Monthly Archives: April 2014

Test Driving the New iOS Apps for Google Docs and Sheets

Today Google released two standalone apps for Google Docs and Google Sheets. They are available for iOS and Android, and perhaps most exciting of all, another new app for Slides is on its way. So, how are they different to the iOS Drive app? Let’s find out.

google docs for ios

In terms of features, the big difference is the ability to create and edit documents offline. This is obviously nice to have, but it does not work with the “old” Google Spreadsheets, only with the “new” Google Spreadsheets or spreadsheets you create inside the app.

Additionally, seeing as they are separate apps, you only see your Docs in the Docs app and Sheets in the Sheets app. Teachers of younger students in a GAFE school may appreciate the separate app for just that reason.

It’s also a little easier to share a doc, because just like the desktop version you can now do that from inside the document or spreadsheet by pressing the “i” in the top right hand corner. You can also use Speak Selection on selected text to read that text aloud,  which is great as as an assistive technology tool.

You can now set a passcode lock for each user of the app. This could potentially be handy if your iPads are shared devices, but you will not always be prompted to enter a code or choose an account each time you open the app unless you choose the “always lock” feature, so turn that on to switch between users every time you open the app.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, the Docs and Spreadsheet apps are now the only way to create and edit Docs and Spreadsheets. Google has removed that functionality from the iOS Drive app, and turned it into a file manager like Dropbox, Box or OneDrive. If you hit the “+” sign and try to create a new document, you will be prompted to download the new Documents app if you don’t already have it.

google sheets for ios

Missing features? The most obvious gap seems to be the continued lack of support for tables in Documents. Hopefully that will come in a future update. I’d also like to see a Forms app that is optimized for the iPad, so hopefully that will be on the roadmap in the not too distant future. Other thoughts? Feel free to leave your own ideas below. Maybe Google is watching! 🙂

More information here.

Free Chromebook Screencasting with Snagit for Google Chrome

snagit for Chrome

Today was an exciting day for fans of Snagit for Chrome, because TechSmith finally took the beta tag off the screencasting abilities that this app has had for some time now. This is great news for educators, because although there is not a lot of new functionality, the setup procedure is much simpler than it was before.

If you are new to Snagit for Chrome, you should know that it comes as both a Chrome Extension (for capturing screenshots) and a Chrome app (for capturing screencasts and storing the media you create). Both are free, but both are required to be able to capture images and videos.

Because they are Chrome apps, they work on Macs or PCs running the Chrome web browser, as well as on Chromebooks. However, screencast performance is not ideal on some of the earlier Chromebooks with ARM processors, like the original Samsung Chromebook or the HP Chromebook 11. Intel processors deal much better with the demands of screencasting.

To record a screencast, launch the Snagit for Chrome app and click the “+” sign in the top left-hand corner, select the window you want to record, and you will instantly start recording your screen. Once you are done, click Stop Sharing at the bottom of your screen to finish your screencast. Completed videos are stored in the app, but they can also be shared to YouTube.

Snagit for Chrome Screencasting App

Snagit for Chrome is quick, simple, and ideal for teachers and students who wish to create good looking screencasts, for free, on a number of different devices. Watch the video below for a quick walkthrough of how it works in practice. For more help and ideas about screencasting on a Chromebook please see 3 Ways to Screencast on a Chromebook.

 

The Best Free Web Tools for Engaging Students in 1:1 Classrooms

This week, I had the opportunity to present at the Iowa 1:1 Institute. It is always a great event, and has long been known for having some of Iowa’s brightest and best educators in attendance. I did two presentations – Choose Your Own (Google) Adventure Stories, and the one you can see below.

I believe that every educator should have their own web toolbox of sites that they can turn to when they are looking to engage students in their classrooms. You can’t rely on the same one to do what you need in all scenarios, and your students will probably appreciate some variety from time to time, so I wanted to share some of my favorites and hopefully introduce a few new ones for teachers to take back to their classrooms.

However, it is important to note that these tools won’t change teaching and learning in your classroom. After all, they are just tools. They still need the right context, and without proper implementation within your classroom curriculum, they will do very little to invoke change by themselves.

The slides from the session are below. If you see something you like, feel free to share it with someone else who might benefit from using some of these great web tools in their classroom!

 

The Best Free Interactive Presentation Tools

There are lots of great presentation tools for the classroom and these days they are being used by both students and teachers. So, in this post I have decided to round up a few of my favorites from the last few months in the hope that you find something new to use in your classroom the next time you want to engage your students with something a little different.

1. Nearpod – iPad teachers know that Nearpod is synonymous with engaging, interactive presentations. In fact, some would say they wrote the book on it. However, it is no longer just for the iPad because you can use it on Android, Nooks, Chromebooks and Macs or PCs via the web. Top features include the ability to add quiz tools, videos, photo slideshows, drawing tools, a PDF viewer and even a live Twitter stream.

nearpod

2. EverySlide – Building on the success of apps like Nearpod, EverySlide has some other unique features that make it a great tool for the classroom. As the presenter moves through the slides on their device, the audience slides move at the same time. However, you can build in interactive elements like polls. You can also create quizzes based on interactive hotspots that you add to your slides. Everytime the audience clicks (or taps) on an area of your slide it is recorded for you to view later. Oh, and its web-based and works on any device!

everyslide

3. Movenote – With an eye on the flipped classroom fans, Movenote lets you add interactivity to your presentations via a webcam video of yourself! You upload your presentation to movenote.com, authorize your webcam, and flip through your slides like a screencast as you record a live video feed of yourself at the same time. If you prefer you can record your video ahead of time, then use movenote to sync the slides to the video. Still not convinced? It integrates with Google Drive, so you can pull over your favorite Google Presentations and use those too.

movenote

4. Swipe.to – It may officially be in beta, but Swipe is still a polished performer. Simply upload your presentation as a PDF and/or add some image files are you are good to go. There are no limits on the number of files you upload, or the size of the files you add. YouTube and Vimeo videos can be added with just a URL, and all your decks are private until you are ready to share them. When you are ready to present, share the presentation URL so your audience can follow along on their devices in real time. There are no limits on the number of people you can present to at one time, so if you happen to get called to give an ISTE keynote, this might be a tool worth considering! 🙂 You can even give your students a coding challenge and get them to write their slides in Markup.

swipe

 

5. ClassFlow – Promethean made their name with interactive whiteboards, but when they launched ClassFlow you can see that they are now starting to look beyond the board. The teacher creates interactive lessons like they would for a SMART or Promethean whiteboard, except students interact with it via a mobile app or the web. Videos, websites, documents and more can be added and they are all stored in your cloud account so they are accessible on any device you want to use. Polling tools give teachers instant feedback and the data is stored for future planning.

classflow

6. Slideidea – I have blogged about Slideidea before, but it remains a great presentation tool for iPad teachers. It lets you create and present your slideshow and includes a variety of interesting features to make your presentation stand out. There is a digital whiteboard for drawing up some ideas, an interactive polling tool, and even the ability to record your presentation as a screencast. So, if you you are looking for a change from Keynote or Haiku Deck, give it a try. You won’t regret it! Read more about Slideidea here.

SlideIdea iPad Presentation Templates

Which is your favorite interactive presentation tool for the classroom? Is it listed above? If not, feel free to add it to the comments below to share with others!