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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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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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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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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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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