Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Drive Activity

As our district has rolling updates to Google, we will all notice this update at different times, but I wanted to do a quick post about a great new feature in Google Drive.  Google Drive will now have a button in the top right-hand side of your Drive menu that
looks like this:
This little gem could save you a ton of time!  When you click this icon a menu like the one below will appear showing you all the recent activity that has occurred in your Google Drive. Shared documents will demonstrate changes that were made to the document, who made them and at what time.  It also will show you when you made changes or updates.  
As teachers collaborate with students and colleagues and teams work on certain tasks this might be a very useful tool.  I like that the activity bar can be closed, minimizing the distraction of what someone else might be working on.  I see this new feature as being a great addition to the usefulness of Google Drive.  If you Drive has not yet updated, give it a dat or two and check back.  It will soon!

Google Sites Basics Recap

Last week before the deep freeze settled in educators across the district participated in a professional development day.  Based on a survey sent to staff, each educator was able to select from topics.  The Technology team put together a general Google topic and then narrowed the focus to Google Basics, Google Scrips, Google Sites and Online Resources.  We had a great response.  I worked with the staff who wanted to learn about Google Sites.  It was a great work session and each participant walked away with a basic site and the resource shared below.  I have been to many types of training and I know that once you leave, you want to try things out, but you get back to the regular routine of things and when you finally revisit things, you forget.  For this reason, all of the training was done from a Google Presentation with several videos linked throughout.  One question that all of the groups asked for was how to change the navigation from a sidebar navigation that looks like this:
Sidebar Navigation (Note tree navigation on left side of page)

To a Horizontal Navigation bar that looks like this:
Horizontal Navigation (Note the tabs across the top of the web page)

Knowing that this was a multistep process, I added another video on how to switch to Horizontal navigation and then add pages to the navigation.  This can be seen here and is added to the presentation on the last page.

The Presentation on Google Sites

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Got gMail and More!

So I recently read about a great gMail extension called mxHero.  It was recommended as "one of the extensions you cannot live without".  So, I put it on my list of things to look into.  I went to the Chrome Web Store and looked it up. Here is the link to the Web Store page.  This extension adds a toolbox of options to your email.  You can....

All of these things seemed to be super cool.  Here's what makes it even better, it is free for unlimited emails.  So, I explored more and found this fantastic tutorial video that really explains all you would need to know.   They even have a mxHero guide available here.  I am testing this, but thus for really like it and the tools that it offers me.  If email is not just a part of your communication but sometimes helps you remember tasks and other to do items as they come through, then this might be worth checking out!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Awesome Screenshot

I now have a new favorite extension!  I seem to move between Mac, PC and a Chromebook and all three have the ability to take screenshots.  Using a screenshot is a huge help when I am trying to help someone learn a new process, see something that they might not have notices before, create a tutorial or even add interest in digital communication.  The ability to take a screenshot, annotate over the image, save a copy or just save to my clipboard as well as select the location I want to save the image is huge!  Wether I am working on a Chromebook, PC or my Mac, I am always working in Chrome and when I am in Chrome, I have my extensions running.  Today I discovered Awesome Screenshot:  Capture & Annotate, a free Chrome Extension that does everything I need it to!  It's Awesome!  I am SO excited! (It doesn't take much.)

With Awesome Screenshot you can capture a region, part of whole page.  You then are given the option to annotate free-hand, with shapes text or further editing of the image.  One of the really useful tools I liked was the ability to smudge or blur an area of the screenshot that you have captured.  Many times I have sensitive or personal information on a screenshot that I cannot have display.  The ability to blur that area and still use the screenshot is priceless.  Once you annotate, you then have options for sharing, saving or storing the screenshot.  Great tool that I know I will use and will be really helpful in the classroom for demonstrations as well!

View a one minute video about this extension below for more information:

Find Your Most Annoying Tab

If you are like many Chrome users you love the way that tabs work.  Sometimes by the end of the day you have so many tabs you can hardly even remember what you have open.  Sometimes it is like my day in review as I click each and see where I have been or what has distracted me through time as I click through them to close them.  While I love that I can have many tabs going there are a few instances in which it can be frustrating.
If one of your tabs is streaming audio, and you have so many tabs open, but you can't figure out which of the tabs has the audio playing YIKES, it seems like an eternity as you frantically click through tabs to determine which one is playing the audio.  While I usually mute my computer as I try and determine where the audio is coming from, it can be a pan to figure out where the audio is coming from.
I was thrilled to read about the new features to chrome here this week.  I though wow that will be useful!  Then today as I opened the lid my computer after moving between buildings and it reconnected to the 35 tabs I had opened before, I discovered why this was awesome!
Check it out!  This is the tab that was making noise!
Turns out, Google will also display a tab that has a page that is accessing your webcam so that you know if you are are broadcasting your webcam.  This will show in the same place as the speacker symbol above but will be a red record symbol. Or, if you use a ChromeCast to stream from your computer to a TV, it will have an icon to indicate which tab is casting.  All of this is well explained here.  Thanks Google for helping me locate and silencing that annoying tab!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Google and Images for Student Projects

Having a network of colleagues to mull over ideas and talk through strategies for the classroom is one resource I value.  Not to gloat, but I do have a fantastic Professional Learning Network and this week they did not let me down.  While participating in a Glide video chat with them, my friend Howard Martin mentioned the idea of using a shared Google folder with students to direct them to better, pre-selected content.  I loved it so much I asked if I could feature it on this blog.  So, thanks for sharing Howard!  Your the best!

Finding images for student projects can be a tricky adventure.  Many elements become cause for concern.  Copyright, citations, the appropriateness of the image itself or the security of the search process.  While there are many banks of images that schools supply (our district has a few really great resources), sometimes it is just easier to provide students with an image collection with which they can select from as they create their project.  This eliminates (ton name only a few problems) students spending endless classroom time searching for the correct image, the possibility that a seemingly innocent search query leads to something that cannot be unseen, or the student argument that even though they have found the BEST image ever, if it does not meet with copyright restrictions, they still cannot use it in in the project.  So, as Howard mentioned this week, use Google's shared folders for streamlining this process.

If students were presenting or researching on Hurricanes and Tornadoes and you wanted them to have focused accurate, and appropriate sources and information as well as proper citations but you did not have the class time to devote to the instruction of safe searching, citation building, etc., you might go about it this way.  This would also be a great alternative for the student that has proven themselves to be less than trustworthy in searching on their own or is perhaps too young to handle the magnitude of content on the web.

Here the process:

  1. Create a new Folder in Google Drive with permissions to share with your student using the "share" setting of the folder so that the folder is shared with the students in your class.  (Be careful that students know that moving a document in a shared folder is a move and not a copy.  I always create a copy of the folder so that if someone wipes out all my content I have a backup.)
  2. Load that folder with content!  I started mine with a Google Document.  I titled the Document "Citations" and you will see why as we continue.  Under "Tools" select "research".
  3. On the Doc page, a side menu opens that allows you to research and collect Images, articles, links, quotations, etc.  If you sort for only copyright safe images as shown, you know you are using images that students can use in their work.  Change the citation format to the type you would want them to use.
  4. As you select content, and drop it on the page, it collects not only a copy of the image, but also the citation in the format you selected at the bottom of the page.  Since this document is in the folder, kids should have no trouble copying and pasting the citation. As my page was being built it looked like this:
  5. Then, for each image added to this citation Document I added the image to the folder.  I carefully named and numbered the image so that it had the same number as the citation in the citation list as shown above. You may also note that there is a webpage link on "Hurricane Katrina" because I thought it might be interesting to see that this would also be a way of showing how you could share out on certain links with students.
  6. When my shared folder was done it appeared like this:
Depending on the age and digital comfort of the students, I might provide them with written instructions on how to access the shared folder, how to download files from the folder and specifications for their use.  While I realize this process puts more work on the teachers to collect the information for the students rather than instructing students on how to find it themselves, there are situations and reasons why this might be worthwhile.

Again, thanks Howard and my fantastic PLN!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

SnagIt Extension for Chrome

TechSmith, the company that brings you the full screen recording and editing solution Camtasia, also makes Snagit, a smaller version of Camtasia that is great for smaller screen casting and collaborating.  What is really exciting is that TechSmith has come out with an app and extension that will allow Chromebook users to use Snagit and make it easier for all of us to enjoy the benefits of this great tool from the ease of a Google App or extension.  The app and extension can be found in the Chrome WebStore. TechSmith also has a great video about Snagit added below.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Clip Better Extension

Yesterday I shared a tool that would help you manage the many great extensions out there for Google Chrome.  Therefore today I don't feel guilty for suggesting yet another great extension that you can add to the toolbar because you can use yesterday's tool to manage it all!  This morning I came across a resource that shared the extension Clip Better.  This handy extension allows you to share a link within an email visually.  Traditionally when we share a link within an email we offer the recipient the raw URL in the body of the email.  Clip Better allows you to share a visual representation of the website.
As you can see below, it will create a preview that includes the image, title, summary and other information about the page you are wanting to share.  You can even edit and customize the title and summary in the review, add a personalized comment or note and then send within your Gmail with a single click or select Copy to Clip and it will save the preview on the computer clipboard to be used in another way digitally such as Google Docs.
As I got to thinking about the classroom use for this tool I wondered if you couldn't create a clip for each of the research tools you wanted kids to use to complete a project.  I also wondered about students using this tool as a digital, annotated bibliography of web research.  However, after trying to create an example, I found that it often copied and pasted into Google Docs and Word with some poor formatting issues.  Using in email seems to work best.  So, unless they make changes to their formatting, I would use this in the classroom as a tool to share a visual representation of a URL that includes your personal comments, instructions or ideas.  Might also be a great communication tool for parents.
If you find any other uses in the classroom, please share as I would love to see this tool in use.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Save me from all my Google Extensions!

I am always on the look out for new extensions.  Extensions in Google Chrome are awesome!  They make your browser do extra tasks and depending on the extension, can make you more productive.  I have found some great extensions over the last year and some I have found I cannot live without.  However, I have also discovered that some extensions are ones I love but only use when doing certain tasks.  For example, I don't really need a URL shortener most days, but when I am creating content for a teacher or a new PD class, I really rely on that extension.  I am beginning to find that my extensions are piling up and I am starting to weed them out.  Even good ones are being disabled for that "prime real estate that is to the right of my Omnibar!  Today I came across the One-Click Extensions Manager - also called Extensity.  This tool adds a small icon to the extensions list next to the Omnibar, but when you click it a drop down menu appears (see below) that allows you to enable or disable the extensions you need at any given time.  So, I disabled the extensions I don't use often, but with a few clicks I can return them.  You can do this in the settings of the browser, but it takes more clicks without this extension enabled.  If you give this one a try, let me know how it works for you. 
The Drop Down Menu that appears when using Extensity.
Bold extensions are in use, while others have been disabled.  

Get the Math!

Students frequently need help in finding the rationale for the things that they are learning in school.  Relevance to daily life is critical for kids to find value in the lessons and knowledge we present them with each day.  Get the Math, a website does just that for Algebra.  This site presents algebra in real-life settings and careers that encourage students to solve them in context.  Students explore math in video gaming, sports, fashion, rap music and more.  Students begin with a video from a professional in the field then have to complete a math-based challenge.  Make it real in the New Year!  Try out Get the Math~