needed to export the Tour in a special KML format, then change some settings in Google Earth, then finally find and load the exported tour. Not a deal-breaker, but still a bit of a hassle.

Well now that process just got a whole lot easier! Thanks to a Google+ post by Michael Fricano, I learned that Tour Builder now has a simple menu option that will open your tour automatically in Google Earth. All with the click of one button!

See below for directions on how to do this, as well as a sample Tour to try it out with, and also details on an upcoming webinar where we will be diving deep into these tool.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Amazing Mobile Features of Google Classroom

Most Google-using educators already know that Google Classroom is a great tool for managing class assignments, collaboration, discussions and more. However, as much as you may think you know about Classroom, there are several awesome features for you and your students that you may not be aware of.

In addition to the normal web-based version of Classroom, there is also a Google Classroom mobile app. Many times when we think of mobile app, we think of a simpler, watered-down version of the full program. However, that is not always the case, and certainly is not true for Classroom. In fact, there are several awesome tools and features that can only be accessed if you and your students are using the mobile version of Classroom. Five of these features include:
  • Digital handwriting
  • Taking pictures
  • Recording videos
  • Content from other apps
  • Notifications
To learn all of these powerful mobile features, see below for my recorded video training, detailed written directions, links, and other resources.  See how you and your students can take Classroom to the next level with mobile!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Create "Pi Poems" with Google Sheets

A poem can take on many different forms: sonnet, limerick, haiku, free verse, acrostic, and more. One fun form of poetry that mixes writing and math is the "Pi Poem".

A "Pi Poem" is composed of words where the length of each word is equal to each digit of pi in order. So for example, the beginning of the poem would be made of a 3-letter word, 1-letter word, 4-letter word, 1-letter word, and 5-letter word, for the beginning of pi which starts as 3.1415. Punctuation doesn't count.

This fun student writing activity could plug into the school year in several places:
  • During your poetry unit
  • National Poetry Month in April
  • When working on vocabulary skills, especially synonyms
  • When teaching about pi in math class
  • For "Pi Day" each year on March 14th
  • Anytime you are looking for a fun cross-curriculum activity for math and ELA

To help with this activity, I have created a Google Sheets "Pi Poem" template. The template makes it easier to create your poem with helpful boxes for each letter of each word. See below to get your own copy of the template, directions for use, some other helpful tech hints for the project, and a sample finished product.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hipster Google: Library Edition

A few months back I shared a blog post and webinar on "Hipster Google - Google Tools You Probably Never Heard Of".

Recently I had the privilege to do a new version of that presentation with a focus on tools that would be valuable for libraries, media literacy, research, searching, and more. This was done for Infohio, Ohio's PreK-12 Digital Library, as part of their Boot Camp 2017 series of webinars.

For "Hipster Google: Library Edition" we take a look at a dozen Google tools that are lesser known, or maybe some you heard of but have not had a chance to use much, or even tools that are brand new to you. Even though these tools may not be as popular or as widely known, they are still very useful in school settings.

See below for access to the 1-hour Infohio webinar, as well as the slideshow presentation, and details on all of the Hipster Google tools covered in this particular training. For the original version of Hipster Google (with many different tools) see my earlier post "Hipster Google - Google Tools You Probably Never Heard Of".

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What's New in Google - Summer 2017

Catch up on everything new in Google Apps from the summer, and see great ideas and resources!

Below is the recorded video from our August 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and Google Apps updates from the last three months. This includes 42 new Google updates and loads of Google resources for your class.

The monthly meetings are hosted by the Google Educator Group of Ohio, but are open to anyone from any location. The purpose of these meetings is to:
  • Connect Google-using educators
  • Share the latest Google Apps news and features
  • Provide tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to’s
  • Share best practices of how Google Apps is being used within schools
  • Ask questions and get answers
The video from the meeting is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the August 2017 meeting:

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Using Named Versions in Docs to Track Writing Drafts

Writing is a process. You are never really done. You are just at your current version of whatever you are working on.

This is also true for students and the writing they do in school. At least it should be true. Students should not just write their essay, paper, report, or story once, then turn it in and be finished with it. A critical part of writing is getting feedback, making changes, adding new content, and trimming out what is not needed. And then doing it again. And again.

Thankfully Google Docs has always made it easy for students to write, and then for teachers and peers to leave feedback (text, voice, video, and handwritten), and then for students to make changes to their work.

Now though, it is even easier for teachers and students to keep track of those big mile markers when a paper goes from rough draft to revised draft to final copy. Recently Google gave Revision History a face lift, renaming it to Version History and adding the new ability to name specific versions.

See below how this new process works, and how you and your students can use this to improve the clarity of the editing process.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Making Posters with Google Drawings

As mentioned in earlier blog posts, Google has loads of awesome tools, but one thing that seems to be missing is a dedicated desktop publishing app to create brochures, newsletters, flyers, and greeting cards. (There are, of course, great third party tools, such as Lucidpress.)

However if you are willing to get a little creative, Google Drawings can serve as a good option for some desktop publishing needs. Google Drawings is a very flexible program, allowing you to add text boxes, wordart, images, shapes, and more, to any part of the Drawing, and at any angle, much like a desktop publishing program would.

One such project you can achieve with Google Drawings is creating a poster.

To try this out, I recently used Google Drawings to make a chemistry-themed poster that could be displayed in a Science classroom. See below for some tips and tricks on how to use Drawings to make a poster, as well as download links to get your own copy of the Chemistry poster for your classroom or your science-teaching colleagues.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

6 Ways to Write Bad Gmails

Over the years Google has improved and expanded Gmail to make it one of the easiest but most powerful email programs in the world. Despite the simplicity and flexibility of Gmail, if you really try hard, you still can use the program poorly.

That's right! It is still within reason that you can misuse this amazing tool so that you stay disorganized, send confusing messages, mishandle attachments, reveal people's personal addresses, display poor judgement, and more.

See below for six ways that you can send bad Gmails, while avoiding all of the tools and options designed to make your life easier.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

You're So Random (with Google Tools)

As educators we like to be well planned, prepared, and organized. However, sometimes it can be good to be a little random.

Randomization can be useful in a classroom in many ways. These may include:

  • Choosing a student at random in a discussion to make sure no one dominates the conversation, and that a diversity of students can express their ideas.
  • Randomly selecting questions or vocab terms for review in class.
  • Randomly generating math problems with a variety of numbers.
  • Randomly generating data to be analyzed, graphed, and explored.
  • Creating random writing prompts for journal entries, stories, poems, and such.

Thankfully there are a wide range of technology tools that can be used to generate random numbers, data, and other information. In this blog post we will explore several Google tools you can use for this purpose.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Learn Math with your Face (and Google Docs)

We all know it is best to learn math by using our hands (interactive stuff) and using our heads (critical thinking). But how about if we also use our faces?

Back when I was teaching middle school math (in technically a different century ... that's sad) we used to do a very hands-on activity to teach unit rates. The students would use rulers to measure a partner's facial features, then put the measurements into unit rates to see how close they were to the Greek Golden Ratio. It was a really fun activity, but definitely one that would benefit from a technology update. (Hint: Middle schoolers plus wooden rulers plus classmates' faces are not always a good mix.)

So, I have updated the activity with the use of Google Docs, webcams, and a digital ruler web app. See below for all the details on how the "Golden Ratio Face" project works, as well as access to all the needed templates and resources.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Video Mash-Ups with Google Slides

Mash-Ups are a fun and popular way to express creativity whether you are combining different styles of music, or art, or memes, or such. Mash-ups can also be educational when the creator uses the two items to explain or express an idea, or for one of the items to complement or expand on the other.

One fun way to students to try this out is by using Google Slides to mash-up videos. Google Slides makes it easy to insert videos from either YouTube or Google Drive. Slides allows you to adjust your video options so that your videos automatically play when the slideshow runs. The end results is a presentation with two videos that play at the same time.

This could be used in several creative projects such as:

  • Adding music or popular songs to famous historical speeches, or science videos, or scenes from story. 
  • Or having one video explain a concept, while the other shows examples or demonstrations of that idea.
  • Or the videos could be used to show contrast, by playing two videos that demonstrate different processes or ideas or time periods or such.

See below for directions on how students can do this activity, along with a free template they can copy and use, as well as an example mash-up to show what a final product might look like.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

My 2017 SC Midlands Google Summit Sessions

I am excited and honored to present at the 2017 SC Midlands Summit Featuring Google for Education in Columbia, SC this June 7th and 8th.

I look forward to this opportunity to see old friends, make new friends, share some ideas, and learn so many new things from others.

Below is a list of sessions I will be presenting at the SC Midlands Google Summit, along with any associated resources. Please feel free to join me for any of these sessions. I look forward to sharing, learning, and chatting with you!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Self-Editing Tools for Student Writing in Google Docs

One of the best features of Google Docs is the ability to share your work with others so they can offer comments and suggestions. As awesome as that is, sometimes a student may not have another person available to provide feedback, and will need to do the editing on their own.

Thankfully there are loads of useful tools that can help students to self-edit their writing, including text-to-speech, grammar checkers, dictionaries, and more. With these resources students can take ownership of the editing process to improve their writing. Even if they can also receive peer feedback, these tools can help student do a majority of the editing on their own.

See below for an overview of each of these tools, how to access and use them, and how they can assist students in the self-editing process.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What's New in Google - May 2017

Catch up on everything new in Google Apps over the last month, and see great ideas and resources!

Below is the recorded video from our May 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and Google Apps updates from the last month. This includes 21 new Google updates and 27 Google resources for your class.

The monthly meetings are hosted by the Google Educator Group of Ohio, but are open to anyone from any location. The purpose of these meetings is to:
  • Connect Google-using educators
  • Share the latest Google Apps news and features
  • Provide tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to’s
  • Share best practices of how Google Apps is being used within schools
  • Ask questions and get answers
The video from the meeting is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the May 2017 meeting:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Making Google Searches more Personal

Out of everything Google is known for, its search engine is most likely at the top of the list. We use Google many times every day to search the entire Internet for answers to our queries. But what if the answer is not located in the far reaches of the world? What if what you are looking for is right under your nose?

Recently Google has added a new advanced filter to its search that allows you to run "Personal" searches. This means rather than searching the entire world, you can just search your own data, such as your calendar, your images, your email, and more.

This can be a quick and easy way to find personal files or information across many of Google services, all from one place. See below for details on how to take advantage of this new "Personal" search option.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

6 End-Of-Year Google Classroom Clean-up Tips

As the school year winds down, most teachers go through some sort of check-out procedure for their physical classrooms, making sure everything is properly organized or put away for the summer. In much the same way, you may want to do some clean-up and close-out steps for your digital classroom ... Google Classroom.

Google Classroom is a powerful tool to help you and your students collaborate and communicate, but when used year after year, it can start to become a bit of a mess and a management challenge. To help with this, there are several suggestions to consider for Classroom when wrapping up the school year.

See below for six steps that may help you clean up your Classroom as you transition from one school year to the next. However, keep in mind these are all just suggestions and each is optional. While some may not apply to your situation, hopefully several will assist you in keeping your Classroom organized, clutter-free, and efficient for a new year.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

30 Free Google Drawings Graphic Organizers

Several years ago when I started making webinars, my first one was on creating Graphic Organizers with Google Drawings. This was before I had started the this blog, so I never really shared all of that information in an official blog post. Until now...

Graphic organizers are a great tool to share information, explain a concept, or illustrate a relationship using elements including images, shapes, text, colors, and connecting lines. They can be used in education with any age group or subject area.

There are many excellent tools for creating graphic organizers. Some are installable programs, while others are online. Some are free, while other cost money. Educators and students should be encouraged to try out many different tools to determine what works best for them and for specific situations.

However, one great choice for graphic organizers is Google Drawings. See below for directions on how to create graphic organizers with Google Drawings (including a help guide and a recorded webinar) as well as 30 free sample graphic organizers that you can copy, use, and modify as needed.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Create your own Lit Trips (and more) for Google Earth

Recently I shared a blog post on how to use Google Lit Trips in the new web-based Google Earth. Lit Trips are a great way to put students in a story, helping them see where the events took place, and bring the story to life.

In addition to just using Lit Trips, you (and your students) can also create your own tours for Google Earth. This can be a powerful learning tool, or a way for students to collect and share what they have read. Of course, beyond just Lit Trips, students can create Google Earth tours for any subject including documenting the key locations and details in a historical battle, visiting different biomes, a tour of geometric architecture, and more.

There are lots of tools that can be used to create a Lit Trip or other Google Earth tour. Whatever tool you use, the final product will need to be a .KML or .KMZ file that will then be opened in Google Earth. In my opinion, one of the best tools for creating Lit Trips (or other tours) is Google Tour Builder.

In this blog post we will take a look at how to use Google Tour Builder to create you own Lit Trip. See below for detailed directions on the process.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

My 2017 ITIP Google Summit Sessions

I am excited and honored to once again present at the 2017 ITIP Ohio Summit Featuring Google for Education in Sandusky this May 1st and 2nd.

I always look forward to this opportunity to see old friends, make new friends, share some ideas, and learn so many new things from others.

Below is a list of sessions I will be presenting at the ITIP Google Summit, along with any associated resources. Please feel free to join me for any of these sessions. I look forward to sharing, learning, and chatting with you!

What's New in Google - April 2017

Catch up on everything new in Google Apps over the last month, and see great ideas and resources!

Below is the recorded video from our April 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and Google Apps updates from the last month. This includes 18 new Google updates and 29 Google resources for your class.

The monthly meetings are hosted by the Google Educator Group of Ohio, but are open to anyone from any location. The purpose of these meetings is to:
  • Connect Google-using educators
  • Share the latest Google Apps news and features
  • Provide tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to’s
  • Share best practices of how Google Apps is being used within schools
  • Ask questions and get answers
The video from the meeting is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the April 2017 meeting: