FREE Google Drive templates: writing journals

One of the most popular posts on this blog in one which shared a number of free Google Drive templates. Clearly, many educators around the world are lookiFREE Google Drive writing journal templateng for easy-to-use and flexible resources to use in the Google classroom. So I thought to myself – why not offer more free templates!?!

I did a search on Teachers Pay Teachers to see what the best sellers were. Many were around reading and writing. Whilst I wouldn’t claim that the freebie I created is of the same rigour or quality as those best sellers, I thought a writing journal with picture prompts would be a handy resource for many educators using Google Drive.

There is both a blank template and a template with picture prompts. These have been created using Google Slides because of the flexibility of the layout options.

The links below to the templates are VIEW ONLY. This means you will need to create a copy IN YOUR OWN GOOGLE DRIVE to be able to edit the file and share the file with your students. To do this use the following menu path:

File > Make a copy…

FREE Google Slides writing journal template with picture prompts:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1nPbXAvzE0FM5NS_YWV1P5oM_2a_ettoYG3bNpajlz_E

FREE Google Slides writing journal template with blank layouts:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Hivyjx7bRqPnFyOnUsGLEHakzVkc-63pNimr9tSSUiE

These templates are in US Letter size as the overwhelming majority of users of my other templates are based in the USA. This does not mean they cannot be printed on A4 paper as most printers do a good job of scaling between US Letter and A4. It is based on the ebook template I created a while ago – click here to find out more about using Google Slides to create ebooks and to get the template.

How to use the writing journal in your classroom

You can be as structured as you like when using the writing journal. However, depending on your students, it may be helpful to just allow students to write without too many restrictions and conditions. Sometimes, too many rules can discourage students.

  • Use the Doctopus add-in to create a copy of the picture prompt writing journal for each student and have regular free writing sessions.
  • Distribute the template to students via Google Classroom.
  • Use the prompts to encourage students to explore a specific literary element that is being taught in class. For example, genre, adjectives, hyperbole, etc.
  • Provide teacher or peer feedback using comments.
  • A great way to document development in writing skills.
  • Encourage student ownership by having each student contribute a prompt in the blank template and then share with the class as their writing journal.
  • Customise and include other writing prompts, for example, YouTube videos, links to news items, etc.
  • Select each students’ best work, combine into one ebook and distribute as a PDF.
  • Can be used across platforms including Chromebooks, iOS and Android tablets and smartphones.
  • Can be adapted to be used in any language classrooms to develop written language schools.

 

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Online learning communities with Google tools

Create online learning communities with Google toolsRecently I read an interesting article by Christopher Pappas, 8 Tips To Foster Knowledge Sharing Through Online Learning Communities. In the article, the writer looks at ways that online social and collaborative experiences can enhance learning outcomes and improve knowledge sharing in a corporate environment. I was inspired to look at how these strategies might be used in a K-12 environment using Google and G Suite for Education (GSfE) solutions. Of course, the same ideas can be applied to vocational and higher education environments as well. Also, many of the ideas can be implemented without having G Suite for Education (however, you will need access to G Suite for Education to use Google Classroom).

Below is a presentation giving an overview of the strategies and the corresponding Google tools. Read below for more details.

Before you start…

Before you start, you need to think about a few things with regards to your online learning communities.

  • Who will be part of the community? For example,  your class, multiple classes, the whole school, the wider community, etc. It may be that there are multiple online learning communities that are used for different purposes
  • What is the purpose of the learning community? What are you hoping your students will gain from the experience?
  • What are the terms of use? It is very important that all participants agree to and understand the community guidelines. These should be simple and clear. Look at the post Collaborating for success with Google Apps for ideas on developing a suitable framework.
  • Understand which tools are available to you and which aren’t. For excample, Google+ and Google Collections are not always made available in GSfE environments and the terms of service do not allow access to people under the age of 13.

Idea 1: Online forums and groups

Online forums and groups are not a new idea and these can be useful for students to share questions, opinions, knowledge and resources and for teachers to communicate to the whole class or smaller groups. The idea is to create a forum or discussion around a specific topic.

Google tools for forums and groups

  • Google Classroom allows for posting in the class stream. However, this can get a bit messy although the labelling and filtering feature can make it easier to find topics in the stream.
  • Google+ Communities is essentially a social media platform and allows discussions and threads. You can control who has access to a Google community. There is a search function.
  • Google Collections is a feature within Google+. It is a bit like Pinterest. However, only one person can own a collection and post new items to the collection but other users can comment on items in the collection. For more on using Google Collections, see the post 5 tips for using Google+ Collections at school.
  • YouTube allows for commenting. If you or your students upload videos and mark ‘Unlisted’, only people with the link can view them and comment on them.

Idea 2: Collaboration projects

Working on projects together with peers helps build belonging as well as developing communication and teamwork skills. The good news is many Google tools were made for collaboration!

Google tools for collaboration projects

  • Google Drive, particularly Slides and Docs. One student or the teacher creates the file and then invites the other group members to edit the file. The built in revision history feature makes it easy to see who has done what.
  • Blogger is a powerful and often overlooked tool. You can make your audience and collaborators as wide or as narrow as you like.

Idea 3: Peer-based learning teams

This is an important emerging concept, the idea of learning to learn. Peer-based learning teams encourage students to create individual learning goals and place students in teams to support each other in achieving their goals.

Google tools for peer-based learning teams

  • Google Hangouts allows students to ‘get together’ on line to provide feedback via video, audio or messaging.
  • Google Drive, particularly Docs and Slides, allows students to document their goals, progress and barriers with the comments feature enabling the peer team to provide assistance, feedback and encouragement.
  • Google+ Communities allows the peer team to create a private community to provide and ask for support and feedback.
  • Blogger allows for the creation of a blog shared only amongst the peer learning team. Students can share their learning goals and progress as well as commenting on the posts of others in the group to provide feedback.

Idea 4: Micro-learning library

Ditch the outdated text books! As students learn about a topic and become emerging experts, create a crowd sourced ‘learning library’ of resources that can be used by current and future students.

Google tools for a micro-learning library

  • Google Drive (Docs, Slides) can be a handy repository for useful links, just give students editing privileges to the file.
  • Google+ Communities is a useful way to share resources, documents, pictures, etc, providing a preview and allowing for a description. Students can search for specific information using the search feature.
  • Blogger is an easy-to-use repository for many different kinds of resources including links, written information, embedded videos and Google Drive files.
  • YouTube allows users to collaborate on playlists and create a repository of videos relevant to a particular topic. Click here to learn how to add collaborators on a YouTube playlist.
  • Google Classroom allows users to share links to the class stream, allowing the sharing of resources. If you use Google Chrome, the Share to Classroom extension makes it even easier to share a relevant webpage. Be careful of cluttering up your class stream.

Idea 5: Learner blogs

Learner blogs can help document the pathway to knowledge and skills development.  It allows the sharing of useful knowledge with peers and provide proof-of-learning. They are multi-modal, allowing students to express themselves in different ways.

Google tools for learner blogs

  • Google Sites are easy to use and allow users to easily combine text, embedded videos, images and Google Drive files. It is easy to create attractive websites but the features are limited at the time of writing.
  • Blogger is a traditional blogging platform (as the name would suggest!) You can take control of how wide the audience is (down to individual users) and allows for multimedia as well as text.

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Gamify your classroom with Google Forms

Gamification and badges in education have been ideas floating around for a few years now. Some educators have jumped on the band wagon only to abandon the concept soon after. Often, one of the obstacles to effective implementation is proper technological support (1). The good news is Google Forms is a relatively simple (and free!) tool to help implement gamification elements into education.

What are “badges” & “gamificationGamification and badges in education using Google Forms“?

Badges in education and the idea of gamification is one way teachers can help motivate students in the classroom and help students keep track of effort and achievement.

Gamification can be defined as:

the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.

Source: https://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification

The idea is much like the concept behind the Scouts movement – achieve something, earn a badge. Many popular video games also use a badge system, and many of our students enjoy and understand this way of measuring achievement. So it makes sense to use a badges systems in the classroom.

To find out more about using badges in the classroom, have a look at this article:

http://www.edudemic.com/guides/the-teachers-guide-to-badges-in-education/

Automating gamification & badges in education on a (very!) limited budget

Gamification and badges in the learning environment has been of interest to me for sometime. However, within the learning environment I have been working with, the concept would be very labour intensive to implement and track. While playing around with Google Forms, an idea came to me – surely Google Apps script could be used in a self-marking quiz to send a badge to a supplied email address if a certain score was achieved in the quiz?

So I wrote an algorithm and found some potential providers on Fiverr.com. I contacted them to outline what I wanted. Within hours I had settled with the wonderful Riyafaahf who provided me exactly what I wanted in less than a day.

And below you’ll be able to grab the code and instructions for yourself.

Automating badges in Google Forms

How it works

The student completes a self-marking quiz in Google forms and provides an email address. If the student achieves a certain mark, they will receive a badge via email.

Here is a simple, sample quiz for you to try out and see how it works (don’t worry, I won’t ever use your email address for anything else):

https://goo.gl/forms/9CPFp5Kc4VJFQlV92

What you will need

  • Access to Google Forms (either through Google Drive or G Suite for Education)
  • Student email addresses (they do not have to be Gmail)
  • An image for your badge (this will be emailed to the student should they achieve a certain score) saved to your Google Drive
  • The code on this page
  • The file ID for your Google Sheet where quiz responses will be collected and the file ID of the badge file  (don’t worry, getting these is easy – see the video if you’re not sure)
  • Devices for students to respond to the form (works well across most platforms including smart phones and tablets)

Planning

It might be a good idea to start off with a smaller topic area with a few quizzes (and badges). This allows you to test the waters and the technology. Your badges with be based on the required student outcomes.

It might also be a good idea to think about what you would like students to do with the badges they collect. One simple idea is having each student create a simple eportfolio in Google Slides to save their badges in.

Tips for setting up your quiz in Google Form

Watch video tutorial for visual step-by-step instructions.

You need to save your Google Form as a self-marking quiz and make sure the responses are being collected into a Google Sheet.

  • Make sure you are collecting email addresses. This can be done by asking for an email address in the quiz (use data validation to ensure the address provided appears valid) or selecting the option to collect email addresses in a  G Suite for Education school.
  • Mark all questions as “required”.
  • Select “Make this a quiz” in the form settings.
  • Go through each question and add your points and select the correct answer.

Adding the “Send badge” code

Watch video tutorial for visual step-by-step instructions.

This adds the badge ‘magic’ – sending the badge to the student’s email once they submit their responses.

Below is the code, ready for you to insert your information. You will need to copy it, paste it into your Google Form Script Editor and replace the variable information with your information.

If your browser does not select the code automatically, select all the code from line 1 to line 21 and copy it.

Send badge for Google Forms quiz
 
function onSubmit(e) {
  var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.openById(e.source.getDestinationId()).getSheets()[0];
  //var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.openById("REPLACEwithGoogleSheetsFileID").getSheets()[0];
  var lastRow = sheet.getLastRow();
  var score = sheet.getRange(lastRow, 3).getValue();
  var email = sheet.getRange(lastRow, 2).getValue();
  var subject = "REPLACE with Email Subject";
  if(score>7){
    var body = "REPLACE with Your Email Message.";
    var id ="REPLACEwithYourBadgeFileID";
    var fileBlob = DriveApp.getFileById(id).getBlob();
    GmailApp.sendEmail(email, subject, body, {
      attachments: [fileBlob]
    });
  }else{
    var url = "https://goo.gl/forms/REPLACEwithYourFormURL"
    var body = "Good try at the quiz. Have another try to improve your score and earn your solar system expert badge. You can access the quiz at "+ url;
    GmailApp.sendEmail(email, subject, body);
    
  }
}

 

To paste the code into your form:

  • Go to your Google Form
  • Click on the 3 dots at the top right of the screen
  • Select select <> Script Editor…
  • File > New > Project
  • Paste the code
  • Give your project a name
  • Replace variable information as required (see table below)
  • Click on Resources > Current Project’s Triggers
  • Click to add a new trigger. The triggers should look as follows (should be the default):
    Google Apps Script triggers screen shot
  • Review and authorise permissions

You will need to change all or some of the following information for the variables (depending on how your form and spreadsheet are set up). The table below should help you work out what you need to replace.

Line numberVariable to replaceWhat to replace it with
03REPLACEwithGoogleSheetsFileIDThe ID of the Google Sheet collecting your form information
053Column number in the Google Sheet that contains the quiz score
062Column number in the Google Sheet that contains the email address of the student
07REPLACE with Email SubjectReplace with the text for the subject of the email the student will receieve
087Replace with the minimum score a student should achieve to receive the badge
09REPLACE with Your Email Message.Replace with the text for the email message body for students who achieve the badge
10REPLACEwithYourBadgeFileIDReplace with the ID of your badge file in Google Drive
16https://goo.gl/forms/REPLACEwithYourFormURLReplace with the URL of your Google Form
17Good try at the quiz. Have another try to improve your score and earn your solar system expert badge. You can access the quiz atReplace with the message you would like students to receive who DO NOT achieve the badge.

Test your form

Watch video tutorial for visual step-by-step instructions.

Make sure you test your form before you unleash it on your students. Use the preview button to respond to the form. Check to make sure you get the badge when you answer the right number of questions correctly and you DON’T get the badge when don’t get enough questions right.

Sharing your form

Watch video tutorial for visual step-by-step instructions.

Once you’ve tested your quiz and everything is working okay, you are ready to share! You can email a link or provide a written link. I find the Google Forms URL shortener pretty clunky so I usually use bit.ly and create a custom, easy to understand URL.

Video tutorial: Automating gamification in education with Google Forms

Other helpful resources

12 free badge images:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/12-Free-Badge-Images-for-Classroom-Gamification-2954231

Over 120 editable badge images (paid resource):

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/120-badges-and-images-for-gamification-in-the-classroom-2954139

 

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Digital student workbooks with Google Slides

There are lots of different ways to use Google Create digital student workbooks with Google SlidesDrive apps in the classroom. Google Slides offers many possibilities. One way of using Google Slides in the classroom is developing digital student workbooks that include different types of activities. You can take a static, paper based, black and white worksheet or workbook and make it interactive and colourful, incorporating different ways of engaging with information and demonstrating understanding.

Items you can include in your digital workbook include:

  • words and images (I know, obvious)
  • multimedia including YouTube videos
  • links to other resources
  • short answer activities
  • drag and drop activities
  • extended response activities
  • links to a quiz in Google Forms
  • links to a Google Classroom
  • collaborative activities
  • student portfolio

The ability to create drag and drop activities is particularly appealing. Below is a short video tutorial showing you how to create drag and drop activities in your workbook that prevent student from accidentally moving the wrong elements on the page. This is done by using the “Slide > Background image” feature of Google Slides.

Advantages of digital workbooks with Google Slides

  • Free!
  • Reduce paper.
  • Easy to distribute via your preferred method. For example, email, Google Drive sharing, Google Classroom.
  • Does not require G Suite for Education (just Google Drive).
  • Can differentiate by developing different versions for students aiming to achieve at different levels.
  • Ability to incorporate different learning activities.

Free sample digital workbook

Below is a link to the sample workbook shown in the video. Feel free to make a copy for yourself and use it as you like:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1z9sfkNXCYxebr1Fe8U1A7dtuGIDzuD7RATBXnixgXuw

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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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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 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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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.

Click here to access a free ebook template I created in Google Slides. To use it, from the FILE menu select MAKE A COPY...

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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