There is something reassuring about using a product where all the company resources are dedicated to making that one thing better. Take, for instance, Zoom. You can get video conferencing options from Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others, but as big as these companies are, video calls are not their sole purpose, so they only dedicate a limited number of resources towards maintaining and improving that service. Recently, Google was able to offer a number of updates for Meet to help make it more competitive with the likes of Zoom. Here are five new features for Google Meet that you can expect to see soon.Read More »
In October, 2016, Google unveiled their vision for the future of interactive whiteboards. They called it the Jamboard, and it began shipping to customers in May of the following year. The Jamboard has a 55″ 4K touchscreen display that includes WiFi connectivity, an HD camera, microphone and speakers. The $5000 price tag puts it out of reach for many people, but the software that powers it is free for anyone to use, whether they have a physical Jamboard or not.Read More »
If you’ve ever looked for a quick, easy way for teachers, students, and even parents, to learn how to use a Chromebook, then you should take a look at Google’s free Chromebook Simulator. It’s an online learning site with step-by-step interactive tutorials that will teach you everything you need to know to get started using a Chromebook. Here’s how it works.Read More »
In a few days, ISTE 2019 will be in full swing. This means you can expect a flurry of emails and announcements from edtech companies touting their latest product updates. What follows is the latest news from Google in relation to Classroom, Forms and Chromebooks. These features will be available to everyone in the coming months.Read More »
Apple Classroom was released in March 2016, but from things I read online, or hear when talking to other educators, I feel that it still gets mistakenly compared to Google Classroom. I can absolutely see why that happens. Both products have very similar names, and both were created to help solve technology problems in the classroom. However, the truth is, these two products could not be more different. So, in this post, I wanted to take some time to run through everything that Apple Classroom can do, and compare that to Google Classroom, in order to give you some ideas on how you can use these useful tech tools at your school.
Recently, Google added the ability to add Google Drive video files to a Slides presentation. It’s a great new feature for schools, but it’s not what this blog post is about. Confused? Bear with me, because there was an additional feature added at the same time that didn’t get a lot of attention. I found it by accident, and I think it is a useful option to know about it so I wanted to share it here in case you find it useful too!
When Google Slides first came out, I wasn’t very kind in my review of all that it could do (or not do). However, the iOS app has seen a lot of improvements and today Google released a brand new feature that will be great for classrooms and presenters everywhere – a live question and answer module that lets an audience ask and vote on questions they would most like you do address. Here’s how it works.
When I first tried out this feature, I couldn’t find how to activate it. My app was up to date, but there was nothing in the menus that indicated how to start a Q&A session. Turns out, there is something you need to know first. The Q&A feature is only available when your iPad is connected to a projector or other external device. This means you need to mirror your iPad via Airplay, or use a VGA adapter to connect to the display you want to present on. You will not be able to access Q&A unless you are connected to an external display.
Step 1: Connect your iPad to the projector or external display.
Step 2: Launch the presentation you want use, and tap the play arrow from the toolbar. In the drop-down menu, choose to Present to an external display.
Step 3: Once you are in presenter mode, tap the Q&A icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen to open the Q&A menu.
Step 4: Tap START NEW to start a new Q&A session.
Step 5: If you are a Google Apps for Education user, or a Google Apps business user, you will have the option to limit questions to people within your organization, but if you select Anyone, everyone in the audience, regardless of whether they have a Google account or not, can ask or vote on questions.
Step 6: Once you have set the permissions you want, click the back arrow in the top left-hand corner of your screen to return to your presentation. At this point, you see the presenter mode, and the audience sees your first slide with a banner along the top that has a URL for them to visit on their device in order to enter questions and vote on questions submitted by others.
Step 7: When a new question arrives, you will see a number appear on the Q&A icon in the top right-hand corner of your screen. Tap the number to see the questions that have been asked.
Step 8: To address a specific question with your audience, tap on it. This changes the audience view from your current slide to a full-screen view of the question you selected, as well as the name of the person that asked the question, (so long as they signed in with their Google account before asking the question). If the user does not sign in before asking a question, they will be listed as Anonymous.
Step 9: If the audience members have voted on questions, the ones with the most votes appear at the top of your list, (a la Google Moderator). Every question you answer/address is highlighted with a checkmark so you can see which ones you have answered and which ones you have not got to yet.
Step 10: When you exit your presentation, you can tap the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the app and access Q&A History. This shows you all the questions that were asked during the presentation. The entries are time stamped so that if you gave the same presentation on different days, you will be able to see what was asked for each day.
The video below show the Google Slides Q&A in action:
One of the more popular posts on my blog of late was a post I wrote about how to make Gmail the default mail app on the iPad. It worked great, but it was a workaround and you couldn’t help but feel that there must be a better way. Well, today there is, because Google updated the Gmail app to make it do (almost) everything that you need it to do in order to use Gmail as your default mail app on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Here’s what you need to know.
First, you need to make sure that both your iPad and the Gmail app is up to date. This only works if your iPad in on iOS 8 (or later) and version 4.0 of the Gmail app (or later versions). You can check your iPad software version by going to Settings > General > About and looking for the Version number. For Gmail, navigate your way to the App Store, and tap Updates to see if an update is available. Once you have that under control, we can begin…
1. Open the app that you would like to have Gmail available as your default mail client to share links, files or other information. Examples of apps might include Safari, Chrome, Photos, Flipboard, etc.
2. Tap the Share icon and swipe to the right-hand side of the top row of sharing apps until you see the More option, as in the image below:
3. Tap More, and scroll down through the list of apps until you find Gmail.
4. Tap the toggle switch next to the Gmail app to turn it green and activate Gmail as a sharing option on your iOS device.
5. The three horizontal lines to the right of the toggle switch will let you drag the Gmail app further up the list so that it is more readily accessible when you need it to share. Once you have it where you want it, tap Done.
That’s all there is to it. The next time you find a website you want to share, a photo you need to email, or a file you want to attach to a Gmail message, simply go to the share menu in the app you are working in, and tap Gmail to open a new email.
So, no more workarounds, no more headaches, and no more wishing for things to be different, because Google has made the changes that lots of people wanted to see and updated their app so that you truly can use it as the default email app on your iOS device.
Yesterday, it was announced that InfuseLearning, the popular, free online formative assessment tool, will be closing its doors for good on April 3, 2015. Those that have used it know that it was a great tool for teachers who were looking to gather data on their students to help inform future instruction. However, of late, it did not work as well as it used to, and ultimately this looks to have led to its eventual demise. So, here is a roundup of some of the best alternatives to InfuseLearning.
1. Socrative – It has been around for a while, but the recent 2.0 update gave it a much needed facelift and some new features to boot. It’s free, multi-platform, and a great way for teachers to get data on how well their students understand the content. They also have a great resource page with training materials to help you introduce this tool to others.
2. Kahoot! – If you’ve been to an edtech conference in the last 12 months, the chances are good that you have already been part of a Kahoot! quiz. Kahoot is a gamified approach to assessment, and it definitely adds a fun factor to a traditional quiz. Like Scorative, it can be used on any modern device. Read more about Kahoot here.
3. Google Forms – Google Apps schools have been using Forms to collect assessment data for some time now, and over the years Forms has evolved to become an interesting online quiz tool. There are a variety of useful question types that include the ability to add images and videos. Pair it with Flubaroo, and you have a powerful self-grading assessment tool.
4. Excel Surveys – Not a Google school? Microsoft offer their own version of survey tool called Excel Surveys. It is available to Office 365 schools, or anyone with a free personal Microsoft account via Office Online. It lacks some of the more useful options found in Google Forms, but there is still enough to make it worth a look. Read more about Excel Surveys here.
5. Plickers – If devices are not plentiful in your school, then Plickers is exactly what you need. If you’ve never used it before, you will be amazed at how it works. You print out a collection of four sided QR code-like markers for students. They select the answer they want to give by rotating the card to the letter they want to submit, and the teacher scans the cards with a smartphone or tablet to record student responses. Read about Plickers here.
Recently, there have been a number of tech tools that have been created to help enhance teacher productivity and improve assignment workflows in the classroom. Take, for example, the excellent OneNote Class Notebook Creator. It is an ideal app for Office 365 schools who want to quickly distribute materials to a whole class, have students work in a paperless environment, while also providing a collaboration space for the whole class to work in.
Google Apps schools are flocking to Google Classroom – a management tool for teachers who are looking to consolidate and simplify the flow of electronic files. It lets you make a copy of an individual document and distribute it to students with permissions configured automatically so that only the student and the teacher can see the document. There is also a discussion feed for students to communicate inside your Google Classroom.
iPad classrooms are using workflow apps like Showbie as a way for students to turn in assignments created on the iPad so teachers can grade them and give feedback. Similar apps like Skaffl, Handouts, and Turnitin do much the same thing, while others are turning to cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive to meet the same need.
Then there are the many learning management systems that were created to take your classroom to the cloud. Canvas, Moodle, Schoology, Blackboard, Haiku, BrainHoney and many many more exist because teachers are looking for simple ways to unify the experience of delivering content and working online with students.
However, there’s a problem with all of these systems. The problem is, that they make it too easy for teachers to do what they always used to do – assign worksheets that don’t challenge, engage and empower students in their learning. A digital version of a paper worksheet is still just a worksheet, and it is not taking advantage of the powerful technologies that students have at their fingertips today.
It doesn’t matter whether you are using Chromebooks, Macbooks, iPads or Surface tablets. A low-level worksheet is a low-level worksheet whether it is in paper form, a PDF, a Word Doc or a Google Doc. Whether they type on it, or write over it with digital ink, it makes no difference. I know it is quick, easy, and convenient to assign. I know because I did it myself when I was in the classroom. It doesn’t make you a bad teacher, but your students deserve better.
None of these tools are inherently flawed. In fact the majority of them are fantastic because they offer multiple solutions to a very real digital problem. However, I would encourage you to use them in a way that is most befitting a modern digital classroom. Use them to collect authentic assignments that demand creativity. Use them as part of project based or inquiry driven learning projects. Use them to showcase learning in a way that can only be captured with an electronic device.
Consider collaborative projects in Office Online or Google Drive. Have your students write a blog post or create a website to showcase their learning. Have them create a screencast or an Office Mix presentation. Assign them a video project that combines other multimedia content or take advantage of stop motion and green screen effects to communicate their learning. Have them create a Thinglink, an interactive timeline, or a custom Google Map. Challenge them to some App Smashing (it’s not just for iPads by the way), tell some digital stories, create some Kahoot quizzes, or reach out for new ideas like augmented reality, QR codes, and makerspaces.
I know there is a lot out there, and I know it gets overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and help is at hand. The chances are high that someone in your building is already doing this, and if they aren’t, there are thousands of educators on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ that will be more than happy to help you out and share their ideas.
Start small. Begin by replacing just one worksheet with an idea like the ones above and see how it goes. Watch the reaction you get from your students. As time goes by, continue to look for more ways to leverage the power of your digital devices and integrate meaningful digital experiences to demonstrate learning in new and innovative ways. Trust me. It will challenge your students, motivate them, and engage them in something deeper, and more meaningful, than any worksheet you can lay your hands on.