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 Equation 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.

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.