At the Google I/O developers conference today, Google announced plans for the new Google Play for Education. In many ways, it sounds a lot like what Apple do with their Volume Purchasing Program for iPads, but Google are looking to take it to a whole new level with some very interesting features for educators looking to manage Android tablets in a school environment. Here’s what they have to say:
Schools will enjoy the ease and portability of tablets together with highly engaging educational resources. And whether it’s one classroom or one thousand, schools can easily manage tablets, and discover, purchase, and distribute content and apps with ease.
Now, I appreciate all that Apple have done with the VPP Store and their efforts to provide management software for iPads with Apple Configurator, but how many school districts can say that this is a process that they manage “with ease”. Critics may well point to the fact that this has yet to be proven, but if you have had any experience with managing Chromebooks in a school setting, you already know that Google has already shown that it has the knowledge and expertize to break down the barriers of device management and make it a seamless, user-friendly experience.
In their information for Android developers looking to add their apps to the new Google Play for Education, Google offers some insight into what else we can expect from the new education storefront.
Google Play for Education provides a simple and secure environment in which educators can buy apps in a way that’s easy for schools — through purchase orders. Your apps must support this environment by ensuring that they:
- Sell all content and services through Google Play for Education
- Permit Google Play to offer teachers limited free trials before purchase (through business terms only, no development work is needed)
In addition, it’s highly recommended that your apps:
- Disable in-app purchase in any UI accessible to students.
More information is included in their “safety first” section:
To participate, your apps must be designed to be usable and appropriate for the K-12 market. The basic requirements that your apps must meet are:
- Apps and the ads they contain must not collect personally identifiable information other than user credentials or data required to operate and improve the app.
- Apps must not use student data for purposes unrelated to its educational function.
- Apps must have a content rating of “Everyone” or “Low Maturity” (apps with a “Medium Maturity” rating are allowed, if they have that rating solely because they allow communication between students).
- App content, including ads displayed by the app, must be consistent with the app’s maturity rating. The app must not display any “offensive” content, as described in the Google Play Developer Program Policies and content-rating guidelines.
Apple undoubtedly has some of the same kind of requirements for iOS developers, but one or two of the recommendations above stand out as being somewhat unique to Google. For instance, the chance for teachers to get a free trial before they buy, or the recommendation to disable in-app purchases. I am sure there are many iPad schools that would love to have those options.
I’m a fan of the iPad. I love its potential for the classroom and I know first hand that it is one of the most versatile devices a school could buy. However, managing these devices is in no way as easy as it could be. Without a dedicated IT dept, it can be very frustrating for schools who are looking to push out apps and update devices.
So, the new Google Play for Education might be the best thing that happens to the Apple Education program, because for the first time in a long time, Apple has some competition, and may just be forced to raise the stakes further in order to compete. Let the games begin!
Have you tried 30 Hands yet? This free iOS app is a great storytelling or presentation app that has lots of potential for the classroom. I first learned about it from the TCEA iPad site, and my head has been spinning with classroom applications ever since.
Presentations can be made with or without audio, but using audio will be more effective in most situations. Once you create your presentation, you can add images from your Camera Roll, from Dropbox, or you can take a picture with the camera on your device. Multiple images may be selected at once, and can be rearranged in the same way you rearrange apps on your iPad homescreen – press and hold until they wiggle, then drag and drop them to the order you need.
Tap on the slide you want to record your audio for, and hit the red record button to begin and end the recording. Playback your audio when you are done, and re-record if necessary. After all your slides are recorded and you have them in the order that you want them, hit the arrow to publish your video and save it to your Camera Roll for sharing to YouTube or uploading to Drive, Dropbox, etc.
With a little imagination, you could create some very creative video projects with the 30 Hands app, but it’s the simplicity and ease of use that makes it a winner for me. This app could be just at home in an elementary classroom as it could in a middle school classroom, and that versatility, for free, is hard to match.
It would be a great digital storytelling app, but it is an equally capable presentation app – not in the same way that Keynote is – but in terms of having students present their content and share their ideas, this is a useful option to have and could make a nice change from screencasting apps once in a while. You can get some more ideas and see real student projects by visiting the 30 Hands community site.
A video tutorial is embedded below, but if you are already using the 30 Hands app, and want to share some ways that you have used it with your students, feel free to leave a comment below.
Google Calendar is a mainstay app of many teachers because of its scheduling abilities, reminders, and easy access across all devices. It is used for sharing assignments with students, scheduling district events, planning lessons, and even scheduling parent teacher conferences. However, it all starts with creating an event. Here are seven ways to create an event in Google Calendar.
1. Create button
For beginners, this is where to start. The big red Create button in the top left hand corner of the page is the default way for many who are wanting to create new events. Clicking it opens up a calendar dialog menu where you can add as much detail as you like, as well as invite others to your event.
2. Quick Add
If you know the lingo, the quick add can be a great way to quickly add an event to your calendar. If you click the white drop down arrow next to the red Create button you can type a short sentence that includes what your event is, when it will happen and even where it will happen and with who. Google does the rest, and translates your sentence into a calendar event. Once you get the hang of it, this is actually a very efficient way of creating Google calendar events.
3. Click and Drag
If I am honest, this is the one I use most. For me it is the most intuitive and its a habit I would probably find hard to break! All you do is move your mouse over the main calendar page and click and drag on a day to mark the time slot you want to schedule. In the pop-up window, add the name of the event in the What box. Need to add more information, click the Edit event button for the full event page details.
4. Right Click a Calendar
On the left hand side of your Google Calendar is a list of all the calendars you created and subscribe too. If you hover over a calendar you created, and click the arrow next to it, you will see a pop-up box that will allow you the option to “Create event on this calendar”. You can also choose a color for your calendar in this window to help you better tell the difference between multiple calendars at a glance.
5. Create in Gmail
Ever wished you could save the contents of an email straight to your calendar? Well, you can if you use Gmail. Simply open the email, then click the More button and select Create event. This will take the content of the email and add it to an event window in a new tab. Simply customize the date and time accordingly and your email is now a calendar event!
6. Create in Gmail II
Last week, Google announced a new feature in Gmail that will let you add calendar events straight from an email simply by hovering your mouse over a date and time that Gmail recognizes as a possible event for your calendar. It has not rolled out to everyone yet, but will be coming soon if you don’t already have it. There is no word as to whether or not this will eventually replace the method above, but if you are used to doing this kind of thing on your iPad using the native Mail app, you will be right at home with this method.
7.The Keyboard Shortcut
Not everybody is a fan of keyboard shortcuts. They can be hard to remember, but the keyboard shortcut for adding an event to a Google calendar is very simple. When you have your Google Calendar open, simply type the letter ‘C’ on your keyboard to add a new event. ‘C’ is for create, so this one is easy to remember! For more keyboard shortcuts, see Google’s Calendar basics page.
8. Chrome Calendar Extension
You can download the Chrome Calendar extension from the Chrome Web Store for free. Once installed, you simply click the calendar icon in your menu bar and then click the plus sign to add an event. This is useful when you don’t have Calendar open among the tabs you are working with, and can also be used to quickly check on upcoming events.
Do you have a favorite way to add a calendar event that is not listed above? Feel free to add it to the comments below.
Gmail is great. It comes with lots of unique features that put other email clients to shame, and has even more under the hood if you look through the experimental Gmail labs. However, if you spend some time in the Chrome Web Store, you can quickly find a plethora of other apps and extensions for Gmail. What follows are ten of the best.
1. Gmail Offline - If you don’t install any others on this list, try this one. It lets you access your Gmail offline. You can read your Gmail offline, and reply to emails too. Once you get back online, everything will sync up and and emails you wrote when offline will send to your recipients. For the most part it works very well, although the interface is different from the standard Gmail site. So, the next time you get stranded without Wi-Fi or access to the internet, fire up Gmail offline and get productive.
2. Send from Gmail – I use my iPad a lot. One of the things I love about it, is the ability to quickly share a link with others right from inside the browser. On my laptop, I could do that in Safari, but as a Chrome user, I used to have to copy the link, go back to Gmail, compose a new email, and paste the link in. You can avoid all that with Send from Gmail. Simply click the extension button and a new Gmail email will open with the subject line filled in, and the link of the site added to the body of the email. It works great. My only small criticism of it is that for some reason it does not add my default signature to the email. If anyone has found a way to fix that, please let me know!
3. Checker Plus – I love this extension, because it does a multitude of things. Ever clicked on an email link and had it open Outlook or some other desktop email client? This fixes that. It also notifies you of incoming mail with a chime of your choice, and a desktop notification if you want it. You can even have a voice notification read your incoming mail to you! Clicking the extension’s button in your toolbar lets you quickly preview your mail without changing tabs, and allows you to delete or archive mail too. So, it is very handy, and something I could not soon live without.
4. Add to Wunderlist – I am a big Wunderlist user, and I have written about that in the past. The Add to Wunderlist extension is great for me because it integrates seamlessly with Gmail. I used to use my inbox as a secondary to do list, but no more. This extension allows you to turn emails into tasks so that you can have all your important things to do on one master list. Simply click the Add to Winderlist button and you can choose which list you want to add that important email to. Next, delete, or archive the email as you work your way towards inbox zero.
5. Rapportive – This is a relatively recent addition to my Gmail, but one that grew on me quickly. When you use the rapportive Gmail extension, you get a customized bio of the sender of every email you get right next to the email when you open it. Ever wondered who this person is that emailed you, and how they know you? This can help. It pulls from LinkedIn and other social networks to give you a social profile of senders, so it is great for reminding you about who is sending you those important emails. It also has a notes section that lets you add your own private comments about each person in case you need to add some additional information about previous contact you have had with them.
6. Screenleap – Need a quick and easy way to share your screen with others? Well you could start a Google Hangout, and share your screen, but this is arguably quicker and gives you the ability to share with others who dont even have a Google account. Simply click the Screenleap icon in your Gmail, and it will generate a link for your sender to click on. Once they click it, you can instantly share your screen. This could be great for demonstrating how to do something on a computer or for troubleshooting someone else.
7. Cloudy – Gmail has a great attachment tool. It even lets you browse through your Drive to find the files you want. However, Cloudy takes this one step further. It links with Dropbox, Box, and Skydrive. You can browse your Picasa and Flickr accounts, or take a picture or video with your webcam and add that straight to your email. You can search the web for an image or look through your Facebook and Evernote accounts for the file you need. You can even search through your Gmail to grab an attachment from another email. I love the flexibility it gives me for attachments.
8. Smartr – If Cloudy is the ultimate attachment tool, then Smartr might be the ultimate contacts app. It does all kinds of clever things like keeping a track of all the email conversations you have had with the person you are emailing. They sit there in a sidebar as you type the email so you can have them for reference. You can view your contacts Facebook and Twitter activity, even if you don’t follow them. The common contacts tab is a useful way to find people you have in common with others, and the search tool will quickly search through all your contacts from a number of services.
9. KeyRocket – Ok. Time to get your geek on. Gmail has a ton of keyboard shortcuts, but remembering what they are, is another matter altogether. That’s where KeyRocket comes in. It helps you learn what they are. Everytime you perform an action in Gmail that has a keyboard shortcut, (say composing a new email), a popup tells you what the keyboard shortcut is for that action. For some, this may get annoying pretty quickly, but for me there is no better way to train your brain for the multitude of keyboard shortcuts that there are. Just remember to turn on keyboard shortcuts in Gmail’s settings if you want to try some our for yourself.
10. Gmelius – If the stock Gmail user interface is not to your liking, Gmelius may be just what you have been looking for. It lets you tweak a number of different things to make your Gmail experience more aesthetically pleasing. For instance, it will block ads from public Gmail accounts. You can also replace the paperclip attachment icon in your inbox with Google or Microsoft equivalents so that you know at a glance what type of attachment is in that email. You can auto-hide or toggle the header (including the search bar) to get more room, and lose the footer too. You can even lose scroll bars if your mouse and trackpad is all you need. So, check it out if this sounds like the kind of tweaking you like to do. It is a popular app with those who like to tinker.
Do you have a favorite Gmail app or extension? Feel free to share it in the comments below.
If you are looking to create a classroom website with a free website builder, take a look at Weebly. It’s ad-free, full of customization options, and has a dedicated education arm at Weebly for Education. Its easy to use drop and drop interface is ideal for busy teachers, and you can even create student accounts that you moderate from a central dashboard.
I first used Weebly for Education several years ago when I was still teaching 4th grade. I had a classroom website with Weebly and several student websites, but it didn’t quite have everything that I wanted. I soon became immersed in Google Apps, so I switched a lot of my web building efforts towards Google Sites. However, at a recent workshop, led by Ramsey Musallam, I had the chance to take another look at Weebly, and I liked what I saw! It is a great option for teachers who want their own classroom website.
There are over 70 great looking themes to choose from, each of which can be customized to your liking. You can add photo galleries of student work, slideshows, YouTube videos, Google Maps, or anything else with an embed code via the custom HTML element. Your website is free of advertising, and you can choose between a Weebly URL (yoursite.weebly.com) or a custom domain (mrwylie.com) which you can buy from Weebly or someone like GoDaddy, and add it to your site for free.
Best of all, the education arm of Weebly has some exclusive features just for teachers. For instance, you can add an assignment form to your site that allows students the ability to upload their assignments and submit them to you via your website. You also have the option to create student accounts so that your students can create their own Weebly websites. Teachers get 40 free student websites with the Weebly for Education account. These websites can be public or private, you can moderated comments submitted to student websites, and choose whether you want to enable or disable a Flickr search for images.
All of the above features are free, but if you decide to upgrade to the Pro account ($39.99 a year) you can get an additional 10 student sites, unlimited pages, a 250Mb file upload allowance, a custom audio and HTML5 video player, as well as the ability to embed documents you upload to the site. You can also password protect pages, remove Weebly branding and and get access to premium support. If you just need the extra student accounts, they can be bought in blocks of 10 for $10.
Weebly for Education also has a great referral program. If you click one of the sign up links in this post and publish your own site, Weebly will credit your account, (and mine), with $10 that you can use towards the pro account. So, if you try it, and you like it, share your experiences with others to earn more credit for an upgrade.
Of course, Weebly is just one of the many website builder options out there for teachers looking to create a classroom website. There are other free options like Wix, Google Sites, WordPress, Kidblog, Yola and more. My advice would be to find the one that works best for you. For a lot of teachers that I have been working with recently, that has been Weebly, so give it a go if you haven’t played with it for a while. The latest improvements are there for all to see, and it remains as easy as ever to quickly build a free, high quality website you can be proud of.
Have you tried Showbie yet? If you have iPads in the classroom, and you’re struggling with how to have students submit assignments, you need to take a look at it. This free service lets students submit assignments to the teacher, who can then grade them and return them to the student all on the iPad. Here’s how.
Start by downloading the free Showbie app, and create a teacher account. Next, add a class, and take note of the class code. Teachers can create as many classes as they need. Tell students what your individual class code is so that when they sign up, they can join your class and be able to submit assignments to you. (Note: no email addresses are required for students to sign up and use the Showbie service).
Once everybody is signed up, the teacher adds an assignment to the shared folder in their chosen class. This automatically populates it in the student’s account. The assignment can be a text note, an image, a recorded voice message, a 1 minute video, or something that you have created in another app and sent to Showbie via the “Open in another app” function. Need to show a longer video? Host it on YouTube (or add it to Dropbox) and paste the link to the video in the text box for students. Some have even added the video to a Keynote file (100 MB max size) and uploaded that.
Students submit their assignments by logging in to the Showbie app and selecting the class, and then the assignment they were sent by their teacher. They can turn it in via a text note, image, recorded voice message, a 1 minute video or again something that they created in another app.
When the teacher next logs in, they will see how many assignments have been turned in for each class and they can choose which ones to grade. Their comments can be left in one of the multimedia elements discussed above, or by opening the file into another app like a PDF annotator and then sending it back to Showbie.
Currently, there are three levels of Showbie accounts, all of which are free. But, be aware that the standard teacher account will limit you to 100 assignments. If you need more than that, and you surely will over time, you should encourage your school to sign up for a school or district account which has unlimited assignments.
Premium features are on the way, and will be an additional cost, but Showbie has said that everything that is currently free will remain free, and that these paid extras will be something over and above what they already offer. It might not be the perfect solution for all scenarios, but for most of the time it will work just fine.
Do you use Showbie? If so, and you have any experiences to share (good or bad) feel free to share them in the comments below.
I love Google Sites. They are quick and easy to make, and they even allow a good amount of customization. Unfortunately, not everybody knows just how much you can change to make a site your own. So, at the Iowa 1:1 Conference in Des Moines, Iowa I used one of my four presentation slots to share some of my favorite tips on how to make a Google Site not look like a Google Site!
The conference itself was a great day of learning, and an ideal opportunity for educators to connect on everything associated with implementing a 1:1 technology program. If you ever get the chance to attend this yearly event, I would definitely recommend you stop by some time because this, and ITEC, are among the best technology conferences in Iowa.
It was the first time I had given this particular presentation, but it looked to be well received and the 60 minute session soon flew by. As such, I thought I would provide a link here to the conference website where my notes, and those of my colleagues are stored, in case you too are interested in building better Google websites. There were only so many things I could include in sixty minutes, but these are some of my favorites.
You can find my tips on Google Sites here, and explore presenter notes from all the sessions at the Iowa 1:1 conference wiki. Meanwhile, if you are looking for some inspiration as to what can be created using some of the techniques I outline, you can check out a slideshow of some of the Google websites I have created for Grant Wood AEA below.
Teachers often turn to presentation software to help deliver the content they choose to meet their lesson objectives, but what is the best way to do this on an iPad? Well, there is no PowerPoint for the iPad, (yet), but don’t let that put you off. There’s an app for that!
1. Keynote – A “best of” list like this would not be complete without Apple’s own venerable presentation app. In many ways it sets the standard for all the others, but its sheer simplicity and ease of use continues to surprise new users of this very capable app. Everything is optimized for a touch screen device, and presentations sync effortlessly between your Mac and iOS devices via iCloud. There are only 12 built-in themes, but a recent update to the app means you can now add your own themes without too much effort. Keynote is by far the most complete and most versatile presentation app for the iPad, but it is not your only option.
2. Haiku Deck – All the cool kids are using it, so isn’t it time you started too? Haiku Deck emphasizes minimalism. It forbids you from overloading the audience with too much information by limiting the amount of text you can add to one slide. This is great for students who may be prone to reading you their presentation, as opposed to delivering you a presentation. There is a built-in library of creative commons images that can be used for creating your slideshow, but be careful what you search for, because these images are not filtered for the classroom. However, it is hard not to impress when using Haiku Deck. The app is free, as are your first five themes, and others can be bought via in-app purchases.
3. SlideShark – This app started as a simple PowerPoint viewer for the iPad, but has since grown into so much more. It only supports PowerPoint files right now, but so long as you are okay with that, you will be able to quickly take advantage of this useful iPad presentation app. Start by uploading your PowerPoint to the SlideShark website, or use the Open In feature to send it there from another app. It plays embedded videos, and lets you read your notes. A timer keeps you on track for finishing on time, while the laser pointer and annotation tools let you draw your audience’s attention to exactly what you want them to focus on.The iPhone app can even act as a remote for your iPad to help you advance the presentation over Bluetooth.
The free account comes with 100MB of storage, but you can easily remove presentations that are taking up too much space if you don’t want to upgrade to the Pro account. To date, the only issues I have had with SlideShark is when you try to import a Keynote file that you exported as a PowerPoint. The formatting was not good, but this is more to do with Keynote’s export abilities than SlideShark’s ability to present it.
4. Nearpod – This stalwart of the classroom has been around for a while now, but it terms of interactivity, there are few better ways to deliver your presentation. This is one of my favorite apps to show teachers if they have never seen it before. The look on their faces when everybody’s iPad advances to the next slide simultaneously is priceless! Nearpod stands out from the others in terms of audience participation. Although you can use it solely as a content delivery tool, the ability to throw in a short quiz, a poll or even a live website, means that this app is a truly immersive multimedia presentation tool.
Again, the standard account is free, but further options that include more storage, or the ability to have students log in from any web browser, are available. As a word of caution though, Nearpod works best on a strong Wi-Fi network. Presentations can quickly get out of sync or grind to a halt if you are often maxing out your available bandwidth.
5. PDF Expert – Ok, so this is one is a wildcard, but it is better than you might think. If you can export your Keynote or PowerPoint as a PDF, you have some nice presentation options for showing it with PDF Expert. This app was originally created as a PDF annotator, and it does this exceedingly well, but recent updates added a presentation mode. Simply connect your iPad to a projector via VGA/HDMI or through AirPlay, and you will automatically have the option of entering the new presentation mode.
There are four options. Screen mirroring lets your participants see exactly what you see, and gives you a gamut of annotation tools with which to annotate your presentation. Document view shows them a full page document, regardless of whether you as the presenter need to scroll, zoom or pan on your screen. Again, annotation tools are available, but the toolbar is hidden from the viewer. Then there is the Screenshot mode, which freezes the curent slide for the viewer, letting you flick ahead to future slides to see what is coming up. Best of all in my opinion is the Focus mode. Simply draw a circle around an area you want to draw the audience’s attention to and PDF Expert will highlight it and dim the rest of the screen. If Readdle would add support for presenter notes, I would be a very happy man!
If you need more ideas for what to use as a presentation app on the iPad, check out my iPad Apps page for a more extensive list. Meanwhile, if you have any comments about any of the apps above, feel free to leave them in the comments below.