Monday, August 31, 2015

Google I Hardly Know You? - Build with Chrome

“Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” - Walt Disney

I have to believe that someone at Google has Walt Disney's quote somewhere prominent. Google is always moving forward. It is honestly hard to keep up with all the resources that Google has to support teaching and learning.

For example, have you ever seen the Chrome Experiment - Build with Chrome? This incredible resource allows the user to build with LEGO bricks using Google Maps as a foundation. Users can choose a location, build something and share it with the world.

While this Chrome Experiment may not have quite the name recognition of Minecraft, I believe it can be a power tool to support the 4Cs. Harnessing student creativity is just one small part of what this resource might do for students, here are a few other ideas:
  1. Explore builds from other parts of the world to study culture and architecture.
  2. Challenge students with a sustainable design project in different locations with different climates, geological, and geographic features.
  3. Challenge students to build a cultural center based on their research of a certain country or region.
  4. Incorporate Build with Chrome into story writing.
  5. Practice math skills by building to scale and calculating volume and area.
  6. Challenge students to build something of a certain size and dimension with a limited number of bricks.
  7. Challenge students to collaborate to build their ideal city.
  8. Challenge students to write directions for their build and see if a classmate can use the directions to duplicate their structure.
What more could your students do with Google Chrome?
Please share in the comments below:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Did you know Microsoft Could do that?

Secrets of the good-old-standbys are important to know. Even though I'm a Google Fanatic, I still use Microsoft products--frequently!  Here are some useful shortcuts that you may not know about . . .

Did you know you can pin a file to your Open Menu?
If you use a file frequently, you can pin it to the Open menu instead of having to go on the search for it when you need to use it. Simply hover over the desired file in Recent Documents and you'll see the pin, click it to pin it. It will stay at the top of your Open list!

You can pin files to the Open menu in just about all the applications in the Microsoft suite.

Did you know about the Quick Access Toolbar?
This toolbar is just above the menu ribbons. You can customize
that toolbar to meet your needs. Click on the down arrow and select the menu items you want to appear. I like to include New, Open, Quick Print, and Print Preview in Office and Excel. You can click on More Commands and choose what makes you happy! This toolbar helps cut down on the number of clicks to get to your frequently selected commands.

Note: the pins and quick menu setups must be set on each computer you use. 

Did you know you can pull up a contact card on a colleague who sent you an email? In Microsoft Outlook, both the online and desktop versions, if you hover over an email address in the To or From field, a small card pops up.

If you click on the two down arrows in the lower right corner, the whole card will pop open revealing detailed information about the contact. You can also select to schedule a meeting with the contact by choosing the small calendar icon. Selecting this icon will open a dialogue box to complete your meeting request. You can also hover over a listserv group and click the two down arrows to be able to see a listing of all of the recipients.

Okay, one last shortcut . . . to switch quickly between windows, applications or browser windows that you may have open, use Alt+tab. Hold down the Alt key and keep hitting tab until you land on the window you want to switch to, release and you're there.

If you have a favorite shortcut, share it in the comment box below!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Silent Reminders with Fitbit or Apple Watch....

 The class period can often go fast and sometimes it is hard for teachers to manage the time in class.  How many times have you yelled over the bell as the students started walking out of the door?  You can set a silent alarm on your fit-bit or Apple Watch to remind you that there is 5 min of class left, so that you can give proper closure to your lesson, or use an exit slip effectively

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What's in your Google Drive?

GAFE allows unlimited storage space in our Google Drives! No need to worry about the 1 GB that is allowed on your school drive. Have you taken advantage of the space by uploading your school drive to your Google Drive? (Quick video to see how to move it.) Besides that, you can have 24/7 access to your files. No need to carry around jump drives either!

Why? Is your school drive in the red? No more worrying about how much space you have left. Your Google Drive can support individual files up to 5TB in size! Google comes with security that protects all Drive users. Every file uploaded to Google Drive is encrypted, your files are also encrypted at the Google data centers. This means that any data that you or your students store in your Drive is YOURS! No one can see what's there unless you share it with them.

With all that space . . . sometimes we just need to analyze what's there. It's kind of like an overstuffed closet, every once in a while it just needs to be checked, cleaned and organized. Here's a neat way to peek into your closet: Spanning - Stats for Google Drive.

You can find out:
  • Total number of documents stored
  • Percentage of documents by file type
  • Volume of documents
  • Size of documents
  • Top 10 newest and oldest files
  • Total space used
  • and more . . .
View a sample report and then scan yours and find out what's in your Google Drive!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Student Selection - KidPicker

There are so many developers who create apps, scripts, sites, etc., for teachers. They should know just how appreciative we are for the work they do to support us! One I'd like to mention is Andrew Stillman over at New Visions Cloud Lab. He's the script writer for kidPicker - today's focus.

According to Stillman's description, "kidPicker is a tool that equitably randomizes the student selection process, allowing a teacher to maximize the spread of students selected on the same day. It also tracks simple teacher scorings (1,2,3) in a Google Spreadsheet." 
Once you install it, I'm sure you'll use it frequently!

Click this link to authorize this script: kidPicker You will see this on your screen, click to continue to authorization page: 

Now you need to click Create new tracker spreadsheet
The next screen will inform you "kidPicker participation tracker" has been created in your Drive. Refresh your browser to see the full kidPicker interface." 
Leave this Chrome tab open and go to your Drive and access that new Sheet. 
  • In your sheet, add your student names. You can change the sheet name from Class 1 to your class name. If you teach multiple classes, add additional sheets to meet your needs. 
  • On the sheet entitled "ButtonValues" you can change the scale or points students can earn. 

Go back to the Chrome tab with kidPicker (Google Apps Script) and refresh. Choose your section and your first student is selected. Give them a score or mark them absent. Your kidPicker participation tracker Sheet keeps track of the date and points given. 

*Bookmark this page so you can access your kidPicker quickly.

Here's a link to a 5-minute video explaining the installation process. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Google Apps for Education and Time

I've had the great opportunity to spend the last two days at the Chicago Public Schools Googlepalooza. I've attended and presented at a variety of Google Apps for Education Conferences and this has been one of my favorites to date. The sessions have connected GAFE to almost every educational buzzword. The presentations and discussions have been both informative and inspiring. I wish more teachers from my district were here with me.

District 204 has been a GAFE district for about 5 years and we have many staff doing some incredible things with the Google Apps for Education Resources at all grade levels. We've placed an emphasis on Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Formative / Summative Assessments in our professional development. We've provided training and support for the tools and the majority of our staff are using a mix of resources connected to Google Sites, Google Drive, and Google Classroom. We are in a good place, but I think we can do more. 

The CPS Googlepalooza has revitalized me to find new ideas to inspire our staff and students to do more with GAFE, but where to start this year? 

I thought about this question last night and landed on the one request I hear most from teachers. Teachers love what they are doing but they need more TIME! (I know I already gave this away with the title, sorry.) In today's world time is at a premium for everyone, but no profession seems to be stretched as thin as teachers. Teachers need more time to learn and grow. 

The next question was how do we give teachers more time without losing time with students and family? While I can't create time (Wouldn't that be a nice superpower?) I can support efficiency. I think we can find some ways to be more efficient with Google Apps for Education and this saved time through efficiency can open the door for teachers to explore and learn.

I decided to start with a simple document about workflow in Google.

I will next begin working on Extensions, Add-ons, and Apps that can save us time. Stay tuned!

What other GAFE resources do you think can help support efficiency and save us time? Please comment below. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Add Animation to your Google Site

Need a little pop and style on your Google site? Well, just add some animation. You can add animated lines, animated words, and animated gifs. Before I explain how to make it happen, let me introduce you to a few sites to create or select your animated items.

First, one Chrome extension that I highly recommend is Save to Google Drive. Once authorized, this extension places a copy choice item on the mouse right click menu which allows you to save images and links directly in your Google Drive. This is important for adding the animated items to your Site. 

Animation sites: The first is This site allows you to create many different styles of text and buttons for FREE! Some of the styles are animated - 12 great options. Click on the logo that fits your style and a form opens for you to complete. The options there allow you to page through hundreds of fonts, colors, sizes. Add a shadow, background, etc. . . . you are the designer. Click on Next and you can save the image. Be sure to save the image, not make a copy of it to paste.  If you installed Save to Google Drive, right click over your design and save the image to your Drive. Another site similar to flamingtext is It's another free site that has more styles to choose from.

The second site is Heather's Animations. This is a site full of free animated gifs. I'm sure there are plenty other sites, but this one has a lot of fun items to use. Browse through and find ones you like. Right click and save the image to your Drive. 

Now for the even easier part . . . on your Site, edit your page, choose insert and choose Drive. On that fly-out menu, choose image. When the dialog box opens, choose one of your animated items, and click Select. 
Voila . . . you have animation on your Google Site. Here's a Site I had a little fun with to show you the possibilities . . . Animate your Site.

Please know that if you download your image to your device instead of your Drive, the image will not be animated. 

If you know any other sites that have great animated items, please reply and let us know!

Thanks go out to, and Heather's Animations for providing these free resources!