iWork for iCloud Beta: Hands on With Apple’s Answer to Google Drive

iCloud Home

This week I got an email from Apple inviting me to try out the Beta version of iWork for iCloud. I was keen to see how useful this could be for educators in the classroom, and whether or not it could be a serious contender to my current favorite online productivity suite – Google Drive. So, I logged in to iCloud with Chrome on my Mac and there they were – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – complete with all the documents I had created on my Mac and iPads.

Keynote Slide

The interface is familiar, yet different. The menus are a hybrid of the desktop and iOS version of iWork, but they are intuitive enough that you can almost always find what you are looking for without too much trouble. You won’t find all the features you are used to in the desktop (or even iOS) versions, but more functionality will doubtless come in time, and most of the essentials are included in the beta version.

iWork for iCloud runs on Mac or PC and is compatible with the latest versions of Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. For some reason, Firefox is not a supported browser right now, but if you click past the warning messages it does seem to run as you would expect it to in other browsers, so it will likely be supported once it leaves the beta stage of development. iWork for iCloud is an HTML5 environment which Firefox is obviously more than capable of running.

Syncing has worked great, but I have never really had a problem in the past moving between documents on my iPad and my Mac, so that didn’t surprise me too much. Changes made on the web, my Mac, and my iPad were all quickly synced to the other devices.

Pages

Does it beat Google Drive? Not yet, for me at least. iWork for iCloud works well, but right now it still lacks some collaboration and sharing options that I have come to enjoy with Google. For instance, real-time collaboration can be a great boon for teachers and students, as can the ability to leave comments on a document. There are no signs of either appearing in iWork any time soon. That said, the ability to share a link to your document is listed as “coming soon” so the potential for improvements in this area does exist.

Numbers

If you are curious to check out more about what iWork for iCloud can and can’t do, you can check out the newly created Apple online help guides, even if you don’t have access to the Beta program at this time. The links for those are below:

UPDATE: Another important support page to read is Opening iWork for iOS and iWork ’09 documents in iWork for iCloud Beta. This gives more information on what to do if you try to open a document that has features that are unsupported in the current version of iWork for iCloud. Thanks to Kathy Schrock for the heads up on this one.

Have you been playing with the new iWork for iCloud Beta? What do you most like about it and how do you think it could fit into your classroom workflow?

The Paperless iPad Classroom with the Google Drive App

Google Drive

Have you read The Paperless Classroom with Google Docs by Eric Curts? If not, you should. It is a great way for Google schools to harness the power of Google for sharing documents, and establishing a workflow for students to turn in work for teachers to grade and return in a paperless environment. I love it. In fact, I liked it so much that I decided to pay homage to it with a version that is dedicated to doing the very same thing on the iPad using just the Google Drive app.

Regular readers will have seen my last post, How to Use Comments on the Google Drive iPad app. For me, this was a key change to the Google Drive iPad app, and one that had huge implications for the iPad classroom. It inspired me to think about just how much you can do in Google with an iPad and the Drive app, and I soon discovered that you can do a lot more than you might think.

So, with the blessing of Eric Curts himself, I sat down and went through all the steps he meticulously outlined for the desktop version of Google Drive, and converted as many as I could to the equivalent actions in the Google Drive iPad app. Then I added some additional steps for other things like taking documents offline, or grading PDFs, images and movies.

I realize that a lot of what Eric Curts lays out in his original document can already be done on the iPad by switching to Desktop mode, but this environment it is just not optimized for the iPad and can be clumsy at best. It can be done, of course it can, but if you can do what you need to do in the Drive app, the chances are you high that you will have a less frustrating experience.

I hope, therefore, that these ideas will be useful for Google schools that use iPads in the classroom. It is a first draft, so I welcome all comments or suggestions on how to update or improve this for other educators, and as updates are made to the app, I will endeavor to update this document accordingly. You can see the finished product here: The Paperless iPad Classroom with the Google Drive App.

How to Use Comments on the Google Drive iPad App

I’ve spent a few days playing with a great new addition to the Google Drive iPad app – comments! They can be used to share ideas with other collaborators or as a way of grading student work. So, if you haven’t had time to try them out yet, here’s how they work.

Add Comments Google Drive iPad App

  1. To insert a comment, tap in the document to leave a general comment, or select the specific words that you want the comment to be linked to by pressing and holding to select text.
  2. Next tap the comment button next to the title of the document at the top of your screen, or select “Comment” from the pop-up box above selected text.
  3. A comment box will appear in the top right hand corner, where you can type in your comment.
  4. This comment will now be visible to others who share the document (such as your collaborators or the student who turned in the assignment) although the comment(s) will not display when the document is printed.
  5. Collaborators (students, you, etc.) can reply to any comment by typing in the box labeled “Reply to this comment…”
  6. You can also tap the pencil to “Edit” your existing comment, or to “Delete” it.
  7. Finally you can tap “Resolve” to close the comment from further replies.

Google Drive iPad Comments

Are you using Google Drive on your Android phone or tablet? If so, you’ll be glad to know that comments work there too and you should be able to follow the instructions above to get them to work almost exactly the same way on those devices.

How to Use the New Slow Motion Feature in YouTube

A staggering 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and more and more of it is being tweaked, trimmed and remixed with the free YouTube video editor. Yesterday, Google announced a new feature that it added to YouTube – slow motion effects.

So, where do you find the new slow motion effects in YouTube, and how do you use them with your videos? Well, start by visiting http://youtube.com/editor and choosing one of your videos to apply the effect to. Once it is in the editor timeline, hover over the thumbnail of the video with your mouse until you see the magic wand icon. Click on it to access the various effects that can be applied to your video.

YouTube Slow Motion Editor

In the window that opens, you will see an option that lets you apply a slow motion effect to your video. In essence, this just adjusts the playback speed to be slower than you originally recorded it. You can set speeds to 50%, 25%, or 12.5% of the original speed. It would be very effective for a slow motion replay, or adding a touch of additional drama to your video. Once you have added all the effects you want, click Done, and then Publish to create a new version of your video that uses the slow motion effect.

Applying Slow Motion Effects in YouTube

Of course, you don’t have to use the YouTube editor to apply the effect if you don’t want to. You can go to your Video Manager, click the dropdown Edit menu next to the video you want to apply slow motion to, and select Enhancements. This takes you to an editing screen that looks a lot like the YouTube editor, but with a slightly different user interface. From here, you click on the turtle icon to choose your speed and apply the slow motion effect.

Slow Motion from the Enhancements menu

What’s the difference between the two? The editor will keep your original video intact and publish your edited video as a new video. If you apply slow motion effects through the enhancements menu, you are changing the original video, and not creating a copy, UNLESS you click the dropdown arrow next to the Save button and choose Save as.

Overall, the effect works pretty well. This is not a professional movie quality effect, but considering that you probably didn’t use a high speed camera to shoot your footage, this simulated effect is good enough. Just be aware that any audio you have will also be slowed down. This can be nice at times for comic effect, but you may want to choose to mute the audio of slow motion clips and your own background music for more serious or dramatic moments! 🙂

I could easily see teachers using this in Science to slow down a video of a fast moving chemical reaction, or in PE where coaches want to do a slow motion analysis of a golf swing, springboard dive, or a high jump. An example video from YouTube of Times Square (slowed to 12.5%) can be seen below.

 

8 Ways for Students and Teachers to Create an Event in Google Calendar

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 eight 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.

Create button

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.

Quick Add a Calendar Event

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.

Click and drag a calendar event

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.

Create event in Google Calendar

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!

Create an event from Gmail

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.

Adding Google calendar events

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.

Google Calendar Extension

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.

The Top 10 Gmail Apps and Extensions

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaselabs/3306827131/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaselabs/3306827131/

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.

Building Better Google Sites at the 2013 Iowa 1:1 Institute

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.

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.