Google Apps on the iPad: The Good, The Great & The Ugly!

Using Google Apps for Education on the iPad has not always been a pleasurable experience, but things are changing. Google is constantly adding new features and updates to its popular suite of online productivity tools, and many of these changes are geared towards making their services more accessible on all platforms. For instance, the new Create menu in Drive is a much nicer way to select the type of document you want to create when doing so from an iPad or other mobile device.

Recently, I have given a number of presentations on the best ways for educators to access Google Apps on the iPad, so I decided to share a slideshow of my current findings below. I have no doubt that I will need to update this presentation very soon, but I will be glad to do so, because it will mean Google has made yet more changes to make their apps more palatable on iOS and other mobile platforms.

Are you in a Google Apps school that uses iPads? Do you have any tips you would like to share on the best ways to use Google on an iPad at school? If so, leave a comment below.

[slideshare id=16582672&doc=googleontheipad-goodgreatugly-130217071352-phpapp01]

An iPad Workflow for the Classroom Using Google Drive & Pages, Keynote or Numbers

DriveThe Google Drive iPad app is not yet all that we might want it to be, but it is definitely moving in the right direction. A recent update included the ability to create and edit spreadsheets, but it also added something equally useful – the ability to upload files from other apps to Google Drive via the “Open in” function. This creates some useful workflow options for teachers who want to assign, receive and grade student work on the iPad.

Here’s how it could work.

1. Using the Drive app, the student creates a folder for assignments and shares it with the teacher (some kind of default naming strategy would be good here: see The Paperless iPad Classroom with the Google Drive app).

2. The teacher takes all the student folders that are shared with them, and puts them in one class folder (e.g. Math 1st hour) to help stay organized.

3. The student completes the assignment in Pages, Keynote or Numbers and goes to Share and Print > Open in Another App > PDF, and then choose the Google Drive app.

4. The Drive app opens and the student puts the completed assignment in the folder that they shared with the teacher in step 1.

5. When the assignment is due, the teacher uses the Drive app to find  their class folder, and then the student folder to find the assignment they want to grade. They open the assignment, and then open it in Notability.

6. In Notability the teacher makes annotations and grades the assignment, then sends it back to Google Drive, and puts it in the student’s folder complete with annotations, comments and so forth.

7. The student accesses the shared folder to see their grade.

Easy, right? 🙂 It’s really not as complex as it might sound. The teacher could even go one step further and have an Assignments folder in Google Drive that they share with their students. They could upload digital copies of the assignments to this folder, and make it read only (so students cannot add to or delete). Then they could just tell the students that the latest assignment was in the folder.

How could teacher quickly collect all the Google accounts of the students in their class? Make a Google form with “Name” and “Google Account email address”, and get students to fill it in on the first day of class. The results all go to a spreadsheet, so the teacher can copy and paste the email addresses into the folder permissions on Google, and/or create a contact group for that class. Better still, use the gClass Folders script on a desktop machine to create all the folders for you!

For more info on a Google Drive iPad Workflow, see The Paperless iPad Classroom with the Google Drive app which goes into the concept in more detail and offers more options.

The New Google+ Snapseed App for iOS and Android

When Google bought Snapseed back in September, many feared for its future. This was, after all, one of the best photo editing apps on the App Store. It won countless awards for its simplicity and powerful editing features. Would Google butcher it, strip it for parts, and just integrate it into Google+? Apparently not.

Today, Google relaunched the app with a few minor updates, and one major update – it is now free! This is great news for educators and those that use iOS devices in the classroom, because we finally have a full featured photo editor for our favorite price of free. Yes, there is Adobe’s Photoshop Express (free with in-app purchases) and a few others, but there are really no free apps that come close to the quality of the new Snapseed.

Snapseed

Snapseed allows you to edit JPEG, TIFF or RAW images. You can use pictures already on the device, or import images from the camera connector kit. There is a maximum image size of up to 20.25Mb on new iOS devices before resampling. All your basic adjustments like cropping, straightening, brightness and saturation adjustments are included, but so are a host of other interesting options like image filters, tilt and shift, center focus, and frames. It even has a selective adjustment tool that lets you change the brightness, contrast and saturation in just one part of your image.

Using Frames in Snapseed

I have both iPhoto and Snapseed, but I have to admit that I intuitively go to Snapseed by default. I like iPhoto, and maybe prefer it for some things, but Snapseed is a really great app, and to have it for free now, is something that will be great for schools. You can find a full list of features and support here, or download the app in the App Store and/or Google Play Store.

New iOS Updates for Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Zite, Gmail & YouTube!

PagesThere were some fairly major updates to some popular iOS apps today, so I thought I would take a few minutes to give you the lowdown on what’s new for Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Zite, YouTube and Gmail, if you have not already updated them to the latest versions.

The iWork updates include some nice tweaks and greater compatibility. For instance, tracking changes will no doubt be useful for a lot of students and teachers using Pages to edit documents,especially when working between devices. Keynote has a couple of new transitions and the ability to preserve the master slides and preset styles during import and export. Numbers now allows you to hide and unhide rows/columns and work with filters.

Gmail, however, has arguably seen the biggest update. The much maligned official Google email app may well have finally benefitted from Google’s earlier acquisition of the Sparrow Mail app for Mac. It has a completely new interface, the ability to switch between up to 5 Gmail accounts, a much better search capability, and the ability to reply to calendar invites from within the email you are reading. Gmail 2.0 is a HUGE improvement, and so far I really like it. Google’s other big news today was an update for their YouTube app, which now has iPad support.

Zite is not just one of my favorite PLN apps for the iPad, it is one of my favorite apps in any category. Today it got a big update to Zite 2.0. A new logo, a new user interface, and an expansion to 40,000 categories you can subscribe to – up from 2,500. iPad users can use gestures to rate their favorite stories, and even find related topics suggested at the bottom of an article. An update for Zite has been a long time coming, but this looks like it has been worth the wait.

Full details on all the updates, as well as links to the apps concerned, are listed below:

1. Pages

In this release Pages for iOS is updated for improved compatibility with Microsoft Word and Pages for Mac.

• Use Change Tracking to track changes to body text in a document
• Accept and reject individual changes as you review a document
• Import Pages and Microsoft Word documents with change tracking and continue to track changes to body text
• Preserve tracked changes in documents exported in Microsoft Word or Pages format
• Preserve calculations in tables when importing from and exporting to Pages for Mac
• Add reflections to shapes
• Lock and unlock objects

2. Keynote

In this release Keynote for iOS is updated for improved compatibility with Microsoft PowerPoint and Keynote for Mac.

• Import and export all Microsoft PowerPoint and Keynote for Mac slide sizes
• Import and export presentation themes, complete with master slides and preset styles
• Play back all Keynote action builds including Move, Rotate, Scale, and Opacity
• Add new slide transitions including Shimmer and Sparkle
• Preserve calculations in tables when importing from and exporting to Keynote for Mac
• Add reflections to shapes
• New print layouts include options to print with presenter notes, with builds, and without backgrounds
• Lock and unlock objects

3. Numbers

In this release Numbers for iOS is updated for improved compatibility with Microsoft Excel and Numbers for Mac.

• Hide and unhide rows and columns
• Import & export Numbers for Mac spreadsheets with filters, & turn filters on and off
• Preserve rich text in tables when importing and exporting
• Add reflections to shapes
• Lock and unlock objects

4. Gmail

– Multiple account support
– App redesigned with a new, cleaner look
– Search predictions as you type
– Infinite scrolling inbox
– Respond to Google Calendar invites inline
– Interactive Google+ posts support
– New welcome experience

5. YouTube

* Optimized for iPad and iPhone 5
* Stream videos with AirPlay
* Tap logo to open your Guide of channels
* Add and remove videos from your playlists
* Clickable links in video descriptions
* Improved accessibility with VoiceOver

6. Zite

Welcome to Zite 2.0. We’ve completely reimagined Zite to be faster, smarter and more beautiful:

· New Explore page helps you find interesting topics
· Jump to topics from anywhere in Zite to find great related content
· Expanded “Your Top Stories,” including Headline News, Featured Topics and Popular Stories in Zite
· Rate stories by simply swiping them up or down (iPad only)
· Link Facebook to get automatic topic suggestions and improve your personalization
· Expansion from 2,500 to over 40,000 categories to explore

The Awesome Read&Write Chrome Extension

The Read&Write Chrome browser extension from texthelp.com is a great accessibility extension for Google Apps schools. It includes text to speech, a talking dictionary, a picture dictionary, vocabulary tool and study skills tools that collect highlighted selections of a Google Doc. Best of all, it is free! You can get the extension here. HT to the awesome @mmcowell.

The text to speech functionality is particularly impressive, and is reminiscent of the Speak Selection or VoiceOver features found on the iPad. It has a choice of voices, and is a great feature for students who need text read aloud to them, or who would benefit from hearing their typed work read back to them for proof reading purposes. The speech to text also works on dictionary definitions of selected words.

The Picture Dictionary will pop up when you highlight a word and activate the Picture Dictionary button. Even if a student has read the dictionary definition, or had it read aloud to them, the pictures can be great for helping put things in context and give some visual clues to the meaning of a word. You can even use the images from the Picture Dictionary in your Google Doc by simply copying and pasting the image.

Study guides can be quickly and easily created with the vocabulary tool. Simply highlight a number of key words in a document, click on the vocabulary tool, and a new tab will open with a vocabulary table that includes the word, a definition of the word, and a number of associated clipart images. It works best, or causes the least confusion, with words that only have one meaning, but it is still a great feature to have.

So, if you are a Chrome user, and you have not yet taken Read&Write for a test drive, you absolutely should. It sits, unobtrusively, in your menu bar and only leaps into action when you want it to. The video below goes over its capabilities in more detail. Feel free to leave a comment on how you could use this tool to help benefit the students in your classroom.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/wW3gRv9gRCI]

Google+ Comes to K-12 School Domains

Google announced today that their social network platform, Google+, is now going to be available for K-12 schools. Previously it was only available for businesses and government organizations. Google+ is similar to Facebook, but works on the premise that you sort the people you follow into circles. You can share information, links or media with circles of your choice.

Embedded within Google+ are the popular Hangouts – a video conferencing tool that lets you host multiple people at once in the same video call. Part of the announcement today was that Google has raised the limit on the number of people you can have in a Hangout. You can now have up to 15 people on the same call! The Hangouts have lots of built-in extras like screensharing, doc sharing, visual effects, and more. They can be scheduled in Google Calendar or joined right from Gmail.

Google+

Lots of Google based schools have been wanting to add Google+ to their arsenal of Google tool because the potential it has for the classroom could be huge. When you couple the Docs suite of tools with Google+, you could have something akin to an all-in-one learning management system that students could use to complete assignments and participate in class discussions.

Google+ should be available to all Google Apps schools in the next few days. Will you be among those first in line to put it to use, or are you waiting to see how others implement it in their schools? Leave a comment below.

Google Docs Storybuilder

So, have you seen the new Google Docs Stroybuilder tool? It’s very cool. Google have been promoting it with some fun videos like the one below, and it could be a big hit in the classroom if you are looking for a novel way for students to tell a story of their own, collaborate on a joint tale, or even just to help demonstrate the value of the editing process! Take a look at Google’s take on Hall and Oates…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0hHaQgdypI]

How does it work? Simply visit the Gone Google Storybuilder and hit the big red button to get started. Then add the names of the characters you want to star in your story. Then fill out what you want each character to type, (overwriting or correcting the previous character where needed, and add some music. Once you are done you get a URL to share your story with others. Easy and fun.

Have you created a story that you would like to share with us? Leave a link in the comments below and share the creativity of your students or show us your own talents!

Adding an Apple Touch Icon to Google Sites

You’ve seen it before. You add a Google Site to the homescreen of your iOS device, and you get that generic Google Sites logo as your icon. For an individual user, it’s no big deal. However, for Google Apps schools, it is much more of an issue. They may want their students (or staff) to bookmark several different Google Sites websites. So, what would be a good way to differentiate between these sites on an iPad or iPod Touch homescreen? An Apple Touch icon.

The Apple Touch icon is a small image that will replace the generic Google Sites logo as the homescreen icon and help your bookmarks stand out more. They are easy to create, and require very little technical expertise. So, if you are interested in creating an Apple Touch icon for your Google Site, watch the video below. I made it in less than 5 minutes, and with a little bit of practice, so can you. All you need is a royalty free image, and a little imagination.

The ease at which an Apple Touch icon can be made will quickly compel you to add these to the default list of things you add to a new Google site, but don’t stop there, because you can add a favicon to a Google Site just as quickly.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/fvvRhaYn5e4]

The Goodreader iPad Workflow Solution

GoodfraderAt a workshop today, I got talking to a High School teacher (@MrsMoses227) who uses the Goodreader app for her iPad workflow solution. It wasn’t a method I was previously familiar with, but it worked very well for her, so I thought I would share it here for anyone else that might be interested in following a similar path.

Goodreader, if you don’t already know, is a powerful PDF reader, but that is only half the story. It allows you to view almost any file type you can think of, watch movies from a variety of formats, and even unzip compressed folders. You can connect with numerous cloud accounts, copy, move, rename or transfer files, and send them to other apps. Finally, there is an intuitive number of annotation tools for marking up PDFs, and tabbed file viewing. So, you can see why it is often referred to as the Swiss Army knife of productivity apps on the iPad!

So, what did this teacher use it for? Well, she asks her students to email their assignments as a PDF. These emails go to her Google Apps Gmail account, which she can access through Goodreader, because Goodreader can also connect to a variety of email servers through POP or IMAP. The app doesn’t show all your emails, just those with attachments that Goodreader can view. She opens the students’ PDFs in Goodreader, annotates them accordingly to grade the paper, and emails them back to the students as a flattened copy, right from the Goodreader app.

As a workflow option, it is not necessarily all that new, because you can do very much the same thing with Notability and a shared Google Drive or Dropbox folder, but being able to collect the assignments right from her email, grade it, and return it all from the one app, is still a very efficient solution. You can even streamline it further by using Gmail filters to send each class’s assignments to a specific folder so you don’t have to worry about cleaning out your inbox afterwards.

Do you have a preferred iPad workflow for your students? What have you had the most success with and why?