A journey across the Googleverse

I am a huge fan of Google Apps for Education after many years as a staunch Microsoft Office user. No, it doesn’t mean I have left the Microsoft offerings behind completely

Image of a globe with Google App icons

Join me on a trip through the Googleverse. Image: CC Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported, Valentyna Sagan

but I am finding more and more I am looking to Google Drive solutions first.

Google Apps makes technology so much more accessible by doing away with the need for software licenses and heavy duty hardware. It also makes available powerful collaboration tools and makes sharing so easy. My perspective is education, particularly adult and secondary, but many of the ideas can be embraced in other environments, too.

Google Apps can help facilitate both differentiation and efficiency. Sure, there are limitations but Google are constantly evolving the platform. I’ll be honest, there are still times I turn to Microsoft PowerPoint in particular  but I am constantly surprised at how much can be accomplished within the Googleverse.

Here I hope to bring together practical tips and ideas, both my own and from others, to help you along with your Google Apps journey.

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Flip your classroom using G Suite for Education

One popular current trend in education is the concFlipped classrooms with G Suite for Educationept of the flipped classroom. The flipped classroom can be defined as:

… a pedagogical model in which the typical
lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7081.pdf

Below is an infographic with some tips on ‘how to flip a classroom’ along with potential benefits to flipping your classroom. Of course, G Suite for Education provides excellent technological tools to assist in blended learning and flipped classrooms. Some ideas:

  • Share content including video through Google Slides, Google Collections, Google Sites and Google Classroom
  • Evaluate learning using quizzes in Google Forms
  • Create learning communities using Google+ and Google Hangouts.

One of the advantages of using G Suite for Education to flip your classroom is its cross platform compatibility – whether iOS, Apple, Windows, Android, Linux, Chrome OS (and possibly dome others I may have missed!)

However, it is important to be conscious of the ‘digital divide’ – some students may not have access to the Internet at home which means they cannot prepare for class under a flipped model. An alternative is ‘flipping’ within the classroom. For examples, stations where students alternate between watching a video and taking a quizz online, a group discussion with their teacher,  applying new skills and knowledge and working on a longer-term project.

However you blend, the G Suite for Education toolkit is a terrific asset.

Here are some other posts that can help with blended learning ideas:

4 Google Apps tools to blend your classroom today: http://googleappsaction.com/?p=286

Creating mini-lessons using Google Slides in 6 easy steps: http://googleappsaction.com/?p=292

FlipClass_2b
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

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Create blank PDFs in Google Classroom

Another month and another handy fLearn how to create blank PDFs in Google Classroom for iOS and Androideature update in Google Classroom. This feature was first released for Android and is now also available for iOS. Students can create blank PDFs and submit them as part of an assignment in Google Classroom. Students can annotate their blank PDFs freehand using pen, marker and highlighter tools as well as a text tool. (At the time of writing, this feature was not available for the web/Chrome OS versions of Google Classroom).

There are many useful applications for these blank PDFs in Google Classroom. Students can now draw, draft or design directly within Google Classroom. The zoom in and out feature can make it easier for students with poor handwriting to write information (particularly useful for mathematics). Students can use either their fingers or a stylus.

The short video below show how the tool can be used from a student’s perspective.

 

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Google Classroom basics: cheat sheet for teachers

OnFREE Google Classroom basics: cheat sheet for teacherse of the most powerful features of G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education) is the Google Classroom app. Google Classroom is ONLY available with G Suite for Education. Google Classroom is also free and integrates beautifully with other Google apps such as Google Drive and Google Calendar. The mobile apps are also excellent and have the additional advantage of allowing annotation of documents.

There are previous posts specifically on the benefits and features of Google Classroom. You can access those here:

http://googleappsaction.com/?cat=38

Below is a link to a 4-page ‘cheat sheet’ created to get teachers up and running with Google Classroom quickly and without hassle. It is in Google Doc format so you will be able to create a copy for yourself and you can edit the copy if you wish. The cheat sheet can be accessed electronically or printed if preferred.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OG8Vf0M7hTcfHvQgZInbeFblIz6PGW5unp4e_nahUgU/edit?usp=sharing

To create a copy of the cheat sheet:

In order to edit the cheat sheet, you will need to make a copy to your own Google Drive.

  • Click on the link provide. It will be ‘View only’.
  • From the ‘File’ menu select ‘Make a copy…’
  • Follow the prompts to name and save your file

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Annotating documents in Google Classroom

As of August, 2016, in the mobile versions of the Google Classroom app (iOS and Android):

Teachers and students can draw on, highlight, and write notes on documents and PDFs in the Classroom mobile app

https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6149237?hl=en

This is a terrific feature that adds to the flexibility and usefulness of GoogleLearn how to annotate files in Google Classroom Classroom. Users can now annotate PDFs and Google Drive documents distributed via Google Classroom. How might this be used in your classroom?

  • Students can highlight and annotate their work for study purposes without the need to print it out, saving money and avoiding lost work.
  • Students can take photos and annotate them for the assignments.
  • Distribute digital interactive notebooks and worksheets.
  • For students with poor fine motor skills and difficulty hand writing, the annotation feature in Google Classroom allows them to zoom in and write in a big space rather than having to cram writing into smaller spaces which can sometimes happen with paper based activities.
  • Annotate with or without a stylus.

As other ideas come up, I will add them to the list. Feel free to share your own!

Below is a video tutorial outlining the features of annotations in Google Classroom from the student’s perspective. The document used is a Google Slides presentation.

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Data, charts and Sheets, oh my!

Google Charts video tutorial

Scroll down for video tutorial

Information and communications technology (ICT) skills are these days found across curriculum areas in education throughout the world. Much of the focus is on literacy based applications such as documents, presentations, etc. This is partly because these applications  tend to be much easier for educators and students to learn how to use.

The representation of numeric data using technology is sometimes overlooked in the classroom. There are many subject areas in K-12 education that benefit from the use of technology to represent data including:

  • mathematics
  • science
  • social studies
  • geography
  • design and technology
  • business, economics and commerce

Charts and graphs can be a powerful tool to visually represent numerical information.  For some educators and students, the idea of working with data is intimidating. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be.

Tools like Google Sheets, part of the Google Apps for Education and Google Drive suite of products, make it easy to create attractive, easy to read charts and graphs from your data.

The video tutorial below shows how quick and easy it is to create a chart in Google Sheets. The topic area is a social science subject, geography, and representing contributions to population changes across Australian States. And it all happens in just under 4 minutes:

Note:

At the time of writing, you will need to use the full, Chrome browser based version of Google Sheets in order to insert and edit charts. You can view them on the portable version of Google Sheets but you cannot insert or edit charts in these versions.

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Google Apps for Education and Universal Design for Learning

I recently had the opportunity to attend an excellent workshop presented by Leanne Woodley from AIS NSW on Universal GAfE and UDL: supporting inclusionDesign for Learning (UDL). UDL has inspired me to look at inclusion in a different way. It is a step beyond differentiation as it may be typically implemented which I discussed in the context of Google Classroom in a previous post.  Within the UDL framework learning is designed to be inclusive rather than making adjustments as an after thought.

According to National Centre on Universal Design for Learning:

Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl

Here is a short video giving an overview of UDL:

So where does Google Apps for Education fit in to all this? UDL does not require technology to be implemented. However, technology can be a very powerful tool. It embeds digital literacy into learning which is a relevant 21st century skill, with relevance being part of the UDL guidelines. For some students, it also allows them to use skills and technologies they are already comfortable with. Building on existing student knowledge is also within the UDL guidelines.

I am looking forward to implementing UDL within my classes. In the meantime, I have put together a table of three GAfE tools and how they may work to support UDL. I plan to add to this as my experience with UDL grows.

UDL & Google Apps for Education

Google Apps toolMultiple means of engagementMultiple means of representationMultiple means of action and expression
Google DriveEncourage students to collaborate on projects created in Google Drive.


Invite opportunities for self reflection using Google Forms.


Use comments feature to provide feedback that encourages perseverance, focuses on development of efficacy and self-awareness.

Use Google Forms to check for background knowledge.

Access Google Drive through choice of device.


Encourage planning using choice of Google Drive option and provide feedback through comments.


Assertive technologies that can be used with Google Drive include using mouth stylus on touch devices or option to use voice to text for typing.


Option to collate resources/ideas in Google Drive using 'Save to Drive' extension.
Google ClassroomClearly outline goals and objectives and encourage students to revisit these.


Encourage students to ask questions in the stream or privately.


Allow students to work at their pace.


Offer choices in how students engage e.g., PC, tablet, smart phone.


Provide varied sources of information.


Encourage active participation.


Option to use provided template(s).


Set assessments with option to complete at different levels of complexity.


Use announcements and email reminders to support predictability.


Provide resources in different formats, e.g., fact sheets, Prezi, YouTube video, podcast.


Use question and discussion feature to highlight 'big ideas'.


Use questions and discussions to clarify information.


Ensure access to pre-requisite/background information is available.

Accept evidence of learning in different formats including Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Drawings, scanned file, photos, audio and video.


Use discussion feature to assist focus and direction.


Google+ / HangoutsEncourage students to participate in discussions around the design of classroom activities and academic tasks using synchronous and asynchronous social media tools in the Google+ suite.


Encourage collaboration within small groups and the whole class.


Opportunities to communicate to real audiences.

Use Google Collections to represent ideas in different formats.


Present information/ideas using Google Hangouts On Air and allow students to access recorded session at any time.

Option to collate resources/ideas using Google Collections.

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4 Google Apps for Education essentials: one educator’s toolkit

Google Apps for Education (GAfE) has become part of my every day life as an educator. I use GAfE toolGoogle Apps for Education essentials - one educator's daily toolkit. http://googleappsaction.coms for both planned and spontaneous learning activities. Here I have listed 4 of my daily go-tos; tools that I use regularly as part of
my day as an educator.

In terms of what I have to work with, our IT infrastructure is reasonable, with technology available with planning but not available to the level of one-on-one or BYOD school. Sometimes it takes a bit of Macgyver-ing to get the desired result. It’s all about problem solving and working with what you’ve got.

I have excluded the ‘vanilla’, Chrome desktop accessible GaFE Apps from the essentials – I’m assuming they are a given. Also, essentials may vary from educator to educator depending on the infrastructure available to them.

1. Chromebooks

I’m not one to be ungrateful but, if there is one ‘I wish’ that I have, it is that I wish I had more Chromebooks available at ouchromebook-505728_960_720r school. These go from zero to productive in about 5 seconds and have an impressive battery life. Many students love them because they work so well with their Google Drive accounts and they don’t have to wait forever for an operating system to load.

I often walk around with one under my arm, ready to pop it open to help a student with an assessment or to look something up. If we’re logged into the Chromebook under my account, sharing with the student’s account is quick and painless.

Chromebooks quickly and easily plug in to a TV, data projector or IWB via HDMI to view a video, present a Google Slide show or review student work (with permission, of course!).

With the Chromebook Management License that allows admins to manage the devices in your GAfE domain, in theory it makes it easy to manage what users can and can’t access. However, just like many of these types of system management tools, it is not always 100% foolproof.

2. iPad Mini

This would probably work as well with a high end Android device.

My iPad Mini is like my right hand and the iOS Google Apps work beautifully on it. Sure, they might not have as many features as the ‘full’ versions but they are improving all the time. Just like the Chromebook, they have a fast (almost instant) start up and are very portable. And, just like the Chromebook, I use it opportunistically when I need to spontaneously help a student. It’s also easy to snap, upload and share photographs for project work.

I also take photos of student work (e.g., art work), upload it to Google Drive and share it with the student and anyone else that might need access. One example is a portfolio of work created by our vocational beauty class that has been saved to a folder in Google Drive.

My iPad has cellular and a reasonable amount of data so, if the WiFi is slow or down in class (one of the downsides to living in rural Australia), I can use it as a hotspot and keep on going.

For students that struggle with writing and typing, the iPad voice-to-text feature works brilliantly to allow students to ‘voice’ type directly into a Google Drive file. This can be empowering as students can work independently rather than relying on scribes or trying to avoid writing all together (as sometimes happens). Here is a video showing how it works:

Another great use of the iPad with Google Docs is for note taking, particularly during professional development sessions. I I usually use Google Docs and incorporate typed notes with photos of handouts, relevant slides, etc. It means all relevant information is stored neatly in one place and easily referred to in future.

3. Apple TV + iPad Mini

This would probably work as well with a high end Android device and a Chromecast.

My iPad Mini makes another appearance, this time teaming up with an Apple TV. This works particularly well with classes with ipad-718411_960_720learners who may be reluctant to work independently but work better where we ‘crowd source’ solutions; i.e., we discuss possible responses/answers together and type it up using the iPad, working in a Google Drive app (usually Docs or Slides) and mirroring to a TV or projector using the Apple TV with students copying it for themselves.

Often I start off as the typist/editor but, as we warm to our task, I find students are keen to volunteer to ‘drive’ the iPad. This is easily done by passing around the iPad. The other advantage is that the work is saved in Google Drive for students who may need to catch up or for future reference.

4. “Save to Google Drive” Chrome extension

This handy free Chrome extension allows you to save just about anything you have open in your Chrome browser to your Google Drive. It’s a great way to quickly and instantly save resources you have found, including PDFs, into your Google Drive. Once installed, you just click on the “Save to Google Drive” icon to save. Once saved to Google Drive, you can easily find the file, rename it, organise it, etc.

This has mixed reviews from users. Personally, I have found it reliable and easy to use. The trick for me is organising my files (especially renaming to something relevant) as I save then to Drive.

Download the “Save to Google Drive” Chrome extension from the Chrome Web Store using this link:

http://bit.ly/save2driveext

What are your Google Apps for Education essentials? Why not share in the comments!

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Google Drive freebies: fun, flexible templates

One thing I love as much as Google Apps for Education is freebies. And when those freebies are coGoogle Drive freebies - fun, flexible templates for the classroommbined with Google Apps – oh, happy days! I like freebies so much I’ve dedicated much of one of my Pinterest boards, The Thrifty Teacher, to free educational resources that are engaging and easy to use.

So I decided to create and share three flexible, fun and easy to use templates. I’ve used these type of templates in the past so I have put them together to offer both electronic and printable options. I always find this kind of flexibility helpful as it means I have options depending on my students and the environment we’ll be in. And sharing the files with you means you can adapt them to suit the needs of you and your class.

These templates were designed to be used with the full version of Google Slides. However, I have tried them with the latest version of the Google Slides app on the iPad and they seemed to work well.  I would expect the same would be the case with the Android apps. The mobile versions have the advantage of easily taking photos to add into the templates.

To use the templates, click on the links provided. This will open the document. From here, you will need to save the file to your Drive from the “File” menu so you can use it as want.

Fakebook status template

Inspired by Facebook, this authentic looking template allows students to create a “status” update and add an image.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1s9wa_d9VuSc_YblguKjBCfESHEx9ER7MzCBA1PJrdHM/edit?usp=sharing

Newspaper template

Create your own headlines with this newspaper template.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1dczUwblNGRHH3fuJfvHRrsgpCF1l0qflJoJHY6YH0ps

Text message template

This template allows for a short “text” exchange between, well, anyone you like! You can shrink or enlarge it based on your student needs and how you will be using it. Duplicate the slide to have an extended text exchange.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1X41FQhUKg0ggvlEwNHynuqmZM2YeQn3pO51RxN9UrDc

Side note: aaagghhh, Google Template Gallery!!

I tried to upload the templates to the Template Gallery. This has always been a hit-and-miss endeavour. This time it proved to be a…. miss! Hours after attempting to submit the templates to the Gallery, I am still being advised that my templates will be visible in the template gallery “in a moment”. Maybe they mean a Saturn moment 😉

So the links I have shared are directly from my Google Drive.

Applications for education

  • Suitable for most age groups and skill levels.
  • Can be used with many curriculum areas including History, Literature Studies, Creative Writing and Languages.
  • Customise the templates to suit your needs and the needs of your students.
  • For electronic versions of the documents, distribute using Classroom, Gmail or Google Drive.

More free Google Drive templates for educational use

http://googleappsaction.com/?p=174

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4 Google Apps tools to blend your classroom today!

Blended learning is not a new concept. It’s been around for a while. Better and more affordable softwarEasy blended learning with Google Appse solutions and improved internet access means more educational institutions are implementing blended learning solutions. Blended and elearning isn’t ‘good’ just because it is digital; it needs to meet student needs and learning goals.

Even on a budget and with limited resources, any educator can look at implementing some level of blended learning. Blended learning can help create a more individualised and flexible learning environment. Free Google Apps put blended learning solutions within everyone’s reach, whether or not you’re in a Google Apps for Education (GaFE) school. And you don’t need to be an IT expert to use them. You also don’t need to have the latest and greatest hardware and operating systems to use Google Apps.

Here I’ve collected four Google Apps that are easy for beginners to start using as part of a blended learn environment. I’ve included some ideas on how you can use them and links to resources to get you started.

But before that, maybe we should talk about…..

…what is blended learning, anyway?

1. Google Classroom

Only available as part of Google Apps for Education
Available on iOS, Android, Chromebook and full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)

Okay, this one might be a no-brainer but no discussion about Google Apps and blended learning would be complete without including Google Classroom.

Google Classroom is described as:

…a free web-based platform…[that] makes it easy to create classes, distribute assignments, communicate, and stay organized. Teachers can quickly see who has or hasn’t completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback and grades right in Classroom.

https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6020279?hl=en

Google Classroom is a very strong ally in creating a blended learning environment. As well as distributing, monitoring and marking assignments, you can share resources, post a quick question to the class and view results (great for checking understanding), and create and monitor discussions. The great thing is it allows you to share any clarifying questions or comments with the whole classroom.

Once you understand the basics, Google Classroom can be a useful tool to help you implement and manage differentiation.

It is very easy to create your first class and assignment and to have students join, especially if you have your class setup in Google Groups.

Look at the post Google Classroom Goodies for more on using Google Classroom – from the basics to pro tips.

How to access Google Classroom

Log into your GAfE account.

Go to the following website:

http://classroom.google.com

2. Google Sites

Available free with any Google account, including Google Apps for Education
Editing functionality best with full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)
View Google Sites on any device using Chrome Browser

As great as Google Classroom is, if you try and cram too much content in, it can become cluttered and unwieldy. If you want to share content, Google Sites is a great way to do it. It is easy to create a simple site even if you’ve never created a website before.

Google Sites is described as:

… a structured wiki- and Web page-creation tool… People can work together on a Site to add file attachments, information from other Google applications.

It is a great way to keep all relevant content related to a class in one place and makes it easy for students to stay up-to-date. You can easily organise different topics or modules into different ‘levels’ on your Google Site and develop it as you go. It also allows students to work at their own pace, provides opportunities for you as the teacher to include formative assessments and to easily make available extension tasks for students who need to be challenged.

As well as embedding other Google apps and YouTube videos, you can also embed other media into your Google Sites. I often include Prezis and Zaption videos, allowing me to use and curate existing content rather than having to create everything from scratch. You can also include the Google Classroom calendar on the site to help students keep track of due dates or a quiz using Google Forms.

Google Sites are also a great way for students to present evidence of learning and portfolios of work. Just like Google Drive apps, Google Sites can be collaborative.

And you don’t have to know anything about web design to use Google Sites. Try the Beginner’s guide to creating a site if you’d like some direction.

Not sure where to start? Create a page with a YouTube video and a Google Form with a few questions to check for understanding. Instant (well nearly) online mini-class!

Web design purists like to criticise the limitations and quirks of Google Sites but I have found no quicker or easier way to create websites as I need them.

How to access Google Sites

Login to your Google account.

Go to the following website:

http://sites.google.com

3. Google Slides

Available free with any Google account, including Google Apps for Education
Editing functionality best with full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)
Apps with fewer features available for iOS and Android

Ahhhh, Google Slides. One of my (almost) daily go-tos. So versatile, so easy to use and a great way to introduce blended learning practices.

Google describes Google Slides as:

… an online presentations app that allows you to show off your work in a visual way.

Google Slides can be used as part of a blended learning solution in several ways:

Google Slides can be embedded into a website or blog (like the one above in this post). They are easy to use and easily allow the insertion of links, videos, diagrams, etc.

Google Slides is part of the Google Drive suite.

4. Google Forms

Available free with any Google account, including Google Apps for Education
Editing functionality best with full Chrome browser (Windows, Linux, Mac)
View Google Forms on any device using Chrome Browser

Google Forms offer a lot of possibilities, from the basic to the complex. The great thing is you don’t have to be a guru to get started with Google Forms which is the reason I selected it as part of my easy-to-use blended tools list.

According to Google:

You can plan events, make a survey or poll, give students a quiz, or collect other information in an easy, streamlined way with Google Forms. You can create a form from Google Drive or from an existing spreadsheet that can record the responses to your form.

Google Forms is so easy to use that you could set up your first short quiz in 5 minutes even if you’ve never used Google Forms before. Your students answer the questions and these are saved in a Google Sheet for you to review the answers. If you are part of a GAfE school, you’ll now exactly who has (and hasn’t!) taken the quiz.

Take it to the next level and add images and YouTube videos and have students answer questions based on those.

You can even create self-grading quizzes with a free add-on called Flubaroo. Another use for Google Forms is creating branched learning scenarios where students are directed to, for example, a video or link depending on their quiz responses.

However you choose to use Google Forms, part of its power is that you can quickly and easily check student understanding, apply any required intervention and keep track of progress and student development.

Of course, this would be part of a wider blended learning and assessment process.

Google Forms is part of the Google Drive suite.

So what are you waiting for? There’s no excuse to not start blending today!

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Creating mini-lessons using Google Slides in 6 easy steps

Google Slides is one of my everyday go-to tools in Google Apps for Education (GAfE) and Create interactive mini lessons using Google Slides Google Drive. It is so versatile and easy to use. As an educator, it makes it easy to put together and distribute information and content. It is also a great app for students to show evidence of learning or to curate a portfolio.

One way to use Google Slides is to create mini-lessons that students can go through at their own pace. They are also useful in ‘flipped classrooms’ and other blended learning approaches.

Mini-lessons are presentations that contain content that students need to know and include some sort of navigation, like a menu, and, ideally, some sort of activity, like a quiz, for students to complete to check for understanding.

Below is a sample mini-lesson designed for illustrative purposes and below that are the 6 easy steps to creating your very own mini-lesson as well as a video tutorial. The content in this mini-lesson has been copied from Wikipedia (not recommended!)

6 Easy steps to create a mini-lesson

1. Create your Google Slides presentation

Login to Google Drive and create a new Google Slides presentation.

2. Write your content

Don’t forget to leave a menu slide so you can go back and create your menu links when you have completed your content.

As well as text, you can include images, videos and links to external content.

As this is intended as a mini-lesson designed to be consumed by an individual rather than a presentation, you can include a lot more text than you normally would in a presentation but be careful about making it look too crowded.

3. Create your menu

Once you have completed your content, go back to your blank menu page and add buttons for links to the different topics in your mini-lesson.

To make your buttons clickable go to:

Insert > Link… > Slides in this presentation > Select the slide to link to

See the video tutorial for a demonstration.

4. Add your “return to menu” button

Create your return to menu button using shapes or inserting an image into one of your content slides. Insert the link to your menu slide:

Insert > Link… > Slides in this presentation > Select the slide to link to

Copy your button to the other content slides

Note: ideally, you would add the return to menu button in the slide layout in slide master view. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, when you view the presentation normally, the link is not clickable.

See the video tutorial for a demonstration.

5. (optional) Add a link to the student activity

For example, this could be a link to a quiz created in a Google Form.

See the video tutorial for a demonstration.

6. Distribute your mini-lesson

Test your mini-lesson first to make sure all the links are doing the right thing.

There are different ways you can distribute your mini-lesson. These include:

  • Use the “Share” option to email a link recipients
  • Use the “Publish to the web” options to embed the presentation in, for example, a blog or Google Site

See the video tutorial for a demonstration.

Video tutorial: Creating interactive mini-lessons in Google Slides

 

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