Go green, go Google!

There are lots of things that need to be considered when a school or other educational Go green with Google Apps for Education and Linux operating system.institution considers ‘Going Google.’ Sure, Google Apps for Education is free but anyone who has had some involvement in technology understands the concept of ‘total cost of ownership’ and that free is not really free (and, sometimes, not even cost effective!)

There is lots of information about what you need to consider when look at implementing Google Apps for Edcuation including this comprehensive guide to going Google. In terms of hardware when working with notebooks or desktops, you don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest but you do need to keep your browser up-to-date (and preferably have Chrome installed).

What does that mean if you have a bunch of old computers with, for example, Windows XP installed? Now that Microsoft is no longer supporting the XP OS and Google will discontinue updating Chrome for XP at the end of 2015, do you need to give away your Google Apps dream until you can afford new hardware?

The answer is….no! If your hardware still works, and it has USB port, you can replace your old, tired Windows operating system with a shiny, new, FREE and fast Linux operating system that will work beautifully with Google Chrome and GAFE. Not only that, by increasing the useful life of your technology, you are reducing e-waste which is becoming a huge environmental problem.

As long as you have decent Internet access, doing the upgrade on a small scale is pretty straight forward. You don’t need to be too techy.

My Linux distribution of choice is Mint with the Cinnamon desktop. I need to download and install the Chrome web browser on top of that. It’s easy to set-up an admin account on the computer and a user account that does not require a password. Google Apps for Education works great on this set-up. I have installed it on notebooks and desktops of all types of brands, specs and ages. Linux Mint looks very similar to a Windows desktop. The great thing is you can create a USB boot disk and try it on a Windows computing before committing to an install.

Recommended specifications are for Linux Mint:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 20 GB hard drive
  • 1 GB RAM

Most computers that up to 10 years old should meet those specifications. Click here to find out more about Linux Mint and to download the OS.

If you have working computers with lower specifications, you might like to try the interesting Cr OS Linux. This is a lightweight Linux distribution that is similar to the Chrome Operating System (used on Chromebooks).

Want some more inspiration? Read about how a Spanish school ditched Microsoft for Linux operating system and ended up reducing costs and technical problems or how a teacher created a computer lab with $0 using Linux.

How green is my Google?

Combining older hardware with Google Apps for Education is a more ecologically friendly technology solution because:

  • you get more from your hardware, reducing e-waste
  • Google infrastructure uses 50% less energy than the average data centre, is carbon neutral, and meets certified environmental standards

Applications for Education

  • Linux OS + Google Apps for Education = reduced total cost of ownership (potentially, but do your homework!)
  • Easy to implement on a small scale
  • Longer life for older hardware
  • Can still install many Windows applications on Linux using Wine (but consider if you really need to)

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Differentiation without tears: Speech-to-text in Google Docs

Differentiation in the classroom can be challenging. In theory, technology shouDifferentiation without tears: speech to text in Google Docsld make it easier but that’s not always the case. I remember in the not-so-distant past struggling with expensive dictation software and an expensive head-set with a reluctant writer without great success. We were expected to spend hours to train the software to understand him and it felt like we were both getting no-where fast! Instead of empowered, he ended up frustrated and the situation ended up an assistive technology fail.

Fast forward five years and, now, all you need is an iPad and Google Docs (part of Google Drive/Google Apps for Education) and you’re set! No voice training required! No expensive headset! (Although I suspect using a microphone would work even better).

This video demonstrates how easy it is to dictate into Google Docs on the iPad using the built in speech recognition. I recorded it with a wicked cold and no headset connected to the iPad. See the results yourself:

 

Educational applications

Using voice command dictation on Android or iOS with Google Apps for Education is great for reluctant, struggling and non-writers, e.g., students who may be diagnosed with a learning disability, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD/ADHD, or those with physical or sensory disabilities that impact writing. Depending on student needs it can be an easily implemented assitive technology solution.

This allows for a strengths based approach to learning, focusing on what they can do (talk!) vs what they might not do as well.

For a list of voice commands for Android and iOS see:

http://www.howtogeek.com/177387/use-voice-dictation-to-save-time-on-android-iphone-and-ipad

For more on how Google Apps for Education can help facilitate differentiation in the classroom, click here to see an earlier post.

By the way, that reluctant writer became an excellent typist and, not only that, found out he was quite a talented story teller.

 

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

1-minute Google Drawings hack: refine your illustrations using edit points

A1-minute Google Drawings hack few weeks ago I shared this video demonstrating how anybody could create custom illustrations in Google Drawings without even a single artistic bone in your body. Tonight I was finalising an illustration of a motorbike leathers template to use with my class tomorrow. Some of the lines and curves were, well, a little wonky. I remembered I could use the Edit points tool to refine curves and lines of shapes.

As I started to do it, I thought, “Why not share a video on how to do it?” So… here it is!

By the way, the motorbike leathers template is for an integrated unit of study on motor bike safety (I have a lot of students interested in motorbikes!). Students will have the option to customise their leathers online via Google Classroom or they can use a printed version to draw/paint their customisations.

I love that, with Google Drawings, I can create my own resources to suit my purposes and then distribute them in hard copy, online or both.

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Does Google Apps for Education play nice with BYOD?

BYOD (bring your own device) is an emerging educational technology trend according to the NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition. BYOD initiatives open up a lot of opportunities and present some challenges. There are many reasons why a school would decide to implement a BYOD strategy and there is a considerable amount of work that is required to ensure the roll-out is successful. There is already a considerable amount of literature on BYOD best practice and case studies. Here I’ll specifically be looking at issues relating to BYOD and GAFE.

My school is yet to implement a BYOD initiative for students. Staff already utiDoes Google Apps for Education play nice with #BYOD? www.googleappsaction.comlise some of their own technology to supplement the technology made available by the school. I predict we will be looking at BYOD for students within the next 2 years. As a GAFE school, I like to experiment with different devices to see how well they work with the GAFE environment generally and Google Drive specifically. I find it works very well with:

  • Windows computers with the latest of Chrome
  • Linux computers with the latest version of Chrome
  • Apple computers with the latest version of Chrome
  • iOS devices (iPad/iPhone) with the latest version of both the operating system and the Google Drive apps
  • Android devices with the latest version of both the operating system and the Google Drive apps
  • Chromebooks (well, duh!)

Here are some stumbling blocks I have discovered with different devices (please let me know if you have a different experience with the below or have anything to add to the list):

  • Microsoft Surface tablets with Windows RT cannot have Google Chrome or Drive apps installed. You can access Google Drive through Internet Explorer but it is unreliable and can behave strangely
  • Microsoft Windows phones do not work with Google Drive. There are some third party apps but reviews indicate these are not productive
  • Android and iOS devices that cannot be upgraded can only have the last compatible Google Drive app installed. This means with these devices, at best, you can only view files, not create or edit them.
  • Google Chrome will be supported for Windows XP until the end of 2015. Do yourself a favour. If you are running a laptop with an old, unsupported version of Windows, download and install Linux Mint. I have installed it on older desktops and laptops and it has always worked beautifully with Google Chrome.

Should GAFE schools require students to have fully compatible technology? Not necessarily and it is not always realistic. There are no doubt many other issues that schools need to consider when looking at the possibility of implementing BYOD initiatives not least of all understanding what technology students can afford to provide. However, it is important to understand the limitations in order to plan accordingly.

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Google Drive templates – because sharing is caring

Another great feature of Google Drive is the template gallery. In a Google Apps for Google Drive templatesEducation (#gafe) or Google Apps for Business environment, you can choose to share any of your Drive creations (from the core apps) as templates within your own domain only or share them with the whole world.

That also means you have free templates available for use from around the world! Some are great and some are…well, it’s nice for people to share, anyway! Here I’m sharing some of my own templates and some templates that I have found useful. Download them, modify them, use them, enjoy them!

Social media image templates

These are templates I created to the correct image sizes (at the time of creation) to fit the respective social media platform requirements. Use for your own purposes or with students as class assignments to create ‘fake’ social media images (can be used with any subject).

Twitter image template: http://bit.ly/1I2acdX

Pinterest image template: http://bit.ly/1VheQik

Google Collections cover photo: http://bit.ly/1MBuPSn

Infographic template: http://bit.ly/1MdWSJC

Written project templates

These can be used across grade levels and subjects. I find a great way to distribute them to students in a GAFE environment is to save the template on my Drive and then use Google Classroom to distribute.

Basic interactive poster: http://bit.ly/1IbOskc

Picture book template: http://bit.ly/storybook123

Fake book (in the style of Facebook): http://bit.ly/1SvibpP (not one of mine but one both my students and I have enjoyed using)

Timeline: http://bit.ly/1RH3d4X (not one of mine, nice and simple and easy to use)

Presentation templates

Can be used for any type of presentation.

Index card, retro look: http://bit.ly/1Lksb68 (this one is created by Google)

Bold, minimalist designed for few words: http://bit.ly/1IbPAnR

Ancient stone: http://bit.ly/1CJENkC

Design templates

Design-a-cap template: http://bit.ly/1JueICZ (preview will only show part of the template)

Design-a-t-shirt template: http://bit.ly/1GyzDCG (preview will only show part of the template)

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

How future proof is Google Apps for Education?

Technology in general, and educational technology in particular, is evolving at a rapid rate. Every week it seems we hear about something that’s going to be the next big thing. And, along the way, we can end up with some expensive white elephants (I’m not naming anything here but I think you can think of at least one!)

Google Apps for Education seems to be going from strength to strength. Whilst maintaining consistency across core apps like Google Drive and Gmail, it is evolving with improved features and flexibility. One of the biggest advances in the last 12 months is Google Classroom which is a bit like a ‘lite’ version of an LMS.

I thought it might be useful to look at GAFE in light of current and future edtech trends and challenges as outlined in the NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition. I selected 10 of the areas listed in the report and gave GAFE a score out of 10 for each area, for a total score out of 100. My score for GAFE future proof score was 76%.

Okay, it was not an exact science, but I think the score indicated that GAFE has a pretty healthy outlook and is well worth hitching your wagon to!

Below is an infographic outlining my ‘report card’ and explaining my scores. I am happy to hear your thoughts!

A visual report card comparing GAFE future proof characteristics

GAFE future proof report card

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Mash-up madness using YouTube Creator Studio

Did you know you can create YouTube videos without recording a single thing? YouTube Creator Studio makes is easy to create your own video using other people’s content – and it’s all above board!! YouTube collects content that creators have indicated they are happy to share under a Creative Commons license. Using the Create > Video Editor options, you can then create your own mash-up of this content.

The tool itself is pretty easy to use but, as with most things, practice makes perfect. I’ve created a video tutorial (see below), to step you through the basics. You don’t need special software or plugins installed – it all works online. You’ll also find a handy cheat sheet here.

This is a great way for educators to create content. Better still, it’s a great way for students to create content and exploring the creation of digital texts. Young people are huge consumers of YouTube videos. A 2014 survey showed that YouTube starts were more popular with US teenagers than ‘mainstream’ celebrities. Not only that, being a YouTuber can be a legitimate career option.

Some students may be shy creating their own videos. YouTube Creator Studios means they can test the water without having to get in front of a camera! Perfect for students who may be a little camera shy.

Once created, you can further refine your video using the editing tools including adding annotations and applying enhancements. You can also go back to your project in the video editor and add or change the content.

Here are links to videos I have created using the Creator Studio editor and Creative Commons content:

The Eiffel Tower: facts figures and a bird’s eye view! (This is the video created as part of the tutorial)

Baby kangaroos doing cute things

Before you start….

  • Check age restrictions for using YouTube (these are different across the world by are generally minimum 13 years of age)
  • Check school policies to see if you need parent permission
  • Make sure your organisational firewall does not block YouTube
  • If you are using Google Apps for Education (GAFE), make sure your students can access Google+/YouTube
  • Explicitly teach appropriate online behaviour, including protecting students’ privacy
  • Decide if you want the videos to be public (anyone can find them online) or unlisted (you can share the videos via links)
  • At the time of writing, I don’t think this is available on mobile platforms. It works fine on Windows, Mac, Linux and, yes!, Chromebooks.

Tips and hints

  • You can’t record narration with the editor (annoying!) You do have the option of downloading video, where you can than record narration using your computer, and then re-uploading the video. This is a little cumbersome so I would say it was more advanced. In some ways, the limitations are good because they force you to be creative!
  • It can be easy to waste time endlessly clicking through content to find the perfect video. Set time limits and model effective search and editing techniques to help avoid this.
  • You can assign projects to groups or individuals, depending on available equipment.

Applications for education

  • Create video mini-documentaries instead of reports, essays, presentations, etc.
  • Get creative and create a fictional short-film.
  • Have a mini-movie festival smack down! Decide on a theme and give each team 20 minutes to create a 30 to 60 second movie. Then have fun showing all the finished projects.
  • As well as the obvious literacy and digital skills, this is great for developing skills for working with time.
  • (For Australian vocational contexts) Great for creating digital texts as part of General Certificate in Education for Adults (CGEA) qualifications.

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Collaborating for success with Google Apps

One of the great things about the Google Drive apps is how well the collaboration features have been integrated into the software. You can just share a document, login and go. I haven’t made extensive use of Google Drive’s collaborative features but I have tried them on occasion in both adult and high school education settings and it has been successful (after students get over the initial flip out of seeing someone edit a document at the same time as them!)

The activities that I have encouraged collaboration via Google Drive have been fairly structured which may be one reason why they worked well. This week, I saw this post by April Smith that got me thinking I should be encouraging MORE collaboration, perhaps using LESS STRUCTURED activities. The post suggested collaboration could be more successful if a clear and simple framework was provided to students about what effective collaboration looks like.

Using April’s idea, I created the following poster to briefly outline what collaboration success might look like. (This was created using Google Draw – click on the image and it will take you to the document on Google Drive where you can choose to create a copy for yourself and edit as you like).

I also created the below Google Slides presentation to help flesh out the ideas in the poster and also to capture the specific functionality available in Google Apps to facilitate successful collaboration. Once again, if you would like to copy and adapt the presentation for your own use, I have shared it with you. Just click on the little cog icon near the presentation navigation, select Open Editor and it will take you to Google Slides where you can make a copy of the presentation for yourself.

Applications for education

  • Discuss the framework in the poster and the presentation with students before embarking on a project requiring collaboration using Google Apps.
  • Delete the detailed information in the presentation and brainstorm with students how they can use interpersonal skills and Google Apps for Education tools to collaborate effectively. They might come up with even better ideas!
  • Make sure students know where to find and how the use the GAFE tools for collaboration.
  • Don’t forget the importance of modelling; collaborate WITH students to show them how it’s done!

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Responsive elearning made easy using Google Forms

Google Forms is an incredibly versatile and powerful tool. Google Forms has made it simple (not to mention free!) for anyone to create a simple, online form. These days, surveys created in Google Forms are almost ubiquitous, used by individuals and big companies alike.

Over time, Google Forms have improved and evolved. Now you can add videos and images. You can even set-up a form to go to particular sections based on responses provided. And that’s where the branched elearning scenarios come in to it.

A branched scenario throws up a challenge to the student and gives the student choices. This leads to consequences based on the choices made. These ‘3cs of scenario building’ are outlined in the below illustration and explained in the video at the end. Google Forms lets you build these scenarios by moving users through the form based on their responses rather than in a straight line.

Branched scenario

Is Google Forms the most elegant and sophisticated of the elearning scenario building tools? Well, no, but it’s easy to use and quick to learn and the price for Google Apps for Education users is perfect (free!)

Tips and tricks

  • Mathematical concepts can be hard to express properly in Google Forms (as per my example in the video). In hindsight, I should have created the 3 different options in a drawing and cross referenced them in the question.
  • Plan out out scenario and organise all your media (images, video, text, etc) before putting it to together in Google Forms. It will make the process quicker and more efficient.
  • Make sure you test your form before you unleash it (even get a friend to test it for you). You want to make sure your branching works or you could create confusion.
  • Responses will be saved to a Google Spreadsheet. In a GAFE domain, students can login and you can check using the responses spreadsheet how they went, how long it took, etc.

Applications for education

Branched scenarios are great for checking students’ skills and knowledge. You can provide instant feedback, as well as instant support if there is a skills or knowledge gap.

To find out more and see step-by-step how to set up a branched scenario in Google Forms, watch the video below.

References

http://blogs.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/build-branched-e-learning-scenarios-in-three-simple-steps/

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Spinnin’ around with Google Photo Sphere

No more 2-D photos in digital school projects! With Photo Sphere, students can embed three dimensional ‘tours’ of places or even create their own (warning, there are privacy considerations if students create their own – more on this below).

Imagine: exploring underwater at the Great Barrier Reef or the surreal experience of being surrounded by a spectacular expanse of ancient baobab trees in Madagascar. These virtual mini-excursions are available through the Google Views community (part of Google Maps)  and made possible with Photo Sphere.

What is Photo Sphere?

Photo Sphere: 360° panoramic images

Up, down, and all around. Create immersive 360 degree photo spheres, just like you see in Street View.

Photospheres can be created on Android devices with compatible camera apps and on iOS devices (although an iPhone app, you can install it on an iPad but I suspect you would get better results on the iPhone).

Once you create your photosphere you can:

  • publish it to Google Maps and Views (there is an approval process and you will be notified once your sphere is approved)
  • share it with selected circles on Google+ (or share it publicly)
  • share it on Facebook
  • once it’s published to Google Maps, embed it in a website, blog, etc
  • save to Google Drive (I suspect this is an Android option as I can’t find it on iOS)

Below is a sphere I created on a recent excursion to Goonoo Forest in Dubbo, NSW, Australia. This was part of a wider investigation of the native Malleefowl whose numbers are in critical decline locally.

How I would improve for next time

  • Keep the camera closer to me
  • Make sure no people get caught in the shot (can you see the part ghost person)
  • Use my iPhone instead of iPad

Applications for education

If privacy is an issue:

  • For older students, where Google+ is enabled in Google Apps for Education, have the students share their own photosphere to limited circles with explanation, narrative, etc
  • Teacher publishes student created photosphere to Google Maps and Views
  • (Once published) As a class, create a title and description for the photosphere in Google Views
  • (Once published) Students embed photosphere in their own project (e.g., Google Sites or Blogger) with limited access within a Google Apps for Education domain (e.g., class only) and adds their own commentary, narrative, etc

If privacy is not an issue*:

  • Have students create and publish their own photospheres and, once published, create their own title and description in Google Views
  • Share on Google+ (either within a GAFE domain or across wider circles)
  • Embed in blog or website.

Here is post from Justin K. Reeves with another idea on how to use Photo Sphere in the classroom:

http://blog.wsd.net/jreeve/google-cardboard-and-photospheres/

* Of course, students should have a good understanding of digital citizenship and follow principles on how to stay safe online. E.g., maybe have a discussion about why you would not create and publish a photospehere of your own bedroom.

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!