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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Create blank PDFs in Google Classroom

Another month and another handy fLearn how to create blank PDFs in Google Classroom for iOS and Androideature update in Google Classroom. This feature was first released for Android and is now also available for iOS. Students can create blank PDFs and submit them as part of an assignment in Google Classroom. Students can annotate their blank PDFs freehand using pen, marker and highlighter tools as well as a text tool. (At the time of writing, this feature was not available for the web/Chrome OS versions of Google Classroom).

There are many useful applications for these blank PDFs in Google Classroom. Students can now draw, draft or design directly within Google Classroom. The zoom in and out feature can make it easier for students with poor handwriting to write information (particularly useful for mathematics). Students can use either their fingers or a stylus.

The short video below show how the tool can be used from a student’s perspective.

 

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Annotating documents in Google Classroom

As of August, 2016, in the mobile versions of the Google Classroom app (iOS and Android):

Teachers and students can draw on, highlight, and write notes on documents and PDFs in the Classroom mobile app

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

This is a terrific feature that adds to the flexibility and usefulness of GoogleLearn how to annotate files in Google Classroom Classroom. Users can now annotate PDFs and Google Drive documents distributed via Google Classroom. How might this be used in your classroom?

  • Students can highlight and annotate their work for study purposes without the need to print it out, saving money and avoiding lost work.
  • Students can take photos and annotate them for the assignments.
  • Distribute digital interactive notebooks and worksheets.
  • For students with poor fine motor skills and difficulty hand writing, the annotation feature in Google Classroom allows them to zoom in and write in a big space rather than having to cram writing into smaller spaces which can sometimes happen with paper based activities.
  • Annotate with or without a stylus.

As other ideas come up, I will add them to the list. Feel free to share your own!

Below is a video tutorial outlining the features of annotations in Google Classroom from the student’s perspective. The document used is a Google Slides presentation.

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5 tips for using Google+ Collections at school

Google+ Collections was added to the Google Apps family in May last year.  Google+ CollectioUsing Google+ Collections at school. Curate, collaborate and discuss using #GAFE. Find out more: http://googleappsaction.com/?p=263ns is a bit like Pinterest, and allows you to group posts together and share them publicly, with your circles, particular users, only yourself or, if you are using Google Apps for Education (GAfE) of Google
Apps for Business, just within your domain. As well as the browser based version, you can access Google+ Collections on your Android and iOS devices using the Google+ app.

I’ve kind of played around with it but this school year I plan to use it as an integral tool in my Community and Family Studies (CaFS) class. I’ve already started setting up boards for some topic areas and am planning how I will have students collaborate and contribute using Google+ Collections.

Here is an introductory tutorial on using Google+ Collections:

And now for some tips on using Google+ Collections within an educational environment.

1. Google+ Collections is only for ages 13+

Because it is part of the Google+ suite of products, the Google terms of service means it can only be used by students 13 years and over (unlike many of the other GAfE apps used by schools). Also, Google+ might not automatically be enabled within your GAfE environment – check with your administrator if you are not sure.

2. Think about privacy settings when you are creating Collections

Note: you cannot change the privacy settings once you create a Collection.

Be very cautious when setting privacy to ‘Public’. For example, would it be appropriate for the content to be published in the local paper? If the answer is ‘No’, think about setting the privacy to within the domain or to a particular group of users only.

Also, it’s a great opportunity to teach students about digital citizenship and responsible online behaviour by assisting them with the appropriate privacy levels.

3. Encourage communication using the comments feature

Users with access to a collection can add and respond to comments. This is a great way to encourage a dialogue about a particular topic or issue. For many students, it will have a bit of a ‘Facebook’ feel which would be familiar.

For example, in my CaFS Collection, I have added a link to the article You told us what it’s like being 15 in 2015. I love the black and white image with the article that now appears in the collection. I will ask students to discuss what they feel is similar and different in their experiences and why they think this is.

4. Using Collections as a research tool

When conducting research, students can use a private or shared collection to ‘park’ links of interest for a project. They could also reflect on the quality of the sources curated using comments and share the Collection with the teacher. Or, the assessment of the quality of sources could be crowd-sourced, with other students being able to provide comments.

5. Encourage small group collaboration

Currently, you cannot have multiple contributors to a collection the way you can in Pinterest. However, students can still collaborate on a Collection in small groups by working together on the same computer, iPad or Android tablet. One student account would need to be the owner of the Collection but other contributors could be acknowledged in the Collection tagline or even in a post in the collection (selfie time!)

Interested in exploring Collections? Here is a link to a Google Drawing template I created that you can use to create size optimised Google+ Collection covers:

https://drive.google.com/previewtemplate?id=17_WBfHZqvOkH9q2lurfN5vbAvzJp7yPkZFK4l1J5RrQ&mode=public

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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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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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Create a comic in 3 minutes or less with Google Slides (with bonus puppies!)

Who needs paid-for comic making apps or subscription services to online comic creators? With any smart device, installed with the Google Comics with bonus puppiesSlides app, you can now quickly and easily create your own comics on the go! You will need the latest version of the Google Slides mobile app, which now allows you to add your own pictures and photos.

Still not convinced? Have a look at the short video below where I demonstrate exactly how to do it on an iPad Mini in less than 3 minutes (it will work similarly on an iPhone or Android tablet or phone). Thanks to Mike Petty who gave me the idea during a presentation he made during a Google Education on Air session.

The tutorial co-stars my puppy, Spike, who patiently slept the whole afternoon while I made the video.

Applications for education

  • Create a single cell or a whole comic book
  • Great for BYOD/BYOT environments because the app is free in both iOS and Android
  • Can also work with Chromebooks (portable devices make taking pictures easier)
  • Great for creativity and literacy
  • Can also be applied to other subjects, e.g., for history, provide a series of pictures around a historic event in a Google Slides document and have the students create a comic
  • Use instead of posters, narratives, etc.
  • Encourage collaborations in pairs, small groups or even the whole class
  • For greater scaffolding, provide the pictures and had students add the captions

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Which Google app works where?

A lot of us have discovered the awesomeness that is Google Apps. As the Googleverse evolves, more and more options are becoming available across different devicWhich device works with which Google App?es and operating systems. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to keep track of what you can do with which device.

This can be especially tricky when trying to manage a Google Apps for Education domain in a BYOD (bring your own device) environment. Which operating systems work best? And which are best avoided?

To help unravel the functionality and compatibility puzzle, I have put together a simple document. It shows the equivalent Microsoft Office applications and a grid showing the functionality across operating systems.

Click here to see the Google Apps Compatibility Across Operating Systems document.

I have been fortunate enough to have tried almost all the platforms and apps, excluding Mac OS. I would have to say the least Google friendly is Windows mobile/RT. I don’t know if that’s just my experience or consistent for everyone.

Recently I revitalised some old Windows laptops by replacing the OS with Linux Mint. What a pleasure Google Drive is to use in the Chrome browser! I highly recommend a Linux Mint install for old, tired Windows hardware.

Do you disagree with any of the information in my compatibility document? Then click on the ‘contact me’ link to the right of this post to let me know or post in the comments below (after all, Google is all about collaboration, right?)

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