Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Google Slides for Student Created Storybooks

We all know of Google Slides as Google’s version of Microsoft PowerPoint. It is a great online tool for creating and sharing multimedia presentations. Although creating traditional slideshows is a perfectly good use for Google Slides, that is not all it can do.

In previous posts and webinar trainings we have explored other creative uses for Google Slides including:
In this post we are going to look at another alternate use for Google Slides ... having students create storybooks with Slides. Student writing does not just have to be done in a word processor, but can come to life in an online book with engaging images, colors, fonts, and more.

See below for all of my resources on this topic including a one-hour training webinar, slideshow, template, help guide, and several sample stories.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: The Extremely Rugged CTL NL6x Chromebook

As Chromebooks have evolved over the years, one feature that has improved significantly is durability. Early Chromebooks were often challenged to stand up against the use (and misuse) of students, resulting in many broken screens.

Now ruggedization has become the norm for Chromebooks, and CTL has released a new model that aims to set a new standard for durability.

CTL was kind enough to lend me a demo of their new NL6x Chromebook and I will share the details and my impressions below.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Watch the Video from the March 2016 Google User Meeting

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 2016 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda with links to all the resources and updates covered. 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
For those who cannot attend in person, the meetings are broadcast live using a Google Hangout. Users can join the Google Hangout remotely to participate in the meeting, or can simply watch the live stream. The video from the meetings is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live.

See below to view the recorded video from the March 2016 meeting:

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What Netflix Taught me about Professional Development

Professional Development is my thing.

As a Technology Integrationist, I provide training to about 30 school districts in northeast Ohio. As a Google for Education Certified Trainer, I conduct Google professional development sessions all around Ohio and across the country. So it is safe to say I think quite a lot about training and what makes it good, what makes it bad, and what can make it better.

In addition to being a Google trainer, I am also a “Cord Cutter”. For those not familiar with the term, this means I am one of the growing population of people who has cancelled cable television and now gets all of our media through streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, and such. Not only has this changed the method through which I get my entertainment, it has also altered the pace of how I view TV series with the ability to binge watch a show in a weekend.

Recently I was considering this and began to see a connection between my changing viewing habits and professional development. See below for an explanation of this insight, and some ideas for how we can learn from this to improve the professional development we provide as trainers, and the professional development we receive as learners.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Supercharge Google Forms with Add-ons

Google Forms is already a very powerful, full-featured program that allows you to create forms, surveys, polls, quizzes, and more. 

However even with all its options, there may still be some features missing from the Forms that you would like.

Thankfully Google allows people to create Add-Ons that can be easily installed, which add new features and tools to Google Forms.

Over time the amount of available Add-ons has grown tremendously. So how do you wade through all of these to find the best ones and the hidden gems? 

To help out I have collected a list of my favorite Add-ons for Forms. Certainly this is not a comprehensive list, and there are other awesome Add-ons beyond my list, but these will give you a good place to start. Some of these Add-ons will likely be familiar to you, but hopefully you will find a few new ones or be encouraged to dig deeper into one you have tried before.

See below for my list of recommended Forms Add-ons, what they do, ideas for how they can be used in schools, and a quick overview of how to install, use, and remove Add-ons. And be sure to let me know which Add-ons you would recommend to add to the list. I would love to learn from you!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Discovering Pi with Google Sheets

Many concepts in mathematics can be discovered by students rather than simply being told. Sometimes this is called inquiry learning.

Math is full of patterns and predictable relationships. When students discover these patterns themselves and then draw conclusions they will understand and remember the concepts so much better than if we were to just tell them the information.

One example of this is the concept of pi. It is very easy for us to say "Pi is 3.14" or "Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter of the same circle" but that is just giving the students information, not helping them discover and truly understand what pi means.

One way to do this is an activity that uses Google Sheets and allows the students to measure real life circular objects, examine some calculations, look for patterns, and discover what pi is and what it means.

See below for a spreadsheet template you can copy and use for this activity, as well as a short tutorial video and detailed directions on how to do the project.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sharing and Collaborating with Google Drive

One of the most powerful features of Google Apps is the ability for users to share and collaborate on documents, slideshows, spreadsheets, and more.

This transforms what can happen in schools and provides many benefits:
  • Everyone can work on the same document (no multiple versions or different media)
  • You can work with colleagues on projects (grants, lessons plans, newsletters, common assessments)
  • Students can do group work easily in the same document or slideshow
  • Student work can be turned in and graded electronically
  • Users can get and give feedback on documents
  • You can work anywhere, anytime, on any device
  • And of course, it helps save on paper and printing
If you are new to Google Apps, or have staff who are just now moving into Google Drive, or students who are learning about collaboration for the first time, it is critical that you get a solid foundation on how sharing and collaborating works in the Google ecosystem. So many other things you will do with Google Apps will be impacted and improved by collaboration.

A while back a recorded a one-hour webinar covering all of the details of sharing and collaborating with Google Drive. See below for the recorded video, a help guide, and a slideshow.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Use Feedly to get your Daily Intake of Google News

One of the best features of the Google ecosystem is how often things are updated. Every week new features get released for Google Docs or Gmail or Hangouts or mobile or more. This is great for users as Google’s product are constantly improving.

However, this can be a challenge for those of us who provide support to schools, organizations, and other users. It seems I no sooner finish creating a new video tutorial or help guide, and Google (on cue) makes a change to the product. (Anyone remember when “Shared with me” became “Incoming” and then switched back again?)

So how can someone stay up to date with all of the updates and changes to Google Apps. Certainly there are many excellent options including Twitter, Google Communities, edtech podcasts, and more (all of which I should cover in a future blog post).

However, one often overlooked option is to use tool like Feedly to pull updates straight from Google’s official blogs. This is a powerful tool that collects all the new posts from all your favorite blogs in one place, rather than you having to take to time to go visit each site each day.

In this blog post we will do a quick overview of what an RSS feed is, see how to use Feedly, and provide a list of all the official Google blog feeds along with some other excellent Google-related blogs for you to use.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

3 Cool Countdown Timers for your Classroom

Countdown timers can be a useful tool in the classroom for many reasons:

  • As a teacher you may give your students a specified amount of time to brainstorm, discuss a topic, work on a project, complete a sample problem, or such.
  • Or your students may be performing an experiment and collecting data for a class activity where time is a constraint.
  • Or students who need some additional structure or motivation to complete their work could set time goals to work, and then reward themselves with a break or fun activity afterwards.

Whatever the reason, there are many available tools to use as countdown timers. Below we are going to take a look at three great examples that are free, work well in a classroom, and use Google tools in one way or another.

See below for a short video demonstrating the tools, and read the rest of the blog post for additional details and links.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Google Sites for Schools

Google Sites is a great option for schools to design websites for classrooms, activities, sports, student projects, portfolios, or entire districts. These are many benefits to using Google Sites:

  • All web-based - edit from any device with Internet access.
  • Easy but powerful - Quickly set up a basic website, or design a very complex site.
  • Google integration - insert docs, forms, presentations, spreadsheets, images, videos, maps, and more.
  • Multiple sites - create as many sites as you wish.
  • Storage - 100GB for your domain. However you can also link in files from Drive and other services to avoid reaching this limit.
  • Public or private - make certain pages public or private, and choose who is allowed to see the private pages. Great for content that should only be accessed by staff or specific students.
  • Collaboration - Share edit rights with others, so other people can help edit and add to the site. Can be done on a per-page level to share edit rights with just certain people and for just certain pages on your site.

Because Google Sites is such a powerful web design tool, it can take a while to investigate all the options and master each of the features. To help with this I have been doing a series of one-hour webinars on using Google Sites for Schools. I now have three hours of video training available covering basic to advanced Google Sites use.

See below for each of the three recorded webinars, along with a brief outline of what each training covers. You will also find my detailed 26-page help guide on creating a Google Site for your classroom.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Create Greeting Cards with Google Drawings

Google Apps has loads of awesome tools, but one thing that often gets mentioned as missing is a desktop publishing app. If you want to create brochures, newsletters, flyers, greeting cards, and such, there really isn’t a dedicated desktop publishing app in the standard Google Apps suite. (Of course there are great third party tools, such as Lucidpress.)

However if you are willing to get a little creative, Google Drawings can actually be a decent 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 tasks you can certainly achieve with Google Drawings is creating greeting cards. This can be a useful project for students to work on their writing skills, while being able to develop their own creativity in how they express their ideas. They could create greeting cards for real people (penpals, reading buddies, parents, a partner class in a different culture or country, community members, and more,) Or they could create cards for fictional characters, people from history, or to celebrate important dates from your subject area.

See below for a video tutorial explaining how to use Google Drawings to create greeting cards, then read the rest of the post for more details and two templates you and your students can copy to begin the process.