Send Certificates to Your Users with the Certify’em Add-on for Google Forms

Each of the GSuite apps has add-ons, which are applications that can help automate tasks.  An add-on for Google Forms called Certify’em allows you to automatically have a certificate sent to a user once he/she completes a Google Forms quiz and achieves a specific mastery goal.

Watch the video below to see how to set up and use the Certify’em add-on for Google Forms.

My guess is that this company will eventually offer a paid version of this product with more customization options.

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What’s New with G Suite?

The one thing that is consistent about Google is that they change things frequently.  Here are some of the latest changes to G Suite products:

New Format Options in Slides
When you select an image or text, you will notice a new “Format options” option in the upper right-hand corner.  Clicking on this will reveal two new options- drop shadow and reflection.  You can now apply both of these effects to your text and graphics.

Goodbye, Chrome Apps
If you browse the Chrome Web Store on a non-Chrome device, you will notice that you can still search for Themes and Extensions, but Apps are no longer available.  Google says that it is moving away from apps that depend more on a device to those that depend more on the web.  The good news is that most of the “apps” in the Chrome Web Store were just links to web sites, not actual applications that ran on a Windows, Mac, or Linux device.

New Look for Google Calendar
When using the web based version of Google Calendar, you will notice that you can now choose a new look.  Just click the “Use new Calendar” button.  The change is not dramatic, but this style more closely resembles the look and feel of the Google Calendar mobile app that many people use on their Android devices.

Tech Crunch has published a nice article with a summary of all the feature updates at https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/17/google-calendar-on-the-web-gets-a-fresh-new-look/

Do You Really Need to Print That?

Printing is a major expense for our district. Since all staff members have a device and students in most grades have a device, we should be taking advantage of ways to share and edit resources digitally instead of printing and making copies of documents.  Here are some ideas:

Take full advantage of the sharing and collaboration features within GSuite.
Google Drive provides unlimited storage for all of your stuff.  That’s great, but what’s even better is that you can share anything in Google Drive with anyone else.  You can share individual files or entire folders.  Even better,  you and those with whom you share can edit these files collaboratively with the GSuite apps.  Taking advantage of these features should reduce your printing dramatically.

Provide feedback to students via Comments in Google Docs instead of on paper.
If you are a teacher who grades lots of writing (e.g. essays, terms papers, Night Writes), your first instinct when providing feedback for students might be to print out all of this writing and use a red pen to grade and comment.  Instead, try having students do their writing in Google Docs and turn this in via Google Classroom.  Use the Comments feature in Google Docs to avoid all of that printing.

Comments are like Post-it notes in the document in which you can include suggestions for correcting or improving the writing.  Students also have a Resolve button, which they can use to let you know that they have made the change that you recommended.  You can’t do that with pen and paper.  Having students use Google Docs also gives them access to the Spelling tool, the Explore tool, and other Add-ons.  It can also allow students to read and comment on each other’s writing through peer review.

Here is a great demo of using comments in Google Docs by Daniel Bennett.

Scan and send documents instead of making copies.
When I have a document that I need to send to another person, I rarely make a paper copy.  More often than not, I use one of our copy machines to scan and send via email.  Take a look at this video to learn how:

I also frequently scan documents with my iPhone, upload the scans to Google Drive, and then share or email the documents to the recipient.  For this, I use an app on my iPhone called Scanner Pro.  It’s great because the scans I do are automatically uploaded to my Google Drive.  From there, I can share directly with others through Drive or attach to a Gmail message.  Scanner Pro costs $3.99, but it’s worth every penny.  Other free apps will perform the same function, including Microsoft’s Office Lens.

Use Google Classroom to share resources in one convenient location.
Anyone can use Google Classroom to share resources.  The things you share with students this way cannot be lost like paper handouts, so students and their parents can access anytime online.  We even have school leaders that are using Classroom to share with other staff members.

Classroom is easy to use and integrates seamlessly with GSuite.  Instead of making copies of documents and handing them out to people who will likely use them for a short period of time and then lose or forget about them, put everything you want to share into your online Classroom.  Here is a short video to show you how to get started:

Google Tools for Assisting Students with Disabilities

Technology provides some great ways to assist those with disabilities.  Here are a few “Googley” ideas for helping students who have issues with mobility, vision, dyslexia, and other challenges:

Voice Typing in Google Docs

Students with mobility issues can use the Voice Typing tool within Google Docs to compose documents.  The user speaks and words appear automatically in the document.  The only item needed in addition to Google Chrome and Docs is a microphone.  Our district’s Chromebooks and most Windows laptops have microphones built-in.  Here is a great video with tips on getting you or your students started:

The hardest part of learning to use Voice Typing is remembering all of the commands.  A complete list is available at https://support.google.com/docs/answer/4492226?hl=en

Reader Applications

The Google Chrome web browser offers lots of extensions that read text.  These readers can help students who struggle with visual impairment or who have reading disabilities.  

ChromeVox (Chrome Extension and default application on Chromebooks) is Google’s own screen reader.  Here is a short video that illustrates its importance for some users.

To enable accessibility on a Chromebook, press Control-Alt-Z.  Pressing these keys will turn on high contrast display as well as ChromeVox, which will begin the audio voice overs for all items.  To turn accessibility off, simply press Control-Alt-Z again.

To add the ChromeVox extension to the Chrome web browser, visit the Chrome Web Store at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/chromevox 

Read&Write (Chrome Extension)
Read&Write is a Chrome extension that offers a toolbar with lots of features.  These features include a screen reader, a Speech to Text tool, and a translator tool.  A dictionary and a research tool are also available.  Highlighters of different colors allow students to mark up documents and then sort what they’ve highlighted into a new document.  Watch the video below to see a summary of these features.

Read&Write offers teachers a free subscription to the toolbar with all of these features.  To request this free service, visit https://www.texthelp.com/en-us/products/read-write/free-for-teachers/

To get all of the toolbar’s features for students, your school must purchase a subscription.  Henderson Middle School already has this, so consult Kimberly Freman or Liana Kirk to ask about this subscription if you work at this campus.

To see all Chrome extensions that can be used to assist students with accessibility, visit https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/ext/22-accessibility

 

 

5 Reasons to Use Microsoft’s OneNote

I am involved with lots of meetings, and my memory of details is not great.  For that reason, I take lots of notes.  Organizing my notes, being able to search my notes, and being able to share my notes with others is crucial for what I do.  I use Google applications for most of my productivity needs, but I have grown to love Microsoft’s OneNote application for note taking.

OneNote is a free application that is available on any device.  This includes Windows computers, Macs, smartphones, and tablets, including both iOS and Android devices.  You can also go to https://www.onenote.com, log in to your Microsoft account, and work on notes completely through a web browser.  OneNote is easy to use and has many valuable features.  In this post, I will focus on the five things I like the most about OneNote.

  1. Customization Options – I love the way I am able to organize in OneNote. The application gives me the ability to create multiple Notebooks, Sections, and Pages.  I can create both personal and work notebooks, I can create sections within those notebooks for various needs, and pages within the sections.  Notice that I have two main notebooks- Personal and Work Notes.  Within the Work Notes notebook, I have sections, like Installs, Meetings, and Trainings.  Diving deeper within the Meetings section, you’ll see I have various pages for specific notes, like notes from our district’s Technology Committee and notes from meetings with vendors.
  2. Compatibility – OneNote is available on whatever device I am using. I have three devices that I use each day, including a school-issued laptop that stays on my desk, a personal laptop that is with me wherever I go, and my iPhone.  OneNote is running on all of these devices, and it works extremely well.
  3. Synching – OneNote automatically syncs my notes among all my devices. Without me doing anything, the notes that I create are available whenever I use my school computer, my personal computer, or my iPhone.
  4. Features – OneNote offers some great features, many more than Keep, which is Google’s note taking application. This short video provides an overview of some of these features.
  5. Cost – OneNote is free to download and use. You will need a Microsoft account, which is also free to create.

Students can also take advantage of OneNote on their school-issued Chromebooks and their smartphones.  As a matter of fact, Microsoft offers a special version of Office 365 for teachers and students, which includes a special notebook called a Class Notebook.  Class Notebook allows teachers to interact with students and share assignments, notes, quizzes, and other files.

I can help with creating accounts for you and your students if you want to take advantage of this.  See more at https://goo.gl/k5SD1T

A video to help you get started with this is available at https://support.office.com/en-us/article/OneNote-Getting-Started-020b2cd0-2e7e-4918-8e58-f434953acca2

To clear up a little confusion, there is an application called OneNote 2016 that is available on most of the Windows computers owned by our district.  Instead of using that one, I would recommend using the version of OneNote for Windows 10.  This version will have all of the most current features and will be available to you whether or not you own Office 2016 for your personal devices.  This page along with the included video will explain the difference between these versions:  https://support.office.com/en-us/article/What-s-the-difference-between-OneNote-and-OneNote-2016-a624e692-b78b-4c09-b07f-46181958118f

 

Quizizz-A Nice Alternative to Kahoot!

Quizizz is a nice alternative to Kahoot! for teachers who want to provide interactive assessments that include fun graphics and high-energy sound effects.  Like Kahoot!, Quizziz offers a colorful interface with a points system and a leader board, but Quizizz offers several features that are missing from Kahoot!

Like Kahoot! teachers create an account on Quizizz, build their own quizzes, and set the options for their quizzes.  Teachers can select the Play Live! option to allow students to complete these quizzes competitively against other students in class.  Teachers can also select quizzes made by others from a large library of community-developed quizzes.

One different feature that Quizizz offers is the ability to allow students to complete quizzes at their own pace and within a time period set by the teacher.  Quizizz calls the “Homework” option.  This allows a quiz to be completed privately by a student instead of in a situation where all students are completing the quiz at the same time.  Students can also find out after every question whether they got the answer right or wrong, so feedback is immediate.

Quizizz is available through a web browser on any device or through the app on an iPad.  Different from Kahoot!, students actually see the questions and answer choices on the screens of their devices.  Kahoot! only shows a color and a shape on the device, which students must match to what they see being projected in the classroom on the teacher’s computer.

Teachers can see the results of quizzes taken by all students and can make informed decisions about mastery and re-teaching based on the results.

Another great feature is direct integration with Google Classroom.

Give Quizizz a try to see how it might benefit your instruction.  Visit https://quizizz.com to get started.

New Features for Google Slides

If you’ve read this blog, you know that Google Slides is my favorite of the apps that are a part of GSuite.  I do lots of things with Slides, including creating newsletters, creating infographics, and developing informative presentations.  Google is always improving their products, and Slides got some new features last week that can be used by both you and your students.

Grid View
You now have two ways to view slides in Google Slides- the classic filmstrip view and the new grid view.  The filmstrip view is just a vertical arrangement on slides on the left side of the work space.  With grid view, you can see the arrangement of slides in a larger window where they are laid out horizontally.  You can also zoom in or out to see more or fewer slides at one time.

Google Keep Notepad
Keep is Google’s note taking app.  It’s like having a page of electronic Post-it notes on the screen of your computer, tablet, or smartphone.  To use any notes that you have taken in Keep within your Slides, just click Tools and choose Keep Notepad.


Add-ons
Add-ons have been a part of Docs and Sheets for a while, but they are now available in Slides. To enable any add-on, click Add-ons and then Get Add-ons.  One add-on that’s already available is the Icons by Noun Project add-on.  The Noun Project is a catalog of simple icons that can be used to enhance slides with graphics. About 100 icons are available to users without a paid subscription.

Diagrams
Diagrams of various types are now available to users within Slides.  This is great for students as they can spend more time organizing information and demonstrating their understanding of hierarchies, timelines, processes, and relationships instead of wasting time on design.  Most all subject areas can take advantage of these diagrams.

Linked Slides
If you have slides that are a part of several different Slides presentations that have the same information, it’s a pain to edit one presentation and then switch to the other presentation to edit the same slides again.  With linked slides, you can link a slide in one presentation to a slide in another presentation, edit a slide once, then automatically update the second slide with edits in the original.

Here’s how it works:

Copy a slide from one presentation and paste it into another.  Select the Link slides option choice.

Now, when you edit the information on the slide in the first presentation, you can apply these updates to the slide in the second presentation.