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.

Continue reading “Google’s Classroom LMS App: What We Know So Far”

How to Become an iPad Keyboard Ninja! (The Education Edition)

Some people love it, others hate it, but the iPad keyboard is here to stay. Personally, I love it. I almost never use an external keyboard because the on-screen one works so well. It is also packed full of hidden features you might never have used before. So, if you are ready to become an iPad Keyboard Ninja, read on!

Three Layers of iPad Goodness

So, let’s start with the basics. There are three layers to the iPad keyboard. The first is the one you see every time the keyboard pops up. It has a QWERTY keyboard and some of the other most often used keys. To access layer two, tap the .?123 button in the bottom left or bottom right hand corner. Here you will find numbers, punctuation and an Undo button. Layer three is accessed from layer two by tapping the #+= button in the bottom left and bottom right of the keyboard. Here you will find more punctuation, special characters like the percentage sign, asterisk and even some currency symbols. The Redo button is also on layer three. To get back to the number keyboard (layer 2) tap .?123, or tap ABC to go right back to the first layer (QWERTY).

Thumb Texters Unite

In iOS 5, Apple added the option to use a split keyboard for typing. Some students prefer this as a typing option because they have been raised on cell phones and small screens where they tap away at insane speeds to type their messages. Some adults like it too. How do you do it? Put two fingers on any two keys and pull them apart. The keyboard will stay that way until you push it back together with a finger on each side. If for some reason your keyboard will not split, go to Settings > General > Keyboard and turn on the switch next to Split Keyboard.

split ipad keyboard

Hide or Move the Keyboard

Sometimes the keyboard just gets in the way, especially in landscape mode, and it can be hard to see what you just typed. However, you can hide, or move the keyboard very easily. In the bottom right hand corner of the iPad keyboard is a button that looks like a keyboard with a down arrow. Tap it once to hide the keyboard. Press and hold it to see another way to split your keyboard or undock it. If you undock the keyboard you can slide it up and down your page to see text that may be hidden behind it. To move the keyboard, press and hold the same button and slide up and down on a page. To dock the keyboard, press and hold the keyboard button and select Dock.

undock split ipad keyboard

SHOUTING ON THE INTERNET!!

Have you found the caps lock on your iPad yet? Simply double tap the shift key on either side and it will turn blue. You have now activated caps lock and everything you type will be in all caps. Tap the shift key again to exit caps lock…and stop shouting on the Internet! 🙂

caps lock ipad

Shortcuts to Success

The iPad Keyboard can be programmed to autocomplete some simple words and phrases to save you time. For example, try typing omw and the iPad will offer up the option to autocomplete the phrase On my way! Just tap space to type the automated text. You can program custom commands too. On my iPad, typing jw followed by the space bar will type my work email address. Think about how often you have to type that. Wouldn’t you or your students like a shortcut? You could even set up some words or phrases for students with spelling or fine motor difficulties, and list them on a card next to the iPad for whenever they need to type them. To create your own, go to Settings > General > Keyboard and scroll all the way to the bottom where you will see Add New Shortcut…

keyboard shortcuts ipad

Parlez-vous francais?

How would you like the ability to switch languages on your keyboard without affecting all the other apps and menus? If you are an MFL teacher or have ESL students in your room, this could be a very useful feature. To add a keyboard from another country, go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard… By default, there is only one keyboard, but here you can add more. Once you have added the keyboard(s) you need, you will see a new globe button appear in the bottom left hand corner of your iPad keyboard. Tap this to switch keyboards, or press and hold to select the language you want to switch to. Oh, and if you haven’t added the Emoji keyboard yet, you should. You can thank me later! 🙂

ipad keyboard languages

The Case of the Missing Apostrophe…and Other Rogue Keys

A complaint I hear often about the iPad keyboard is that there is no apostrophe on the top layer of the iPad. You have to dive into the second layer every time you want to type a contraction correctly. Actually, that’s not true. Press and hold the exclamation mark and, as if by magic, the apostrophe appears above it. Slide your finger up to select it. Press and hold the question mark and you will find quotation marks. Want to write café like the French do? Press and hold the letter E to find an e with an accent on it. There are lots more like this. Try some other keys to see what you can find. It is great for word origins, foreign language words, and more.

Hidden iPad Apostrophe Key

The Safari Address Bar Keyboard

Ever noticed the keyboard change depending on whether you are searching the Internet or typing a website address? Take a look, because it does. Typing in the address bar of Safari modifies your keyboard. The space bar disappears, because Safari knows you don’t need a space bar to enter a website address. What you might need however, is the colon, forward slash, underscore and hyphen keys, so Apple adds those instead. You also get a .com button to help complete those URLs you are typing in the address bar. Better still, if you press and hold the .com button, you can also select .edu, .org, .net or .us. Just slide up to select the one you want.

safari keyboard ipad

Speech to Text for (Almost) Everyone!

If you have an iPad 3, iPad 4, or an iPad Mini, your keyboard has a built-in dictation feature that will turn your words to text at the tap of a button in any app you can type in. Simply tap the microphone on your keyboard to activate Siri Dictation and clearly speak the words you want to dictate. Press the microphone again when you are finished and the iPad will turn your speech to text. A list of what you can say can be found here, and again it can be a great tool for young writers, and those with spelling or fine motor difficulties. Be aware that you will need a WiFi connection for this to work, and your mileage may vary on translations if used in a noisy classroom. Consider a USB mic or headset. If you have an original iPad or an iPad 2 try Dragon Dictation or PaperPort Notes for similar functionality.

ipad dictation

Spell Check and Auto Correct

I’m not about to debate the merits of spell check and auto correct here, but if you are tired of the iPad suggesting or correcting words that you don’t want changed, or your students are doing something like a spelling test on the iPad, you can turn off all those automated keyboard corrections by going to Settings > General > Keyboard and flipping a few switches to the off position. You can also turn off the ability to double tap the space bar to insert a period in this menu too.

autocorrect options ipad

And with that, I now proclaim you an iPad Keyboard Ninja. Go forth and spread your knowledge, and feel free to leave any tips of your own on innovative ways you use the iPad keyboard in your classroom in the comments below.

iPad Tips for Teachers Using iBooks for Education

I’ve been spending a lot of time in iBooks recently, and have showed teachers a whole slew of features that are new, or not as well known, in Apple’s default e-reader. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorites tips for teachers using iBooks in education.

1. Find Free Books

There are probably more free book titles in the iBooks Store than you might think, and they can be a great way to add to your classroom library without taking up any more valuable shelf space! Want to know a quick way to find them? Once you are in the iBooks Store, tap Top Charts, then tap Categories in the top left hand corner and select Children and Teens from the dropdown menu. Apple will then display a list of the most popular paid books on the left of your screen, and a list of the most popular free books on the right hand side of the screen. Try it with other categories like Reference, History, Science and Nature, and even Textbooks! Wait, free textbooks? Yes! There are a number of free academic textbooks available from the iBooks Store, including the highly regarded CK12 series.

2. Find Free Read Alouds

A number of titles in the iBooks Store come with a built-in read aloud feature that will read the text to students, and highlight words as it does so. This can be great for the struggling readers or those that need extra help with higher level texts. How do you know if your book is a read aloud book? Tap a page in the book, and look for the speaker icon on the black menu bar at the top of the page. If it is there, you can tap the speaker and choose to turn on read aloud, and even decide whether you want the pages to automatically advance, or be turned manually. A number of books also have “read aloud” in their titles, so you can search the store for “free read aloud books” to find a good selection to get started with.

3. Find Your Own Books

By now, you might have several shelves full of fine free books, but how do you quickly find the one that you want? You could take the time to manually sort them into alphabetical order, but every time you download a new book, it sits proudly at the first spot on your bookshelf, and that will quickly mess up your system. So, instead you can search for the books you need. While looking at your Library bookshelf, pull down with one finger to reveal a search bar at the top of your screen. You can search by title, author or keyword to find the book you need.

4. Find Books in Flipboard

This might be a little obscure, but Apple recently teamed up with Flipboard to let you find new titles from the iBooks Store right from inside the Flipboard app. Simply browse through Flipboard’s categories until you find Books. The sub categories are the same as that in the iBooks Store, so you can browse through a good selection of titles from inside Flipboard’s unique user interface. It seems like an unlikely alliance, but you’ll quickly find that the number of free books you find this way will be very limited. Apple is pushing only paid books through the Flipboard app. No real surprise there I guess.

5. Organize Your Books

While it might be nice to organize your books into folders, like you can with apps, it wouldn’t look right on Apple’s carefully designed bookshelves. However, you can bring some order to the chaos by creating additional book shelves and moving books of the same genre, or reading level, to sit on these new bookshelves. To do this, tap Collections in your Library, then tap New and give your bookshelf a name. Hit Done to create your new shelf. Next, tap Edit in the top right hand corner, select the books you want to put on your new bookshelf, and tap Move. Select your newly created bookshelf, and watch the books vanish to their new home. If you have a group of iPads that are shared between grade levels you could create separate bookshelves for different grade levels, teachers, or curriculum areas. Another compelling reason why iBooks is great for education.

Creating New Shelves in iBooks

6. Highlight, Add Notes and more

Although this doesn’t apply to all texts, many iBooks titles will let you highlight text and add sticky notes, just like you did in college with print versions. So, encourage your students to take advantage of this and teach them to be active readers. Simply press a finger on the text and drag it over a line or paragraph to highlight a section of text. Tap the highlighted section to change the color of your highlighter, or to add a sticky note. Tap it again and look for the share arrow so you can copy, or share your excerpt by email, Twitter, Facebook or iMessage. Useful, eh? Well, you can go one step further and tap the other white arrow and get the option to have your iPad read the selection aloud, (if you have Speak Selection turned on – more on that later).

Highlighting and adding notes to iBooks

7. Change Fonts, Themes and Scroll

Tapping the double “A” on the menu bar in the top right allows you adjust the brightness of your chosen text. You can also increase or decrease your font size by tapping on the capital As. Tap Fonts to choose from a variety of fonts for your text. Selecting Themes lets you change the background color of your page to Sepia or Black, and you can eliminate Apple’s newly patented page turning animations by activating the Scroll mode to turn your book into a web-esque reading experience that will scroll vertically through pages. These options may not appear on all book types, so experiment with the books in your library to see which ones have this and which ones don’t.

Changing fonts and themes in iBooks

8. Use Speak Selection to Read PDFs

Find the PDFs in your Library by tapping Collections and selecting PDFs. If you turn on Speak Selection (Settings > General > Accessibility > Speak Selection) you can use this feature to read PDFs aloud. You could always do this with Voiceover, but it was never ideal because it would read the whole page without the option to pause or stop the reading voice. It also made big changes to how you navigate the iPad. So, to speak selected text on a PDF, press and hold on a word until you see the magnifying glass, then release your finger. Drag the blue bars around the selected word to highlight a section of text you want read aloud, and then tap Speak in the black pop-up menu. This could be another great option for struggling readers or even as a test taking accommodation.

What’s Your Favorite Tip?

There are undoubtedly any other great tips for using iBooks in the classroom, but these are a great first few steps for new iPad users or those who are not as familiar with iBooks as they might want to be. So, what is your favorite iBooks tip for educators? Leave a comment below.

Revisiting the One iPad Classroom: Resources

There has been a few things going around Twitter recently about the 1 iPad classroom, and for me it has been good timing. I will be visiting a school on Friday who asked me to give some tips and ideas about how to use only a handful of iPads in the classroom. Some have one, some have two or three, but none have any more than that. So, I thought that this would be a great time to revisit the 1 iPad classroom to discover the latest ideas and influences.

Too often, it is easy to get caught up in all the talk about 1:1 initiatives, or multiple iPad carts, when the reality for a lot of schools is quite the opposite. I myself ran a 4 iPod Touch classroom for a couple of years, so I remember the challenges of managing this, making sure all students have equal access to the technology, and trying to find ways to involve as many of the students as possible in meaningful learning activities. It’s not easy, but it can be done, and there are a lot of great ideas out there from those that do it on a daily basis.

So, in the interests of sharing, here are a number of useful blogs and websites that I came across while researching some ideas for the school I am visiting this week. Some you may have seen before, while some may be new, but all are great resources for educators in a 1 iPad classroom. What was interesting to me though, was that almost all of these resources are from elementary teachers. You don’t hear much about the 1 iPad Middle School classroom or the 1 iPad High School classroom. What does that say about the state of mobile technology in our schools today?

Regardless, I want to take the time to say thanks to all who took the time to create these resources for the benefit of others. Feel free to add any of your own favorites to the comments below.

Tips for the One iPad Classroom and a Free iPad Rules Download
One iPad in the Classroom? 10 Apps
The 1 iPad Classroom by Lisa Johnson and Yolanda Barker
The One iPad Classroom: Musings from EdTech Diva
Only 1 iPad in the Classroom? from the Literacy Journal blog
One iPad in the Classroom – Mark Anderson’s blog
One iPad in the Classroom – What Can you Do?
Less than a Class Set – Learning and Leading with Technology
The One iPad Classroom – Ideas from a second grade classroom
Ideas for the 1 iPad Art Room
The Single iPad Classroom – Elementary EdTech
One Music Class, One iPad, Now What?

Reward Student Achievement With ClassBadges.com

ClassBadges is a new way to help reward student achievement in the classroom. The idea is simple. Teachers sign up for a free account with ClassBadges.com, create a class and add their students. Whenever a student achieves a noteworthy landmark in their learning, the teacher can award that student a badge to recognize their success and help track their progress. Students have a unique class code that lets them log in to the site and view their latest badges. No more sticker charts on the wall!

Creating a badge is easy. Click on the Add Badge button and give your badge a title and a description. Then choose an image to associate with your badge from the wide variety of built-in icons. Once created, you can award it to the students you want to assign it to in your class, and even remove it at a later date if necessary.

As a concept, it certainly looks to have some similarities with other motivational tools like ClassDojo, but it seems to focus less on behavior and more on academic milestones or achievements. It won’t replace a teacher’s gradebook, but it could be a nice way to keep track of what stage students are at on a project, or as a motivational tool for a book club or homework chart.

Right now, ClassBadges is so new that you have to sign up to request an invite, but because I am already a member, I can expedite your application if necessary. Simply sign up at ClassBadges.com and then leave your details in a comment below, or send me a message via my contact form, and I will email the site owners with your info. You you can get a better idea of what this site has to offer by watching the video below.

Source: Edudemic