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!

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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/

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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.

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Illustrate in Google Drawings even without a single artistic bone in your body

A picture tells a thousand words and, with the Internet, we have access to almost limitless numbers of images. However, knowing how, if and when an image can be legally used in your project can be dicey. It’s even trickier for educators who have the responsibility of educating students about copyright and responsible digital citizenship.

Of course, there are legally free images available through Creative Commons and in the public domain but quality can be variable and, like the song says, you can’t always get what you want.

The solution? Create your own images!

Okay I hear you… you can’t afford hundreds of dollars of software, the steep learning curve this software often requires and you might think you’re not artistic.

Have you tried Google Drawings? It’s part of Google Drive / Google Apps for Education. It’s:

  • Free for GAFE and the general public (low cost subscription for Google Apps for Business)
  • Easy to use and learn

Okay, so you won’t become a graphic artist but you can start by creating simple silhouette illustrations you can use in your other Google Drive projects (or anywhere else for that matter). If you can Google a picture and click a mouse, you can create your own silhouette-style illustrations in Google Drawings. Full disclosure: the mouse clicking might take a little practise to get quick and accurate (you’ll know what I mean once you get started).

Not sure how to start? This video tutorial shows you how you can get started creating your own illustrations in Google Drawings even if you don’t have a single artistic bone in your body.

 

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