Google Drive’s “One More Thing”

During FETC 2014 at the end of January/first of February, I had the opportunity to present a short session in the teaching theater at Google’s space in the exhibit hall. I chose to share about all the extra things Google Drive will do beyond what we know it to do – Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drawings (probably the first three more than anything). What most don’t notice is the option to click on that says, “Connect More Apps” when the Create button is clicked in Google Drive.

Google Drive has so much more to offer teachers and students than how it comes “out of the box”! We are talking about putting powerful web apps at our students’ disposal right from within Google Drive. Via the web and for free! Apps that edit photos, edit videos, create diagrams, dynamic presentations, and more. The beauty of these apps being connected to a student’s Google Drive is that the files save right into Google Drive. Some apps even automatically create a folder for you where the files are stored. These powerful web apps are now available to all students to access from any computer connected to the web.

Web-based programs accessible via the web isn’t necessarily new anymore, but I believe the integration with Google is a key component with as many schools that are “going Google” with Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks.

If you’d like to see some of my favorites check out the slides below!


Google Drive Workflows to Use with Students

driveOne of the most common questions teachers have had lately is regarding the best way to have students share work with them and vice-versa via Google Drive. In my opinion this is the best feature of Google Apps for Education; the ease of sharing and collaborating with your fellow teachers and students.  It really simplifies your workflow and we aren’t confined to emailing attachments back and forth or accessing items via a network drive that’s only accessible at school.

When you’re wanting to use Google Docs/Drive with students, figuring out which workflow works best for you is one of the biggest challenges. How to access something I want students to turn in to me? How do I put a file out there for my students to have access to? I wanted to share a couple ways that teachers in my district have been doing that. I know they aren’t the only ways it can be done but teachers have had a lot of success with them.

“Out of the box” Sharing

Teacher creates the folder and manages the sharing – The sharing features that are already built in to Google Drive are very handy. I’ve had some teachers that have found it useful to create a folder and then share that entire folder with their students. This gives students access to the folder, they can then move it to their “My Drive” work space, and can then place any necessary documents in that folder that they need to have access to. If you’re going to go this route I would recommend creating a class folder and then creating a folder for each student inside of that.  This brings up an important digital citizenship conversation at this point that needs to happen. At this point your students will be able to access each others’ folders. If this were to become an issue you would need to go to the sharing settings for each individual folder and take each student off except for the student whose folder it is. Then your students will see the class folder, and inside that they will only see their folder. This option can take a while depending on how many students you have but it’s a one-time setup at the start of a school year or each semester.

Student creates the folder and shares with you – This is the option that I usually suggest for students in grades 3 through 12. I would have the student create a folder and they share the folder with you. I would strongly encourage to create a standard naming convention you’d like all your students to use when they create the folder (ex. Name followed by 2013-14, hour 2, American History etc.). The teacher could even take it a step further and ask students to create more folders inside that folder (ex. subject folders or a folder called ‘work to turn in”, etc.). This option puts the student as the owner of the folder and it can easily become a digital portfolio of their work for that school year.

Google Scripts

Google Scripts is a part of Google Apps that I can always find something new to learn about. If you don’t know what Google Scripts are, they are additions you install on a Google Spreadsheet to create various automated functions.  One of those scripts is called gClassFolders; which is one of the most popular scripts out there for teachers to use.

Like I said before, a script is something you install on a Google Spreadsheet. So what a teacher would do is set up a normal Google Spreadsheet with all of their students’ information on it. This would be their email address, Name, class, hour, etc. Whatever identifying information you’d like to have for each student.  Then you will need to run the gClassFolders script. If you go to this spot on their site you can make a copy of their Google Spreadsheet that’s already ready to go or you can watch their video tutorial that explains how to install the script yourself.

So once you set up the spreadsheet and run the script, it automatically creates folders for you and all of your students with the appropriate sharing permissions applied. It looks something like this:

folders-with per

gClassFolders example from gclassfolders.com

As you can see above it automatically makes a folder for the subject, and inside that folder there are assignment folders for each student to turn in their work (private only to you and them), a place to put documents that the whole class can edit and a place to put documents that the whole class can view. There’s also a teacher folder that’s just for you. All the sharing and folder creation is done from one place (Google Spreadsheet) that you manage.

While I know these are the only ways to have a successful workflow in Google Drive, these have been very beneficial to many teachers. The first couple are usually what teachers start with once they have a good grasp on using Google Docs and then move to something like gClassFolders that’s a bit more advanced.

If you have any other favorite ways to manage student work please share them in the comments section!


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.


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.


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