Moving Existing Files to Google Drive – A Review

I’ve taught about Google Drive/Docs many times in person and virtually. Many teachers have decided to completely move all of their files to the cloud to store them and edit them via Google Drive. The idea of having access to your stuff from any device connected to the web is really appealing; coupled with the collaboration features that Docs offers.

As the school year comes to a close, you might be thinking that you’re ready to move files (upload) to Google Drive. We had several of our teachers asking for a reminder about how to do this, so I thought I’d make a quick tutorial that will walk you through the process. Something to keep in mind when doing this is if you want to be able to view the file via Google Drive or edit the file via Google Drive. Some of the verbiage I used in the video is specific to our teachers, but I decided to share it here on my blog too as I thought it might be helpful to others.

Enjoy!


The New Google+ Hangouts App & Extension for Chrome

This week Google rolled out the new version of Google+ along with a redo of Hangouts. If you want to read the full details be sure to check out this post over on the Google+ blog. The post also has the links that will take you to downloading the new Hangouts app/extension for Android, iOS, and Chrome.

I wanted to share a quick post that explains the app and extension that are specific to Chrome.

Video Call Launcher for Hangouts

screen-capture-2

This app from the Chrome Web Store is exactly what the title says; once you install the app and click it, you are taken straight into a new video Hangout session and can invite whomever you need to. I like this app because you don’t necessarily have to start from your Google+ home page to start a video hangout. Start a new tab, click the app icon, and you’re off and running.

Hangouts Extension

screen-capture-1Again, without having to head to your Google+ home page or your Gmail inbox first, you can jump right into your Hangout chats with this handy extension. It opens your Hangouts chat window in the lower right corner of your screen and you’re chatting away without leaving what you’re currently working on. You can tuck it away even lower in the bottom-right corner by minimizing it.

I’m really enjoying the new look and feel to Google+; especially the redesign of Hangouts. I have an iPhone and am also enjoying the iOS version of Hangouts too. Hangouts are a great way for us to connect our classrooms to learn and collaborate globally.


Google Docs for Administrators – 5 MORE Ideas

'google' photo (c) 2012, SEO - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Just barely over a year ago I wrote a post titled Google Docs for Administrators – 5 Ideas to Get Started. To date that post has been my most popular ever since I began blogging. So thank you to so many who have read it and shared it via various networks.

As the current school year has progressed, myself and the rest of our team have worked multiple times with administrators in our district on how they can use Google Apps. More specifically, Google Docs. Many of our administrators have made this a learning commitment for themselves so they can model effective use for their teachers. Major kudos to them for doing so!

I made a quick list of the ways we have seen administrators using Google Docs this year at their buildings so I thought I’d write this sequel to last year’s post to give you some more ideas to try. If you’re not an administrator, be sure to share this with him/her!

1. Master Scheduling

Spring is the time of year when all schools begin working on the building’s master schedule for the upcoming school year. From everything to planning periods to lunch to early release days. It all has to be scheduled well before next school year even begins. Google Docs is a great way to collaboratively build this schedule with your administrative team or your scheduling committee. I recently worked with an administrator doing this and it was all put together on a Google Spreadsheet. Each specific schedule had its own tab across the bottom. The planning team will be meeting to collaboratively edit the schedule(s) and then once it is finalized, it will be shared with the entire staff via a Google Docs link.

2. Grade Level/Department Collaboration

Our district has a late start day once per week to allow teachers and staff to collaborate in their PLCs (professional learning communities). During this time we have grade levels collaborating at the elementary level, and more specialized departments meeting in various places around the district. Many of the PLC teams this year have chosen to keep all of their collaboration topics, agendas, and minutes in Google Docs. This way the entire team has access to the information during PLC time and can easily access it after PLC time is over. Where administrators have loved this is how the notes, minutes, etc. that their teachers keep can quickly and easily be shared with them. For example, I helped one of our elementary principals set up a shared folder for each grade level and then shared those folders with the appropriate teachers. Teachers then were able to drop the necessary docs into the folder shared by the principal. The principal then was able to access everything and leave feedback and other comments directly on the document.

3. End of Year Fun

With the end of another school year approaching, many schools (around here at least) have either a school carnival or a school “field day”.  Again, while it is beginning to sound redundant, the collaborative component and anytime/anywhere access makes everything flow much more smoothly. Google Docs is a great way to organize events like this to multiple committees that include both teachers, parents, and other stakeholders from the community. Using Google Forms can also be a great way to get community involvement and support for events such as these.

4. Sharing Among Administrators

Given the busy schedule that many administrators have, their time to get together with other district administrators face-to-face is pretty limited. Collaboration and sharing in Google Docs can be a great supplement to the “facetime”.  Administrators can brainstorm ideas in a Google Doc or using a Google Drive app like Lucidchart they can create flowcharts and diagrams to collaboratively plan and share. Administrators like to be social and talk shop just like teachers do so Google Docs offers them another way to do this and learn from each other at the same time. Making updates to commonly used forms, ideas for assemblies, instructional technology implementations, PTA events, etc. all can be shared via Google Docs between administrators.

5. Inventories and other Record Keeping

So we all know that the amount of paperwork and record keeping  required of principals is enormous. This can be things like keeping an inventory of technology equipment, building expenditures, professional development, and behavior referrals just to name a few. Moving this kind of information to Google Docs (make sure this is acceptable with your district before replacing any existing forms) can make editing and sharing with other district leaders or office staff a breeze.

Administrators and teachers alike can sometimes be hesitant to move things to “the cloud”. It’s still a new way of working for many educators and educational leaders. Please don’t feel like you have to try multiple things at the same time. I’d definitely recommend not doing that! Pick one thing to transition to this new way of doing things and get really comfortable with it. Then add on something else. I’ve seen comfort levels gradually increase; (usually with some speed bumps along the way) which leads to increased usage, leading to sharing with others, leading to finding better ways of doing things.


10 Apps in 10 Minutes #chromebookedu

Recently my colleague Jill and I worked with some teachers during a PD day on finding great Chrome apps & extensions for learning. We thought we’d kick off the time together by picking 10 of our most favorite (picking only 10 is hard!) and sharing them with teachers in 10 minutes. We wanted to quickly get teachers excited about educational apps and extensions available to their students. We might have went just a tad over 10 minutes but nonetheless we kept it brief.

Here are the 10 we covered with a quick description as well as the link to the Chrome Web Store. I am also purposely keeping this post short so it takes 10 minutes or less to read. :)

1. Google Dictionary – a very handy extension to use in Chrome. Students can quickly look up the definition of a word by using the extension or directly; or double-clicking any word on a web page will bring up it’s definition and a sound icon to click and hear the pronunciation.

2. Pixlr Express – this app allows you to quickly and easily do some fun editing to any photos you have saved on your computer, in Google Drive, or even captured live via webcam. This is one of many apps that integrates easily with Google Drive.

3. Scratchpad – another app that works seamlessly with Drive. This one opens a new (smaller) window to give the user a basic note-taking application. The really nice feature is that a “Scratchpad” folder is automatically created in Google Drive with each note stored inside it.

4. Lucidchart for Education – students and teachers can quickly build diagrams, flowcharts, and concept maps with this web-based diagramming tool. Again, saves and syncs straight to Google Drive for easy access from any computer or to collaborate with a classmate.

5. Readability – this is an extension that strips all the extra “stuff” off of a news article or blog post. Many times advertisements and other links can be very distracting as students try to read content on the web (for teachers too!). The Readability extension gets rid of all those extra bits so you can focus on just the content.

6. Lego Builder- What kid (or adult) doesn’t love building with Legos? With the Lego Builder app you can build all kinds of fun structures. Students that love Minecraft will also find creating content enjoyable with this app too.

7. Isle of Tune – this is a great app for the musician in all of us. Create a town on your island and each element of your town has different musical properties.  Then as you send your cars driving around your newly built community your new tune will play.

8. MeeGenius – this is one of many great apps for younger grades to read and listen to online storybooks. Access a bookshelf full of the popular stories loved by many generations. Students can not only hear the book read to them but also see the words highlighted on the page as the story is read.

9. Typing Club – keyboarding skills and the necessity for students to have them are becoming more and more embedded in everything we do. Apps like Typing Club

10. Math Invaders – practicing math just got a lot more fun. Students can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a game-like format.

The great thing about installing apps in Chrome (whether on a Chromebook or not) is quick and easy. With everything in Chrome staying in sync to students’ Google accounts, access to these apps is easy no matter which Chromebook or computer a student is using that’s connected to the web.

These are just a sample of the great educational apps available in the Chrome Web Store. Be sure to take some time to check them out! If you have any other favorites please feel free to list them in the comments!


Going Beyond the Textbook

'box of medical textbooks' photo (c) 2007, Patrick - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

What is the role of the textbook in education today? What should the role of the textbook be in education today?  How do you envision a textbook of the future to function? What kinds of digital resources are most appealing to students? These are several questions that I would like your thoughts on.

My memories of textbooks go back to high school and college and not much before that. Some adjectives I would use to describe them are: static, heavy, and boring. Textbooks now have the capability to be so much more; especially with the vast amount of content that now exists on the web. We aren’t confined to a physical book any longer being the summation of knowledge on a topic. We are also at a place where we can easily interact with more than just the classmates and teacher in a physical space for 45 minutes a day.

I am fortunate to have been invited by the Discovery Education team to join them  for their 2nd Beyond the Textbook forum taking place March 27 and 28. The event will be at Discovery Communications global headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Over the course of the two days I will be meeting with Discovery Education team members, as well as collaborating with about 20 very smart educators from North America on shaping the future of digital resources. I am very honored to get to be there and excited to be part of these conversations. Discovery has some incredible resources out there for teachers and students and a big hat tip goes to them for their commitment to continually make them better.

So what would you share with the team at Discovery Education? What do you want this to look like for our students? Please feel free to post comments here or use the hashtag #BeyondTextbooks on Twitter to join the conversation.

I would greatly appreciate any comments you have about the future of digital resources.


Saturday Morning Social Media

As I drink coffee and check out my Twitter stream, Google Reader, Google+ Communities, etc., which is pretty typical for me to do on an early Saturday morning, I am reminded of the abundance of learning opportunities the web gives us on any given day. I know it’s there all the time whenever we need it, but this morning I caught so many glimpses of fellow educators learning in such a short amount of time, that it made me give extra pause for reflection.

In about a ten minute span of time, I observed the following:

1. Administrators and teachers participating in #satchat, which was happening live from the #NASSP13 conference.

2. A tweet from Steve Dembo sharing a great blog post and video titled, “Learning Through the Eyes of a Third Grader”.

3. Teachers gearing up for a day of face to face, free, relevant learning at #edcampSEMO.

4. Live streams being shared of speakers at various other conferences happening.

This is, of course, just a small sample of how the web now affords us with countless learning opportunities. We aren’t leveraging these more in school with students why? We aren’t counting this as just-in-time, relevant professional development why?

I have always liked Google’s tag line at the end of their videos: “The web is what you make of it.” It’s exciting to see so many teachers making it something worthwhile on a Saturday morning…and every other day of the week too.


For More Than a Grade

This post is cross-posted at the Smart Blog on Education.

My thoughts around this post started with this retweet:

Consumption vs. Contribution RT @baldy7: Digital Immigrants Unite! goo.gl/FMBQI lovely piece by @plugusin. #edchat

— Kyle Pace (@kylepace) January 20, 2013

While that entire post from Bill was great (all of Bill’s posts are and if you don’t follow his blog you should), it was probably this bit towards the end that led me to add my two cents at the beginning of that retweet:

It’s OUR job to help kids to realize how to leverage technology for something more than keeping themselves entertained.

Yes of course I want students (including my own two children) to realize technology’s potential for their lives beyond the entertainment value. For some time now I have said that students are much better at consuming via technology than creating via technology. We want the output to equal or exceed the input yes? But is it enough to have our students creating with technology just for a grade? Is that where we want their creativity to stop? A “one and done” style project that they never give a second glance to again?

Our students have the affordances to not only create, but also to contribute. Is it enough for students to create a presentation or to post to a blog or produce a video? What about having students make things (technology related or not) that contribute to the betterment of another human being? To their fellow students, or their community, or even the world? It’s happened before. Not that it’s always purposeful, but just think how things might not have changed had Martha not published her writing for a global audience. Or if a filmmaker named Nirvan hadn’t decided to introduce the world to Caine.

Not only does this make for a more challenging learning experience for our students, but also makes for a more challenging teaching experience for us teachers too. It means we have to look beyond having students make something for a grade. We have to look beyond the test. We have to change how we teach. Helping students become positive contributors, through whatever the medium, can give our students (and teachers) a much richer learning experience and much richer life experiences (in my opinion). Lifelong experiences that will carry into future grade levels, schools, communities, relationships, workplaces, etc.

While the following quote has been used many times in education circles, I feel it an appropriate reminder to all of us:

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~Mahatma Ghandi

There are so many places in our world we want to see change. Educators have the power to properly equip those that can. Shouldn’t we start with the people who will be taking us into the future?


6 Chrome Extensions for Students

Google Chrome has quickly become my browser of choice over the last year or so. It’s huge list of features and overall reliability speak for themselves. If you and your students are using Google Apps for Education and its accompanying Google products, you quickly find that everything just works better in Chrome.

One of the best features of Chrome is the ability for students to install apps and extensions from the Chrome Web Store.

As our team helps teachers this school year with Chromebook implementation, we have come across many apps and extension to share with staff. It seems to be one of the most popular features with teachers about the Chrome browser.

When I share with teachers about Chrome extensions, I tell teachers to think of them as enhancements to their web browsing. They put information at your finger tips quickly, help keep students more productive, and assist with information curation.

Here are some of my favorite Chrome extensions that are great for students:

todo To Do List

To Do List is a simple, yet effective way to have a running to do list right in your browser. This is great for students that need to keep track of upcoming assignments and other school events. There is a number badge displayed directly on the extension telling you how many items you have on your list. It’s easily to reorder the items on the to do list by dragging and dropping, highlight more important items by adding the pound sign (#) at the front, and switch between a few different color schemes to choose the look of your list.

googledictionary

Google Dictionary

There are a lot of extensions created by Googlers in the Chrome Web Store, but Google Dictionary has become a fast favorite for many teachers. Students often will need to be reminded of the definition of a word as soon as they read it while looking up information on the web. This extension is a great help. Students can click the extension, type in the word they need to look up, press enter and they’ve instantly got it without leaving the page they’re on. The feature I like the most about this extension though is the ability to double-click on any word in a piece of text and immediately see a pop up bubble with that word’s definition. Not only that, but students are also given an audio icon to click on to hear the word pronounced for them.

googledictionary2

readability

Readability

We all have seen articles and other online resources that are very cluttered with ads and other pieces of information that are irrelevant to the content we’re trying to focus on. The Readability extension greatly helps with this. I always use a CNN article as an example when I’m sharing this one with teachers. As soon as the article loads, click the Readability extension and you are presented with three options: Read Now, Read Later, and Send to Kindle. Students can click Read Now and Readability will convert the article by stripping off all of the extra information that is not needed and presents only the article and specific images associated with the article. This makes for a much more focused, eye appealing reading experience. If students want to take the extra step of creating a Readability account they can click Read Later to have the article saved to their account for easy access at a later time. If a student reads a lot of Kindle content, they can link up Readability to their Kindle for access later from another device.


readandwriteRead & Write for Google Docs

This is a great accessibility extension for students that need a little extra help with their writing. Once this extension has been installed, the only place it can be used is when a Google Doc is open for editing. The extension adds a purple tab at the top of the document that says Read & Write. The extension allows for students to instantly have read to them anything that they have typed on their document. Sometimes all students need is to hear what their piece of writing sounds like when read aloud to help with edits. There are also other features like a built-in dictionary, picture dictionary, and other study tools.

The developer of the extension has a nice video tutorial that demonstrates all the features. It’s about 6 minutes so definitely check it out:

savetodriveSave to Google Drive

If your students are already using Google Apps for Education, this new extension from Google will allow them to quickly and easily capture content from the web and save it directly to their Google Drive. Students are able to save a screen capture of the existing page being viewed, or specific items on that page (links, images, sound bytes) can be saved to Google Drive by right clicking on them and choosing the Save to Google Drive option. Another handy extension for students to help them curate content on the web.

shortenmeShorten Me

We all know that links on the web can get really long and not very neat looking. The Shorten Me extension helps with that if you need to email a link, post a link in a discussion or in a piece of writing or a presentation. When clicked, the Shorten Me extension automatically creates a shortened link of the web page currently being viewed using the http://goo.gl link shortener. Once it link is created it is automatically copied to your computer’s clipboard so it can be quickly pasted into an email or document. There is also an option with this extension to also have a QR code automatically generated for the link that can also be used to quickly get others to the link via their smart phone or tablet.

While I know there is no shortage of other great Chrome extensions for students these just happen to be a handful of my favorites. I always enjoy sharing these with teachers so they can share them with their students. They help us all to be a bit more productive and enhance our learning on the web.


How to Be Infectious

What does it mean to be infectious? I used my handy Google Dictionary extension for Chrome and this definition relates best to this post:

Likely to spread or influence others in a rapid manner.

My friend Adam Bellow uses the phrase “be infectious” often in his keynotes and other workshops. I did give Adam a heads up that I’d be using this in a post. While Adam doesn’t have the phrase “be infectious” trademarked, I still wanted him to know. Thanks Adam!

Have you ever been around someone who is infectious?  Someone who has an energy about them, who is ready to do whatever it takes for students, and is always willing to try to something new? It might be a new way of teaching the same old content, trying a new learning technology, or exploring a new style of professional development. They’re excited about it, and they want to share it with you; via whatever medium might be most comfortable for them.

But how did this person develop this infectious attitude towards teaching? What was the catalyst or inspiring moment that sent them on their way? I can think of lots of “infectious” teachers I’d like to pose these questions to. I’ve got some ideas about this and I wanted to share with you what I think is necessary to breed an infectious attitude.

Leadership

If we have leadership that’s infectious, it’s going to spread to teachers. It makes me think of the book Multipliers. If you’re an infectious leader, you strive to spread the excitement for learning; to spread the genius in your own people. This looks like a leader that’s excited about what they do, eager to try new things, and giving teachers the professional freedom to try new things. Which in turn builds more leaders among your staff. The cycle is an infectious one!

Check out this resource from NASSP called Practical Suggestions for Developing Leadership Capacity in Others.

Learning

We must be learners first, and teachers second. I’m not saying we should skirt our duty to our students because we’re supposed to be a learner first. It doesn’t mean be out of your classroom all the time either at this workshop or that workshop. It means simply to let your students and fellow teachers see you as a learner first. Have you ever taken the time to learn along side your students? To let them see that you don’t have all the answers? There’s power there. George Couros says it well in this post:

To be an effective teacher, you need to be passionate and active in your own learning first.

Which I believe leads to being an infectious teacher!

Failure

There has been much discussion about the importance of failing. Of course no one wants to fail, but a little bit of failure isn’t all bad. It helps us re-evaluate, refine, and redo our practices. We become better. It’s a notion we often don’t instill in our students either. Too frequently the mentality is, “Well I bombed that the first time out of the gate so there’s nothing more to do.” We can’t do this to ourselves as teachers and we certainly cannot let our students think this way.

Having failures and being better because of them and still succeeding despite them leads to being infectious.

This made me think about this recent post from Josh Stumpenhorst, Learning from Failure.

Share

Take a moment to stop and think about the last time you heard about something awesome happening at your school. It can even be something you heard about at another school via a blog post, Twitter, or at a conference or an edcamp. The point is, you heard about it because someone shared it. Sharing the great things happening with learning and teaching and professional development and general work to make learning better for students is so very important. We must share and share often. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn once in a while. Blog about it, tweet about it, tell your administrator about it, tell parents about it, lead a conversation at an edcamp about it. The point is that you share. Not only are you going to be infectious with your excitement about what you’re sharing, but you might also discover ways to make it even better the next time. More infectious attitude back on you! Double bonus!

I always encourage teachers I’m working with to share; even if it’s just writing down a paragraph of thoughts for me about something they were really successful with trying in their classroom. I had a teacher do this for me recently about the great things happening in her middle school language arts classroom with Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks. She emailed me so excited and her spirit was so infectious! I became so happy and excited for her and I can’t wait to hear about what she tries next.

I came across this recent interview with Ewan Mcintosh, whom I had the great pleasure of getting to hang out with a bit at ISTE last summer, and in it Ewan was asked the question, “What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?”. Here’s what Ewan said:

More sharing of what worked by every teacher who feels they’ve got something to share, and more reading of what worked by every teacher regardless of how good they think they are today.

This should remind all of us that sharing the great things happening leads to an infectious spirit which can lead to sustainable change for the better.

If you have any other ways we can create an infectious spirit in education, please share in the comments. So let’s spread all this awesome around, and let it effect all of us in a rapid manner. Be infectious!


Ways to Support Teachers with Google Apps for Education

As my district makes the push forward with Google Apps for Education this school year, the instructional technology support that our team offers to teachers is critical to its success. We start with professional development and continual support for district level leadership, then building level leadership, then to teachers, which we hope all trickles down to increased use with and by students. Gmail and Google Docs are our students two primary tools for communication, collaboration, and productivity; so increasing comfort level among all staff is crucial. Since our elementary students are 100% Google Docs for productivity, we knew it was imperative to reach all 19 of our elementary schools first. This began with professional development for our elementary principals and assistant principals back in the summer before teachers reported back to work.  We started with the basics of Google Docs. After principals had a strong understanding and new comfort level with Google Docs, they then began to contact our department for Google Docs PD for their teachers. I have always liked how our team does such a great job of offering varying learning opportunities for our staff. As principals invited us out this happened a few different ways:

-A faculty meeting either before or after school to address the entire faculty at one
-A day long rotation schedule to meet with teams of teachers during their plan time
-On a district professional development day

During these sessions, not only did we cover the ins and outs of how Google Docs works and its benefits, but we also provided several concrete examples of how Google Docs can be used for student projects and best practices for maximizing their workflow as well as student workflow. So, to this point in the school year, the 4 of us that make up our team, we’ve already reached all 19 of our elementary schools. This is awesome! However, what’s important now is that we continue to offer support to all of our teachers so they can effectively support their students. We have had many teachers contact us for additional learning on some of the other Google Apps for Education products such as Calendar, Sites, and Blogger since meeting with the staff initially about Google Docs. This can look like one-on-one appointments and some have also been collaborative meetings  during PLC time. This continued support that we offer is vital to maintain teacher comfort level which leads to effective use at the student level. Our department has also produced online resources for our teachers and administrators to access as well. This is another level of support that’s important to have in place when a phone call, email, or face to face option isn’t immediately available. Here are some examples of our online resources:

Resources for using Google apps in the classroom

Google Apps F.A.Q.

We have also begun providing video tutorials such as this one:

While that example is a simple one, it can be the “just in time” help a student or teacher needs. Implementing something big in your district like Google Apps for Education requires not only the proper infrastructure to handle the usage, but it also requires continual support that’s offered in multiple formats. For myself, I know I like having options of how to learn something; we should offer nothing less to our administrators, teachers, and students.

All of these ways I have shared about how we support teachers don’t have to happen right away. They probably shouldn’t. Choose how you’re going to support your teachers and get really good at one way before adding on another. What matters most is that the support is there, it’s happening often, and it’s always building on what was learned previously.

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
John C. Dana


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