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.

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

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

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

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

 

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

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/

 

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

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

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

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.

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Mash-up madness using YouTube Creator Studio

Did you know you can create YouTube videos without recording a single thing? YouTube Creator Studio makes is easy to create your own video using other people’s content – and it’s all above board!! YouTube collects content that creators have indicated they are happy to share under a Creative Commons license. Using the Create > Video Editor options, you can then create your own mash-up of this content.

The tool itself is pretty easy to use but, as with most things, practice makes perfect. I’ve created a video tutorial (see below), to step you through the basics. You don’t need special software or plugins installed – it all works online. You’ll also find a handy cheat sheet here.

This is a great way for educators to create content. Better still, it’s a great way for students to create content and exploring the creation of digital texts. Young people are huge consumers of YouTube videos. A 2014 survey showed that YouTube starts were more popular with US teenagers than ‘mainstream’ celebrities. Not only that, being a YouTuber can be a legitimate career option.

Some students may be shy creating their own videos. YouTube Creator Studios means they can test the water without having to get in front of a camera! Perfect for students who may be a little camera shy.

Once created, you can further refine your video using the editing tools including adding annotations and applying enhancements. You can also go back to your project in the video editor and add or change the content.

Here are links to videos I have created using the Creator Studio editor and Creative Commons content:

The Eiffel Tower: facts figures and a bird’s eye view! (This is the video created as part of the tutorial)

Baby kangaroos doing cute things

Before you start….

  • Check age restrictions for using YouTube (these are different across the world by are generally minimum 13 years of age)
  • Check school policies to see if you need parent permission
  • Make sure your organisational firewall does not block YouTube
  • If you are using Google Apps for Education (GAFE), make sure your students can access Google+/YouTube
  • Explicitly teach appropriate online behaviour, including protecting students’ privacy
  • Decide if you want the videos to be public (anyone can find them online) or unlisted (you can share the videos via links)
  • At the time of writing, I don’t think this is available on mobile platforms. It works fine on Windows, Mac, Linux and, yes!, Chromebooks.

Tips and hints

  • You can’t record narration with the editor (annoying!) You do have the option of downloading video, where you can than record narration using your computer, and then re-uploading the video. This is a little cumbersome so I would say it was more advanced. In some ways, the limitations are good because they force you to be creative!
  • It can be easy to waste time endlessly clicking through content to find the perfect video. Set time limits and model effective search and editing techniques to help avoid this.
  • You can assign projects to groups or individuals, depending on available equipment.

Applications for education

  • Create video mini-documentaries instead of reports, essays, presentations, etc.
  • Get creative and create a fictional short-film.
  • Have a mini-movie festival smack down! Decide on a theme and give each team 20 minutes to create a 30 to 60 second movie. Then have fun showing all the finished projects.
  • As well as the obvious literacy and digital skills, this is great for developing skills for working with time.
  • (For Australian vocational contexts) Great for creating digital texts as part of General Certificate in Education for Adults (CGEA) qualifications.

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Illustrate in Google Drawings even without a single artistic bone in your body

A picture tells a thousand words and, with the Internet, we have access to almost limitless numbers of images. However, knowing how, if and when an image can be legally used in your project can be dicey. It’s even trickier for educators who have the responsibility of educating students about copyright and responsible digital citizenship.

Of course, there are legally free images available through Creative Commons and in the public domain but quality can be variable and, like the song says, you can’t always get what you want.

The solution? Create your own images!

Okay I hear you… you can’t afford hundreds of dollars of software, the steep learning curve this software often requires and you might think you’re not artistic.

Have you tried Google Drawings? It’s part of Google Drive / Google Apps for Education. It’s:

  • Free for GAFE and the general public (low cost subscription for Google Apps for Business)
  • Easy to use and learn

Okay, so you won’t become a graphic artist but you can start by creating simple silhouette illustrations you can use in your other Google Drive projects (or anywhere else for that matter). If you can Google a picture and click a mouse, you can create your own silhouette-style illustrations in Google Drawings. Full disclosure: the mouse clicking might take a little practise to get quick and accurate (you’ll know what I mean once you get started).

Not sure how to start? This video tutorial shows you how you can get started creating your own illustrations in Google Drawings even if you don’t have a single artistic bone in your body.

 

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!