Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Google Drive Shared Folders: Making Annotated Notes Easy to Share

When I first started teaching one of the hardest things to do was to get students that were absent material, such as annotated notes from class, before coming back to class.  With the use of Google Drive and sharing my folders I have a 3 step daily routine that keeps all of my classroom material up to date on my website.  A must-have is to embed your class shared folder onto your website!  It updates automatically when you add something to it.

1)  Create a note sheet and save it as a pdf to my class shared folder.

2)  While in class I use Smart Notebook or my iPad to annotate on the notes
  • Smart Notebook:  I "print" my note sheet to Smart Notebook via the Smart Notebook Print Capture,  and then annotate on the notes throughout class.

  • iPad:  For using my iPad in class I use the program Good Notes.  Good Notes allows you to annotate over a pdf on your iPad.  Good Notes also allows you to link your Google Drive account to it.  I pull up the non-annotated pdf version of my notes from my Drive and project my iPad's screen through the projector in my room by using Reflector. This is extremely helpful because it lets me circulate the room while I annotate on the iPad and take pictures of student work as they complete problems.

3)  Post the notes to my shared Drive folder.  

  • Smart Notebook:  I then export the notes as a pdf.  If you have Google Drive installed on the computer you can export this pdf straight to your class shared folder.


  • iPad:  The best part of Good Notes is that it will let you export your annotated notes right back to your Google Drive class folder.

Now in my class folder I have a blank copy of the notes and an annotated copy.  This has been such a time saver and it has allowed my students to not fall behind while not in class.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

QR Codes: An Integral Part of My Classroom

QR codes were introduced to me at the Midwest Google Summit this past November.  Since then their integration in to my classroom has changed the way I have students access material in my Google Drive.  I use the shortener extension (link to chrome webstore) to create QR codes to different URLs I want my students to go to.

I wanted to share the THREE main ways I use QR codes in my class

1) QR Codes to My Flipped Classroom Google Forms.
For flipping my class, I supply my students with a guided note sheet to complete with the video.  Before QR codes the students had to navigate to my website, but now they can scan the QR code on the notes and it will bring them right to the Google Form with the video and questions.

2)  QR Codes to Answer Keys for Homework.
I like for my students to have access to the answer keys while they complete their homework to check their work.  However many students did not want to take the time to navigate to my webpage to find the keys.  Instead I create a QR code and put that on their homework so when they are done they can scan the code and check their answers right away.

3)  QR Code For a Bell Ringer
As soon as the students walk in the door to my classroom I want them to be engaged so I have them fill out a Google Form several times a week to see what they thought of the homework.  Instead of giving them a URL, I project a QR Code linked to a Google Form on the front board.  They then scan the QR code and they have a few minutes to complete it while I check their homework.  I find that this is a great time for me to check their homework instead of wasting time during class to do it.  It also gives us a chance to look at the responses and discuss them as a class.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Google Tasks: The Way I Stay Organized

Within a normal school day I feel like I have countless things to do and it is hard to keep them organized.  I used to rely on post-it notes but soon my desk was overrun with yellow pieces of paper.  Then came my discovery of Google Tasks.  Google Tasks was a lab within Gmail that Google has made an official feature of Google Apps.  To access your tasks, while in Gmail, click "Mail" in the top left hand corner and tasks will be one of the drop down options.

This will bring up a task list that will be part of your Gmail screen.

You can now add items that you need to complete in the future.  You can also make multiple list to keep things more organized. 

Here are a few benefits to using Google Tasks:
  • When you complete a task, check the checkbox and it crosses the tasks off your list.  Gives a feeling of accomplishment!
  • Integrates with your Google Calendar - When you create a task, you can give it a date and that task will be added to your Google Calendar.

  • View your tasks in Gmail AND Google Calendar.

  • Add tasks on the go with an app.  I use the free app GoTasks on my iPhone and any task I add is automatically added to my Google Tasks list.  Including dates!!

Socrative: My Goto For Informal Assessments

Informal assessments are one of the things I use chromebooks in my classroom for.  And Socrative is the one I use the most.  I started using Socrative about a year ago and found it to be very user friendly and it worked on all internet capable devices (phones, chromebooks, etc.).  With the additional feature of adding images, Socrative has become extremely useful to me in my math classroom.  The presentation below is a quick guide to creating an account and how to initiate quick questions.  I plan on putting together an more advanced tutorial in the future.

Link to the Google Document of the tutorial.  Feel free to make a copy.  Thanks.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Search Google Drive By File Type

Sometimes I find the need to look at every form I have created.  Instead of going through all of my folders in my Drive there is an easier way to pull up a specific file type.  Click the downward facing arrow in the search box while in your Drive and it will bring up a list of file types.  Click the file type you want to search for and Drive will pull up every file that matches that criteria.

This is also helpful for searching for a file by specific file types by name.

Don't Forget to Install Google Drive Onto Your Computer

It took 6 months of using Google Drive for someone to tell me that you can install the application onto your PC or Mac for quicker access to your Drive folders.  Installing the Google Drive application actually puts Drive into your list of drives as if it is one of your network drives.

Here are some of the benefits of using this as a way to manage your Drive files:
  • You can share files right from the finder window by right clicking a file
  • You can save a file directly to drive from a program (such as Word)
  • If you open a Word document from your Drive window, edit it and then save it the file will be automatically updated in your Google Drive.  It will also keep a record of revisions to that document if you right click the file from WEB version of Drive.
  • Export annotated notes from Smart Notebook as a pdf straight to Drive for students

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pre-filled Google Forms Mean Less Mistakes

Google Forms is a great way to collect data, especially email address at the beginning of the year.  The problem my students were having was typing in .com instead of .org or just spelling the domain of their email address wrong.  Lucky for me and my students there is a way to have a Google Form already filled in.  For example, when the students go to the form it already has filled in.

To create pre-filled form open your form and click on "Responses" and choose "Get pre-filled URL."

This will bring up a version of your form.  Input what you would like to be pre-filled in and then click submit.  The new URL at the top of the page is the URL for the pre-filled out version of your form.  That is the URL you give to your students.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Untapped Potential of Web Clipboard in Google Drive

Copy and paste is a necessity in creating resources for teaching.  After using copy and paste within Google Drive some things did not paste correctly (especially pasting Google Drawings into a Google Document).

Web Clipboard however is a great tool within Google Drive applications where you can copy an item to a "web clipboard" and access that clipboard from any Google Drive application.  Look at the result of copying the same "entire drawing" to the web clipboard and pasting it into a Google Document.  

The drawing retains it all of its original traits and is a resizable image.  There are other advantages to using the Web Clipboard as well.  The Web Clipboard will hold up to 10 items for 30 days.  That means you can access the same items from the same place without having to copy the item multiple times.  The Web Clipboard is located under the "Edit" menu in every Google Application.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Google Drawings as Links On a Google Site

A coworker of mine showed me this tip.  Instead of creating a hyperlink to a piece of plain old text, create a Google Drawing and attach hyperlinks to images and text in it to improve the look of your website.

I created a table with my school schedule in Google Drawings and then hyperlinked the picture or wordart to a webpage.
Now just embed the Google Drawing into your Google Site and when they click on the linked image it will take them to the corresponding URL.  Just make sure the Google Drawing is public.  The Google Drawing will also automatically update on the Google Site if you make changes to the Google Drawing.  This has really cleaned up my homepage.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tab Switching on Touchpad For Chromebooks

(Chromebook)  While studying for the Google Educator test I learned a quick way to switch between tabs using the touchpad on a chromebook.

Place 3 FINGERS on the touchpad and swipe left or right.  That will highlight the tab you would like to switch to without clicking.  A huge time saver for myself.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Saving Files in Multiple Locations in Google Drive

Trying to locate a file in Google Drive can be frustrating if the location of the file is under several subfolders.  Moving the file to a more accessible location would make finding it easier but maybe you would like it to also remain in its current location (maybe it is in a shared folder and you do not want it to loose it's shared properties).  Well I just found this out.

You can move a file in Google Drive so it appears in multiple locations.  When you select "Move to" hold down Control ( on Macs) and click the second (or third or fourth) location you would like for the file to appear.
When you edit the file in one location it it also edited in all of the locations of the file.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Randomize Answers in Google Forms

A new to addition Google Forms this weekend allows you to shuffle the answer order for certain types of questions. (Multiple Choice, Checkboxes, Choose From a List and Grid)
This is a feature that can be used when using a Google Forms as an assessment tool as well as administering surveys to get a better idea of interest on a topic.  And it is so easy to turn on, just check the box and the form will generate a randomized order of answers.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Splitscreen Windows

When I work within Chrome or Word I find it helpful to have two windows open at once but I always have to resize them so that I can view or edit both windows.  To save some time Windows 7 has a feature built in called "Snapping" a window.  Just drag the window to the left or right edge of the screen and it will create a quick outline of the window.  Let go of the mouse button and it will snap it to that side.  To maximize your window drag it to the top-middle of the screen.
(UPDATE 5/15:  Pressing Windows Key + Left arrow will also snap the window to the left.  This also applies to the right arrow to snap right and up arrow to maximize.)

I find this feature to be one of the most valuable time savers during my day.  Unfortunately it feels like I have to use multiple different operating systems each day so I put together other ways to use this snapping feature on each system.

Chromebook:  There is no way to drag the windows to snap the windows but there is a keyboard shortcut to get the windows to split screen.  Alt + [  will snap the window towards the left of the screen and Alt + ] will snap the window towards the right.  You can also hit [ or ] multiple times to make the window smaller.
(UPDATE 4/12:  Chrome OS 34 now lets you snap the window like Windows 7!!  Just pull the windows to the left or right of the screen to get them to snap to the corresponding side.  Awesome feature.)  (UPDATE 5/15:  Alt +] also snaps the window to the right.)

Mac OS:  There is a free program called Better Touch Tool (Download) which gives you all of the functionality of the snapping feature of Windows 7 but it also allows you to setup keyboard shortcut (I created a snapping short cut: Shift + Left Arrow for left snap and Shift + Right Arrow for right snap) as well as custom gesture shortcuts.  There are so many possibilities with the use of Better Touch Tool.  I highly suggest you check it out.

Windows XP:  Our office computers are still running XP and I find myself trying to snap windows but it does not work.  I found Aero Snap (Download) which is free and quick to install.  It is a beta program but I have not found any problems with it.  You can snap your windows left, right and maximize just like in Windows 7.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Screenshots Made Easy

For years I have relied on the most often used way to take a screen shot (ctrl + Print Scrn) and it is also the most frustrating method.  Ctrl+PrtScrn forces me to take a screen shot of the entire desktop but a majority of the time I want just a small region of the screen.  And to edit that screenshot I would have to paste it into Paint and edit it.  You know the story.  I have found three other ways to take screenshots that you might find yourself using from now on.  All three are FREE, easy to use, may already be on your computer and will save you so much time.

1)   (Windows 7 or later) The snipping tool is a free program already installed on the computer.  Go to the start menu and search or find the program "Snipping Tool."  This will give you the ability to screenshot a region of the screen instead of having to take a screenshot of the entire desktop.  You can then save or copy the screenshot for use in other programs.

2) (Windows XP, 7 or later)  PicPick was at first an alternate to print screen for computers that I use running Windows XP because XP does not have the Snipping Tool installed.  However it has turned out to be my go to screenshot tool on Windows 7 computers as well.  The main reason is that you can set up a keyboard shortcut for taking a screenshot.  Under the options menu you can create a hot key (mine is ctrl+shift+z) to bring up the screenshot crosshairs.  Another benefit to PicPick is that is also automatically opens your screenshot in its own version of Paint for you to edit it.  Their program has many other options available that Paint does not such as pixilation.

3) (Mac OS)  Skitch is my alternative to PicPick for the Mac.  It does not have as many options as PicPick but it does have a keyboard shortcut for taking a screenshot (⌘+Shift+5) It also opens the screenshot in its own program that you can edit it from.