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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Managing Multiple Google Accounts in Chrome

It is becoming more and more common for someone to have multiple Google accounts.

  • You have your personal Gmail account
  • Then you have your school Google Apps for Education account
  • Then you also have that Google account for the club/sport/organization you help run.

As a Google Education Trainer, I have lost count of how many accounts I have. Typically I have one, if not two, accounts for every school I work with, as well as dozens of accounts on the domains I run.

So the question is, how do you manage multiple Google accounts?

To make matters worse, there are actually several different options for handling multiple accounts in Chrome. Some are better suited for specific situations, while some are just better in general. How do you know which to use?

See below for options to manage your many Google accounts, when to use which method, and detailed directions on how do each.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

KISS and Tech Up

When it comes to technology integration we are often encouraged to think outside of the box, transform education, revolutionize the learning process, and aim for the stars. As noble and well-meaning as this is, sometimes it can have the unintended consequence of impeding the growth of educational technology in schools.

How is that possible?

This last year I had the privilege of working with several teachers over many months on technology integration projects. The plan was to explore SAMR, the 4 C’s, ISTE standards, and technology tools. Then the teachers would create a technology integrated activity for their students.

As we got closer to the date to develop and deliver the lesson, I got variations of the same concern from many of the teachers:

  • Is my project big enough?
  • Am I using enough technology tools?
  • Does this really revolutionize teaching and learning?

The teachers were stressing out that their lessons were not awesome enough to count as real technology integration. They felt intimidated and unsure and reluctant to move forward.

Seeing the problem, I tried to reassure them that they were fine. They just needed to embrace the philosophy of KISS. No, not the makeup-wearing rock band.  What I mean is the phrase “Keep it Simple, Stupid” (or “Sweetie” if you prefer to be nicer).

Read on to see why…

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Interactive Checklists in Google Docs

Checklists are a convenient and effective way to stay on track and get things done. For our students, checklists can be used in many ways to keep track of items such as:

  • Steps in a science experiment
  • Self-monitoring of behavior
  • Mastery of subject content and standards
  • Tasks when composing and editing their writing
  • Working through a math procedure
  • And many more…

Although paper checklists are convenient, when done electronically, checklists can be collaborative, edited as needed, accessed by multiple people, and hopefully not eaten by the dog.

There are certainly a lot of mobile apps, web extensions, and websites that provide checklist tools, such as Google Keep. However, for many years Google Docs did not offer a built-in option for an interactive checklist. There was a workaround where you could change the bullet style to a box and then do several steps to check a box, but it was a lot of hoops to jump through for a feature that should have just been a normal part of Docs.

Thankfully Google has now added a real interactive checklist feature to Docs! With this new checklist tool, when a user checks off an item, the corresponding text gets crossed off with strikethrough formatting. If you prefer not to have the text crossed off, I came up with a workaround for that. 

See below for a short 6-minute video and written directions on how to use the checklist tool in Docs with and without strikethrough.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Totally New Google Sites

Out of all the major Google tools, most people would agree that Google Sites has been the most overdue for an update. Yes, it is one of my favorite programs, and I have used it extensively to design websites, and I have created loads of training videos and guides for it (see here for details). Still though, when compared to most modern web design tools, Google Sites has fallen far behind its competition.

Google Sites actually started out its life as a product called JotSpot which Google purchased in 2006 and then finally released in 2008 as Google Sites. Over time Google has added new features to the underlying JotSpot code (such as the horizontal navigation bar) but the foundation was still a ten year old product with new options built on top. This prevented Sites from being able to act like newer web design tools with drag and drop editing, layouts that respond to mobile devices, and such.

Rather than another update, Sites needed to be rebuilt from the ground up.

And now it appears that is exactly what Google is doing! In a recent post on the Google Apps Updates blog, they have announced a “totally rebuilt” Google Sites is coming. This is fantastic news for schools, organizations, and individuals who need to create websites but were struggling with Sites lack of updates and modern features.

So what can we expect with the new Google Sites? And when can you get access to it? See below for all the details I have been able to collect on this new announcement.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

AutoCrat Version 3.0 Updates and Tutorial Video

For several years AutoCrat has been one of my favorite and most used Add-ons for Google Sheets. Just this week the latest version was released bringing new features, ease of use, and better performance.

If you are not familiar with AutoCrat it is tool that let’s you merge data from Google Sheets into Google Docs, PDFs, or even other Google Sheets. You can think of it like the Google version of mail merge in Microsoft Word, but a lot more awesome!

Common uses for AutoCrat include form letters, certificates, discipline reports, RTI forms, walk through documents, student schedules, and even “Madlib” stories.

My most common use is to generate certificates of completion for the webinars I create. After watching one of my 1-hour recorded webinars, you can take a short quiz to prove you watched the video. If you pass the quiz, then AutoCrat generates a PDF certificate of attendance to turn in to your school for one contact hour. As of the time of this writing (June 2016) it has generated over 3,000 certificates for my webinars, something I never would have been able to do if it were not automated.

If you have never used AutoCrat before, you should absolutely try it out. If you have experience with it, you will be excited to see all the new features. See the rest of the blog post below for an overview of what's new in version 3.0 and watch my detailed tutorial video on how to use AutoCrat for merging.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Why and How to Share Student Writing with the World

What motivates students to write? Better yet, what motivates them to rewrite and edit and work to improve what they have created? Certainly there are many factors that can encourage student ownership and pride in writing, but one of the most impactful is audience.

Think about your own life. Let’s say you need to send out a newsletter or give a speech or do a presentation. If you know there will only be a handful of people who are going to receive your memo or listen to you talk, you will do a good job, but perhaps not your absolute best. Life is busy and we are pulled in a dozen different way at any one time, so we do what needs to be done and quickly move on to the next pressing task.

But now let’s say your audience is different. That article you are writing is going to be published in a magazine or an online site read by tens of thousands of people. Or that presentation you are giving is the keynote and hundreds of attendees will be focused on you and your words. Oh yeah, and it is being recorded so anyone can watch the video in the future. Hmmmm. Do you spend a little more time writing, and tweaking your words, and revising the final product?

Of course you do. And the same is true for our students.

When your students write, who is their audience? Many times it is an audience of one. Just you. What they write is going to be read by their teacher, graded, handed back, and that’s it. End of story. How much motivation will our students have in such a situation? Just enough. Just enough to get the grade and satisfy the requirements of the assignment.

So how can we change this and help provide more motivation for our students to do the best they can when writing? One option is to provide them with a larger, more authentic audience. Technology gives us unprecedented tools for collaboration and communication. Instead of just writing for their teacher, students can be writing for the world.

  • Student work can go beyond the teacher’s desk to be shared with peers and experts from around the world. 
  • Instead of just the “red pen comments” of their teacher, students can get feedback from multiple people and perspectives. 
  • And with a larger, more authentic audience comes motivation to write and rewrite, to make their work as good as they can.

As Ruston Hurley says “When children create for the world they make it good. When children create only for their teacher they make it good enough.

See below for details on three ways you can use Google tools and other technology to help students share their writing with the world.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Extensions vs Web Apps vs Add-ons

The Google ecosystem provides a wide range of powerful programs to help you do pretty much anything you need. This includes browsing the web, typing a document, creating a slideshow, sending email, collecting data, and so much more.

However, even with all the features in their tools, Google knows they can’t do everything. There is probably some task you wish you could do, but can’t.

To help address this, Google allows third parties to create tools to extend the functions and features of Chrome, Docs, Sheet, Forms, and more. These tools come in three forms:

  • Chrome Extensions
  • Chrome Web Apps
  • Add-ons for Docs, Sheets, and Forms

At the most basic level, all three of these do the same thing. The are tools that help you do something in the Google ecosystem that normally you would not be able to do. They provide extended features, tools, and programs that Google did not build into their products by default (at least not yet).

Even though all three types of tools have that in common, they are still quite different in many other ways. A common question I hear from folks is:
"What’s the difference between an extension, a web app, and an add-on?”
To help answer this, I have put together a chart that compares and contrasts these three different types of tools. See the rest of the post below for this information as an infographic and a bulleted list.