Thursday, March 30, 2017

What's New in Google - March 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 March 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and Google Apps updates from the last month. This includes 17 new Google updates and 25 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 March 2017 meeting:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Show Non-Printing Characters in Google Docs

I recently received a question about how to show non-printing characters in Google Docs. This is a feature in Microsoft Word that can be very helpful when editing a document.

These characters could include:
  • Spaces
  • Tabs
  • Paragraphs marks
  • Tables without borders
  • Page breaks

Sometimes the text or alignment a document is "acting funny" because there are non-printing characters and elements that can't be seen but are affecting the layout of the page.

In Microsoft Word you can turn on this feature to temporarily display these normally invisible characters. When you can see the spaces and paragraph marks and tabs, sometimes that can help you to find the problem in the document, such as a hidden table or a long string of spaces.

Unfortunately this is one of the few Word features that is not natively included in Google Docs. Thankfully though there is a Google Docs add-on that can replicate this feature pretty well, at least until Google officially adds this to Docs. See below for details on how to use this helpful add-on.

Check Out the "Check This Out" Podcast

Podcasts are one of my favorite ways to stay up to date on the latest educational technology news, resources, and ideas. I can listen to them when driving, mowing the lawn, or exercising (if/when that actually happens).

Currently I subscribe to dozens of EdTech podcasts, but one of my favorites is the "Check This Out" podcast by Brian Briggs and Ryan O'Donnell. They do a fantastic job of sharing creative ways to use technology in schools, while always making the podcasts fun to listen to.

Recently I had the honor and pleasure of being a guest on episode 60 of the podcast. It was a great opportunity to chat with the guys about creative uses for Google tools (of course) as well as other ways to stay caught up on EdTech ideas and resources.

You can listen to the recording here: Check This Out Episode 60

You can also access the show notes with all the links and resources discussed in the episode here: Google Docs Show Notes

While you are at it, be sure to subscribe to the podcast to never miss an episode (and even catch up on older ones)
Thanks again so much to Brian and Ryan for having me on!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Equatio: Yes You Can Type Math and Science in Google Docs and Forms!

As a previous math teacher, I have a soft spot for the pains teachers and students can feel when trying to use math symbols and expressions in technology. The same thing can be said in science when typing chemical formulas. Technology seems to play best with normal letters and numbers, rather than exponents, subscripts, fractions, and such.

Although there are many tools to help address these issues, one I have often recommended has been g(Math). This is an add-on for Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms, that provides a variety of ways to enter and insert mathematical expressions into these files.

Recently I found out that g(Math) is getting an upgrade with a new name, new features, and new format! The new version is called Equatio and it makes it easier than ever to write with math and science symbols in Google Docs and Forms. Rather than being an add-on, this version of the tool is actually a Chrome extension, meaning eventually it will be able to work in many apps beyond just Docs and Forms.

(Update: The full version of Equatio is now free for teachers.)

Best Google April Fools Videos

Each year Google releases a new set of prank videos for April Fools Day. I always look forward to these videos as they are so well produced and poke fun at current trends and technology and even at Google itself. Even better though, they provide more professional development materials for me.

Here's what I mean…

Technology training can be challenging for novices as well as seasoned users. There is a lot of content to cover and new features to learn. Depending on the school, organization, or event, the training may also last a long time, from a full day inservice to a 5-day bootcamp.

During any professional development training it is important to break things up, add some variety, and most importantly have some fun and laugh. Google's April Fools videos are perfect for that! As often as I can I try to insert one or more videos into the PD session depending on which ones relate to the content we are learning.

These videos can also be great for your next training session, or staff meeting, or technology instruction for your students, or even as examples of parody videos for your language arts or media classes.

Thankfully Google keeps producing new videos each year to add to this collection. I can't wait to see what they have made for us this time! In the meantime, see below for my top 20 favorite Google April Fools videos (in no particular order) and the PD topics they best relate to. Hopefully you can use these yourself to make your next teaching or learning experience more engaging.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hipster Google - Google Tools You Probably Never Heard Of

Google is well know for certain tools and services - Search, Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Maps, Chrome, and such. These are all powerful and useful tools that are transforming teaching and learning in schools around the world.

However, in addition to those tools, Google has also created a wide range of services, apps, extensions, features, and other tools that are not as well known. Even though these tools may not be as popular or as widely known, they are still very useful in school settings.

These are the "Hipster Google" tools.

In our culture, one of the defining characteristics of the hipster movement is to appreciate things that are not mainstream, to use services that are not well known, or to embrace something before it becomes popular among the masses. With that thought in mind, I have collected a list of tools from Google that the average person may not know about yet.

Of course with any such list, there will be some tools that you do know, but hopefully you will pick up a few new ideas and resources from the bunch. And of course simply by sharing this blog post I am potentially making these tools more well known.

Below you will find my 1-hour recorded webinar covering each of the tools, as well as the session slideshow, and a write-up for each tool with a description and related links. So, jump on them now while it is still cool to say you used these before they were popular!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Black Out Poetry with Google Docs

March 21st is World Poetry Day, so this is a good time to revisit some ideas for creative ways for students to write poems. In the past I have shared activities for Random Writing Prompts for Poems, as well as drag-and-drop "magnetic" poetry templates in a Winter Theme and a Valentine's Day Theme.

Another fun way to engage students in poetry is by having them create "Black Out" poems. Basically you give the student a page of text pulled from a book, article, websites, or such. The student then blacks out all of the text, except for the words they want to leave behind to form a poem. This can be helpful for students struggling to write a poem, since they do not need to come up with any words of their own, but instead are working within a set collection of available words and in a particular order.

A lot of times you see this activity done with physical paper and big black markers. However, "Black Out Poetry" works great in a digital format. Using Google Docs and a few simple tricks, students can easily create and share their poems. See below for detailed directions on how to do this, including a short tutorial video and a step-by-step example.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Using Google Keep for Grading Comments in Docs

One of the great features of Google Docs is the ability to leave comments in the margin. This is a useful way to provide helpful feedback to students when grading their work. You can offer suggestions, point out areas that need correction, highlight great work, and even provide links to additional resources or videos.

As great as that is, one of the challenges has been getting easy access to your list of comments. Over time, you may have collected quite a large list of often used comments. Rather than have to type them in each time, it would be much easier if you could simply pull up the list and copy and paste the comments you need.

Certainly there are creative ways to accomplish this, such as having another Google Doc with all the comments listed, and then switching back and forth between that Doc and the one you are grading.

Thankfully though there is now an even easier way to do this. Recently Google announced that Google Keep is now integrated right into Google Docs. That means anything you record in Keep can easily be accessed in a panel in Docs. This can be an easy way to organize all of your comments in Keep, pull them up when in Docs, and copy and paste the ones you need.

See below for details on how to do each step of this process, as well as a short tutorial video.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What's New in Google - February 2017

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

Each month we usually hold a meeting of the Google Educator Group of Ohio where we go through all the latest Google Apps updates and other helpful resources. In February we did not have our normal meeting, since we had a social meetup at the OETC conference instead.

However, I still thought it would be useful to share all of the latest updates and resources. See below for a list of everything new in Google for the last month. This includes 24 new Google updates and 41 Google resources for your class.