Google’s Classroom LMS App: What We Know So Far

Today, Google took the wraps off a brand new free app for Google Apps for Education users called Classroom. It is designed to meet the needs of teachers and students in the same way that an LMS like Canvas, Haiku or Edmodo might do. Here’s what we know so far.

UPDATE: Google Classroom is now live for all Google Apps for Education domains. Read my hands-on review and step-by-step guide here.

In a press release on their blog, Google listed the following features as part of the new Classroom app for Google Apps for Education users:

  • Create and collect assignments: Classroom weaves together Google Docs, Drive and Gmail to help teachers create and collect assignments paperlessly. They can quickly see who has or hasn’t completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback to individual students.
  • Improve class communications: Teachers can make announcements, ask questions and comment with students in real time—improving communication inside and outside of class.
  • Stay organized: Classroom automatically creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student. Students can easily see what’s due on their Assignments page.
Google Classroom Screenshot
Screenshot of a student dashboard in Classroom

Teachers can add students to a class they create, or issue an enrollment code to students. When teachers create an assignment, they can choose to share it as a single document or create a copy for every student in their class. Teachers can see at a glance who has turned in the assignment, and who hasn’t, as well as send announcements to the whole class. Students can also post questions to a classroom stream for everyone to see or comment on.

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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.

Access the Google Drive Template Gallery on an iPad

Recently, I was asked if it was possible to access the Google Drive Template Gallery on the iPad. The Template Gallery is a great repository of ready made Google templates for Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Drawings and Forms. Teachers can add documents to the Template Gallery for students to use and adapt for their own assignments.

I had never tried it on the iPad before, so I had no reason to doubt that it wouldn’t work, but I was wrong. If you open Safari and navigate to http://drive.google.com/templates you are immediately greeted with a 404 error. The Template Gallery will not load.

404 Template Gallery Error

So, here’s how to fix it. Instead of using Safari, download and open the Chrome iOS browser. If you navigate to http://drive.google.com/templates in Chrome, and you will find the same 404 error. However, the fix is not far away. Tap the Settings icon in the top right-hand corner, and select Request Desktop Site.

request desktop site

The site will then reload and display the Google Drive Templates Gallery just like it does on a laptop or desktop computer. Better still, if you pick a Docs or Spreadsheet template, Chrome will automatically switch you over to the Drive app (if you have it installed) and you can then edit, save and share your new document.

Drive templates in Chrome

Just be aware that if you select a Document template that has tables in it, this type of document will not display properly in the Google Drive iPad app because the Google Drive iPad app does not currently support tables. I hope this changes in the near future!

Still, if you have trouble accessing the Google Drive Template Gallery on the iPad, try this quick trick with the Chrome iOS app to access the files you, or your students, need.

Why the Folder Gadget Beats Attachments in Google Sites

There are a number of ways that you can add file attachments to a Google Site. For instance, you can add files to the bottom of a page in the attachments area. You can also add a File Cabinet page. However, my favorite, by far, is the Folder gadget.

The folder gadget lets you display the contents of a Google Drive Folder on a Google Site. You add your folder by editing a page and going to Insert > Drive > Folder. Then you select the folder from your Google Drive that you want to add to your Google Site.

insert folder in google sites

For me, the Folder gadget has a number of advantages over page attachments or a file cabinet page. Here are a few of the important differences:

1. Updates: The problem with attachments and file cabinet pages is that every time you update a document, you need to remove the one you had from a Google Site and upload the latest version. If you use Google Docs, Spreadsheets or Presentations, you can log in to your Drive account, and edit the document. Because the file is in a folder that is embedded on your Google Site, the latest version of the file is automatically pushed to your website. This is great for teachers who update a syllabus or other class documents.

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How to Use Google Drive to Teach Coding in the Classroom

Coding in the classroom is becoming an increasingly popular thing to do. The Hour of Code helped raise awareness for that, and has brought to light a whole slew of new coding opportunities for teachers and students. I was similarly inspired, and have committed myself to learning HTML and CSS in my spare time this year. However, regardless of what code you decide to learn, or teach, you will need a code editor with which to compile your code. For me, there are few that have more benefits than the free Editey website editor apps.

editey

Editey apps can be installed inside Google Drive. Simply click Create > Connect More Apps, and search for Editey. Once you have installed the apps you want, all you need to do is hit the big red Create button to get started on some code. All your files are then stored inside Drive and can be accessed anywhere, at any time, on a Mac, PC or Chromebook. Better still, any files you create can be shared with other users and worked on in real time. This means students can collaborate with each other on their code, and share it with their teacher when they are done.

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Bring New Life to Classroom Projects with Movenote on the Web, iPad & More!

I always told my students that there was a difference between creating a presentation, and giving a presentation. The creation part was easier for them. They had time to research, build, and revise their work, but when it came to presenting their findings while standing up in front of a room full of people, nerves often got the better of them. Thankfully, there are free, multi-platform tools like Movenote that can make that easier, but it’s not just for students. It is also a great way for teachers personalize their screencasts for a flipped classroom, or other online learning opportunities.

movenote

Movenote lets you record a video of yourself talking about a presentation via your webcam, and it syncs it to the slides you are talking about. Here’s how it works. Laptop or desktop users start by creating a free account at movenote.com. Next, you need to give Movenote permission to access your webcam so that it can record the video to accompany your presentation. However, you also have the option to upload a pre-recorded video if you prefer.

Your presentation can now be added to Movenote from your computer, or  your Google Drive account. Recommended file formats are PDF, PNG, or JPEGs. PowerPoint files also work, but are sometimes more reliably converted when first saved as a PDF. If you have a Google account, you can bring a Google Presentation over too. Click the Re-order button on any of the uploaded files to rearrange the order of your slides.

movenote record screen

The final step in the creation process is recording your video, so clicking the red Record button will quickly get you under way. You can now introduce your presentation on your webcam and move through each slide with the navigation buttons at the top of the screen. (If you uploaded a pre-recorded video, all you need to do is advance your slides in time to the video you uploaded). There are no annotation tools per se, but if you click and drag with your mouse, a virtual laser pointer can be used to highlight areas you deem most important, and you can pause the video at any time to collect your thoughts.

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How to Add Questions for Students to YouTube Videos

With the popularity of flipped classrooms showing no sign of waning, a new crop of web tools for teachers are emerging to help support instruction. In this post, I take a look at four ways that teachers can add questions to a YouTube video for their students to answer when watching a video at home or on their own.

1. Educanon.com

For a more polished approach, check out Educanon.com. It works with YouTube, Vimeo or TeacherTube videos. You can add students to your online class, and even assign them video lessons of your choice. You can also watch student progress, question by question in real time, as they work through the video. Teachers can have up to eight classes, and can arrange videos in the order that they want students to watch them

To get started, simply copy and paste the link to the video into the Educanon video builder. Then, add a question at the appropriate time in the video. Unlike the YouTube question editor, Educanon stores all student responses so you can go back and check for student understanding at a later date. Educanon is also in beta, but is currently free to use.

educanon

2. EDpuzzle.com

The last site I am going to share is called EDpuzzle. It is a little more versatile in the sources it allows for your video with YouTube, Khan Academy, TED, National Geographic and more as supported sites. Once you have chosen your video you can trim the beginning or ends to get the content you really need. You can also record an audio track for the video to describe it in your own words or to relate it to what you have been doing in the classroom. If you don’t need a full audio narration, you can leave voice comments at specific points in the video.

Like Educanon, you can create a class, add students and get a record of results as they come in from students who are watching your EDpuzzle videos. You can also assign a video as homework for students that are in your class. Edpuzzle.com is also a free service for educators, so feel free to check it out too.

EDpuzzle

3. Google Forms

As a couple of people have reminded me on Twitter and in the comments below, the recent introduction of video to a Google Form means that you can now integrate a YouTube video alongside questions that you may have on a Google Form. All the student answers will be recorded on a Google Spreadsheet, and could potentially be graded for you with the Flubaroo script. This would work a little differently to the options above, because you cannot insert questions at a specific point in the video without splitting the clip and having several smaller clips. However, it could still be a nice option for teachers who are flipping their classroom and looking to add questions to a YouTube video. To add a video, create your form and go to Insert > Video, or click Add Item and choose video. Then paste the link to the YouTube video you want to use.

Google Form Videos

So, the next time you want to add a little more interactivity to videos that you assign to your students to watch, check out one of the options above to help you add questions to YouTube videos.

Setting Default Apps on the iPad with Google

If, like me, you are a Google Apps user who loves to use their iPad, you may have longed for the ability to have your favorite Google services set as the default apps on your iPad. Well, you can, to a degree, and here’s how.

DriveGoogle+ on iOSgmailGooglechrome

Today I saw a post on Google+ by Chris Betcher, a Google Certified Teacher and Trainer, that reminded me how to do just that. It’s simple really, and there is no need for workarounds or even jailbreaking your device, because Google has done all the hard work for you.

Whether you realize it or not, Google has updated its iOS apps so that they can talk to each other. For instance, it you click on an email link while inside Chrome, the iPad will automatically open the Gmail instead of Apple’s Mail app. The same applies for links that lead to a file in Drive. Clicking the link inside of Gmail will open the file in the Drive app, instead of Safari. Found an interesting link in Google+?  Tap the share arrow, and you can open it in Chrome.

Setting Default Apps on the iPad

Apple doesn’t allow you to set default apps on the iPad, so how is this possible? Well, it is all down to a bit of clever engineering from Google. If you navigate to the Settings in Gmail or Chrome, you will find a menu option called Google Apps. Clicking that, allows you to choose a Google iOS app to open something that may normally be opened by Safari or the Mail app.

So, all that is left to do is to wean yourself off some of Apple’s default apps. Mobile Safari is a great browser, and the Mail app is very solid too. However, if you find yourself in these apps when you would rather be in Google’s apps, all you need to do is shift your focus to using the Chrome and Gmail apps instead.

Using Google on the iPad can sometimes be a bit of an ordeal, but in case you haven’t tried it, the experience is very much the same on Google’s Android tablets. You can set default apps on Android, but if you use Chrome to access your Google Drive you will still be forced into the mobile view and warned that you are using an incompatible browser when in the Desktop view. Still, progress has been made, and Google’s commitment to mobile devices is clear, even if the support is not coming quite as fast as some of us might like it to! 🙂

For more information on setting Google’s apps as default apps on the iPad, watch Chris Betcher’s video below, and check out this follow-up post on how to set Gmail as the default mail app on iOS.

Take Control: Customize the New Google App Launcher

App Launcher Customizer for Google

The famous black bar is gone, and has been replaced with a new icon based app launcher. Personally, I like it, but I know there are still some that are having trouble letting go of that iconic horizontal menu. However, there is a great Chrome extension that will help make that transition just a little bit easier – App Launcher Customizer for Google.

Once installed, you have the option of adding or removing any of the standard apps that appear by default in the new app launcher. You can choose from over 170 Google apps and services, and sort them so that they are organized just the way you want them. It’s as simple as dragging and dropping.

App Launcher Options

However, that’s not all. You can also add custom bookmarks so that you can save some of your most often used websites alongside your most often used Google services. Simply click the Add Custom Shortcut button and add the URL of your choice. Best of all, your settings are synced via Chrome sync so you can enjoy your new custom layout in any Chrome browser you happen to be signed into.

Essentially, App Launcher Customizer for Google does the same thing that Big G Black Bar Sorter did, (it’s now removed from the Chrome Web Store), but is still a very useful extension to have, and one that could make your life just a little bit easier every time you are online. The video below has a walkthrough of what you can expect when you install this new app.

How to Preview a Page as a Viewer in Google Sites

When working on a Google Site, the view you get as the owner, is sometimes going to be different to the view a visitor gets when they access your website. Google has a built-in option called Preview page as a viewer, to deal with just this problem. It shows you exactly what your Google Site will look like to someone who does not have access to your site as an editor.

Best of all, it is very easy to do. Make sure you are signed in to your Google Site, then click More > Preview page as a viewer, (or use the keyboard shortcut g then p). Your site will then open in a new tab, minus the editing bar you normally see across the top of your page. Instead, you will see a small yellow rectangle at the top of the page that says “Preview page as a viewer”. If you have asked Google to optimize your site for Mobile visitors (More > Manage Site > General > Mobile) you will also see the option to switch to a mobile preview, but in my experience, this is often not a pretty sight!

preview page as a viewer

Why would you want to preview a page as a viewer? Well, if you are anything like me, you may occasionally (read: often!) forget whether or not you changed the sharing settings on an embedded Google document. In the editor view on your site, everything looks fine, and it displays just like it should. However, visitors who do not have access to a document see a placeholder denying them the ability to see it without first requesting access. It is an easy problem to fix, but a quick preview of the site as a viewer can help alleviate problems like this before they arise.