QR code fun with Google Chrome

What are QR codes & why should you care?

QR code is short for ‘quick response’ code. It is a type of bar code that can be scanned by a smartphone or Scanning QR codes using Google Chrome on iOStablet that has the required app installed needed to interpret the QR code. QR codes are being used for:

  • manufacturing
  • tracking items
  • promotions and advertising
  • product labelling

QR codes in education have been on the fringes of ’emerging’ technology for a while. There are some educators who swear by them and use them in interesting ways to create engaging and effective learning experiences. Now, Google have added a feature to the Chrome app on iOS allowing users to scan QR codes without needing an extra app! This is great for users of G Suite for Education and educators operating in a locked down tech environment that does not allow you to add apps to iPads or iPods.

The great news is QR code technology and ideas are not hard to understand and there are plenty of resources and ideas to have you up and running today. All you need is an iPad, iPod or iPhone and an updated version of Chrome (plus a teeny pit of prep/printing).

Note: other operating systems can also scan QR codes but you will need a separate app that will scan the code.

Using QR codes in the classroom

The good news is many educators have shared their ideas and resources on using QR codes in the classroom so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Below is a Pinterest board of resources to get you started.

One of my favourite QR code activities is the scavenger hunt. It can be used across many subject areas and gets students up and moving.

Scanning QR codes using Google Chrome (iOS)

If you have an up-to-date version of the Chrome app on your iOS device (iPad, iPod or iPhone) you have everything you need to start scanning QR codes – no separate apps needed.

There are 2 ways of accessing the QR code scanning feature in Chrome:

  • 3D touch of the Chrome icon (newer devices)
  • Using spotlight search and searching for ‘QR’

The short video below takes you through step-by-step on using both of these methods.

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More Google Apps magic on more platforms

As the Google Drive and Google Apps for Education (GAfE) suites have matured, so have the available compatible apps across mobile platforms. This means you can do more on-the-go and using whatever device available than ever before. It also puts the power of GAfE in the hands of more people as they can be accessed on devices across many price points. And, of course, the More Google Apps magic on more platformsapps are free.

It is important to note that not all ‘smart’ devices can access Google Apps effectively – read the post Does Google Apps for Education play nice with BYOD? for more on this. It also has ideas on how to breathe new life into old technology.

Also, the mobile apps tend not to have all the features of the browser based versions; this can be an advantage. Fewer features can sometimes mean greater productivity, particularly for people distracted by ‘bells and whistles’ like hundreds of fonts (yep, that’s me!). You can potentially use the desktop versions through the Chrome mobile browser but I have personally found this to be a frustrating experience.

Sometimes, the mobile versions liberate you to do things that are difficult on a desktop or laptop. Have a look at the post Create a comic in 3 minutes or less with Google Slides (with bonus puppies!) for one idea using Slides on an iPad.

Below is a quick reference table for many Google Apps across devices. It has already changed from when I first put it together as the mobile apps have improved. Some of the mobile apps are closer to their browser based counterparts than others. You will need to do more research to find out specifically what won’t work on the mobile apps. (I tried to find the definitive Google list but I was unable to).

The great thing is most apps retain their collaborative and commenting ability.

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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.

 

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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.

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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)

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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

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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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