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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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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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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6 tips for creating student made ebooks in Google Apps

I have long been a fan of the ebook and have often created and distributed them to support my training and teachingLearning how to self-publish ebooks in Google Slides - googleappsaction.com activities. I have also at different times published and sold ebooks (look me up on the iBooks store!). Google Apps for Education makes it easy for both students and teachers to create attractive ebooks that can be shared in a number of formats.

Here are 6 tips to help you (or your class) create your first ebook using Google Apps for Education. These techniques are just as useful to anyone looking to self-publish an ebook, including general users of the free Google Drive and Google Apps for Work users.

1. Why create ebooks, anyway?

Ebooks can fulfil a number of purposes including:

  1. Creating an eportfolio of a student’s work (or a number of students’ work).
  2. Using students to ‘crowd source’ the creation of resources and text books, created for the target audience by the target audience.
  3. Can be used by students of all ability levels.
  4. Developing relevant 21st century skills.
  5. Easily show evidence of learning to a wide audience (including parents) in an environmentally friendly way.
  6. Create your own text books and resources that you can easily update and distribute.

2. What app should I use?

The app that will provide you with maximum flexibility in terms of presentation and layout is Google Slides, particularly if you are combining text and images.

This is not the perfect book publishing solution but allows for a lot of flexibility and creativity without a steep learning curve.

3. What size should my ebook be?

There is no ‘standard’ ebook size. It’s probably a good idea, though, to set-up the pages in portrait orientation and in you standard printer size, i.e., A4 or Letter depending on what part of the world you are in.

Paper sizeDimensions (cm)Dimensions (inches)
A421 x 29.78.3 x 11.7
Letter21.59 x 27.948.5 x 11

Here is a short tutorial showing you how to change the page size in Google Slides.

4. How can I make sure my ebook looks good?

Do your homework. Investigate websites, books, ebooks, posters, etc, that you like the look of and use them as inspiration for your style, fonts and layouts.

There are also lots of online tools to help you select colour schemes that look good together and even give you the hexadecimal colour code to be able to put in your colour choosers in Google Slides.

Whilst you can have multiple page layouts within your ebook (for example, 1 large picture, 1 large column text, 2 smaller pictures with 2 even columns of text, 1 smaller picture with 2 uneven columns of text, etc) use the same basic elements throughout:

  • 1 font style for page headings
  • 1 font style for subheadings
  • 1 font style for your body text
  • 3 to 5 colours for your colour scheme
  • Make sure your inside covers are blank and you have the ‘half page title‘ to make your book look authentic.

Below is a video on how to easily create page layouts for your ebook in Google Slides (note: all images used are either my own photos or public domain imaged from Pixabay):

5. What platform should I use to create my ebook?

Although you can create your ebook on mobile versions of Google Slides (e.g., iPads or Android tablets) you will get the most flexibility and creativity using the full version through Google Chrome (e.g., Windows, Linux, Mac and Chromebook).

That doesn’t mean you can’t ‘mix and match’ devices. For example, do most of your editing using a Windows computer but use the iPad version to take photos and add them straight into the pages of your ebook.

6. In what format should I distribute my ebook?

The great thing is, you don’t have to stick to just one format!

  • Share the actual Google Slides file (view only)
  • Embed the Google Slides file into a website or blog (File > Publish to the web… > Embed)
  • Save the file as a PDF to easily view on most devices and platforms (File > Download as > PDF document)

PDF results in the most attractive ebook (I don’t know why, try it for yourself and see!) and, depending on the size, can be emailed or made available to download from a website or blog.

More resources

Student-Made E-Books: A Beautiful Way to Demonstrate Learning:

http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/student-e-books/

How to Create an Ebook with Google Slides:

http://www.shakeuplearning.com/blog/how-to-create-an-ebook-with-google-slides/

Free, high quality public domain images:

https://pixabay.com/

 

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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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Google My Maps & Sites unite!

Google Sites and Google My Maps unite!
Google Sites make it simple to create a website. Yes, Google Sites may be a little limited but that also means it makes it easy to use. One plus is how easily Google Sites integrates with Google Drive. Google My Maps, one of the newer members of the Google Apps and Google Apps for Education (GAFE) family, is no exception.

Below is a short video tutorial showing how to embed a Google My Map from Google Drive into a Google Site.

Applications for education

Google Sites allow you to draw from different types of media and documents as well as interactive elements. Schools are using it for:

  • flipping classrooms by putting content online
  • student portfolios
  • collaboration
  • student projects
  • communication with the wider school community

Google My Maps is another way of developing the richness of Google Sites.

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Google My Maps rules!

Recently, I had the privilege of presenting a school project at the AIS NSW STEM Symposium with two Google My Maps, more than just geography!of my wonderful Year 10 students at the University of NSW in Sydney. Our project is called ‘Journeys through Wombool’. This project is an interactive map of our local river incorporating cultural, historical, geographical and ecological perspectives. It links to Australian and NSW Stage 5 curriculum outcomes in Science, Geography and History.

Originally I was planning to use augmented reality to place virtual Easter eggs in different locations. Unfortunately, the technology seemed buggy and difficult to access and the conventions of geo-caching and geo-tagging did not seem to support what I was hoping we could do.

Luckily, Google introduced My Maps to the Drive apps. Problem solved! As a Google Apps for Education school, My Maps was easy to access and for students and staff to collaborate on a single project. My Maps allowed us to incorporate information and multimedia and attach it to a geographical location. We could do this by roughly finding a location on the map or by using exact coordinates when we had them. The technology was simple to use, freeing us to concentrate on the content and exploration.

The presentation below gives an overview of the project:

I hope that our students can continue to add to the map over coming years as we explore more of the Macquarie River. One delegate at the Symposium suggested we create an ‘open’ version for the whole community. An idea worth exploring…

Below is our project. Click on a point on the map for information and media. One of my favourite elements is the Tracker Riley Bike Track: Soundscape.

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Google Classroom goodies!!

I have dabbled with Google Classroom and am keen to do more witGoogle Classroom goodies: hints, tips, how-tos and tutorial for using Google Classroomh it, especially will the on-going feature improvements. There is a lot of information out there about how to use Google Classroom, from basics to more advanced management, and I thought it may be useful to bring some of this information together in one post. Whether you’re thinking about using Classroom for the first time, introducing it to others or have been using it regularly, you should find something useful in this collection.

So here you will find tutorials on the basics, updates on features and tips on how to make the most of Google Classroom, especially as new features are added.

This particular post will be evolving as I discover new resources and information. These are all resources I have found personally useful. Please note: Google Classroom is regularly being updated. There may be some information that is slightly out-of-date at times.

First things first – Why Google Classroom?

Quick overview of Google Classroom

Detailed “how-tos” and tutorials

Getting started with Google Classroom: teacher and student perspective

This excellent presentation takes you step-by-step through the basics and also gives you a glimpse of what your students will see:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1NhdSF5n0EP8mxM3kicnVrxbUNjt-vNy273ltuxXl2_U/edit#slide=id.g6596e445c_70_102

Everything You Need To Know In Google Classroom

This series by The Gooroo will sure to prove an excellent resource. I will add the links as each part comes out.

Everything You Need To Know In Google Classroom Part 1:

https://www.thegooru.com/everything-you-need-to-know-in-google-classroom-part-1/

Everything You Need To Know In Google Classroom Part 2:

https://www.thegooru.com/everything-you-need-to-know-in-google-classroom-part-2/

Everything You Need To Know In Google Classroom Part 3:

https://www.thegooru.com/everything-you-need-to-know-in-google-classroom-part-3/

Tips, tricks and updates

Google’s official Classroom feature update list:

https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6149237?hl=en&ref_topic=6020277

Attach Forms and view responses in Google Classroom:

https://www.synergyse.com/blog/attach-forms-and-view-responses-in-google-classroom/

Moodle vs Google Classroom:

http://wazmac.com/discussion/moodle-v-google-classroom/

Google Classroom – Reuse a previous post:

(15/04/2016) 23 awesome apps that integrate with Google Classroom:

http://www.shakeuplearning.com/blog/20-awesome-apps-that-integrate-with-google-classroom/?utm_content=buffer767b2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest.com&utm_campaign=buffer

(18/12/2016) How to create a custom header for your Google Classroom using Google Drawing:

Create a Google Classroom Custom Header with Google Drawings

 

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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)

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