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.

Create Great HTML Classroom Newsletters for FREE with Google Sites

Recently, I came across a great Google script by Romain Vialard on how to create nice looking email newsletters from a Google Sites page. It is simple to do, requires no programming skills, and could be a great way to go paperless in the classroom. So, if you are an elementary teacher that sends home newsletters every week, or you are an administrator or a coach who needs to keep communication lines open with parents, read on.

The premise is simple. You build your newsletter by creating a page on a Google Site. If you already have a classroom website that is a Google Site, all the better, but otherwise, you can create a Google Site for free with a Google Account. Then edit the page like you would with any other page, but consider some creative layouts like the three column layout with a header and footer.

Google Sites Newsletter

You can insert images and hyperlinks with ease. Embedded videos do not work when delivered as email, but you can take a screenshot of the video and link that image to the online version of the video, or add a link to say watch the video here. Of course, you can add as much text as you want, and rich text formatting will be retained.

Once your page is complete, it is time to send it to your readers. Install the free Chrome Newsletter Creator app, or visit Romain’s website, and paste the link to your page into the newsletter script. Add the email addresses of the recipients, choose whether or not you want to add a record of your email to a Google Spreadsheet, and click Send.

Initially I had some issues with adding recipients to the text box, because it did not deliver the newsletter to all the email address I added. However, if you click the spreadsheet icon to the right of the text box (see below) you can select a Google Spreadsheet that you have pasted the email addresses into, and use that as your mailing list. This worked much better for me with larger numbers of recipients.

newsletter creator

In no time at all, you can check your email to find the finished product. It looks great in Gmail and most other clients. The page title is used for the subject title of the email, and the rest is neatly packaged into a professional looking HTML newsletter that you created with little effort and no cost.

gmail classroom newsletter

Of course, you could take this one step further and use a freely available HTML newsletter template from the web, paste the code into the HTML box in  a Google Site, and use that as a template for an even nicer looking custom newsletter. I tried it, and it worked pretty well. You don’t need to know any HTML code to edit the content, but if you want to tweak any of the colors or design, it would be useful. You can see a video demo of Romain’s script below.

If, like me, you spend a lot of your time using Google Apps, you may well have forgotten most of the intricacies of how to use Publisher or Word for newsletters, but Google Sites is easy to learn. So, why not give it a try? Feel free to leave your thoughts on this tool below.

5 MORE Chromebook Tips for Teachers

Lots of people enjoyed my previous post with 5 Chromebook Tips for Teachers, so I decided to follow it up with five MORE quick tips that will help you start the school year in the best possible way with Chromebooks. So, see the presentation below for more Chrome OS tricks.

Tips include…

  1. Taking Chromebook screenshots
  2. How to access your Mac or PC from your Chromebook
  3. Printing with Chromebooks
  4. How to connect your Chromebook to a projector
  5. The Hapara Teacher Dashboard

And, if you haven’t seen it already, you may want to check our a previous presentation I did that was a Chromebook 101 for Teachers. Feel free to leave any tips of your own in the comments below.

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5 Chromebook Tips for Teachers

Chromebooks seem to be the hot new device that everyone is talking about, so if you are lucky enough to be starting the school year with some of Google’s laptops, check out the quick presentation below that has 5 Chromebooks tips especially for teachers. The tips include…

  1. Saving to Google Drive instead of the Files app
  2. A new full screen mode for the latest version of Chrome OS
  3. The Screen Magnifier that lets you zoom in on specific parts of your screen
  4. Enabling Caps Lock on a Chromebook
  5. Help with Offline Apps that make your Chromebook more versatile

You may also want to check out a previous post I did that was a Chromebook 101 for Teachers, and if you liked this, be sure to click through to see the followup to this post that has 5 MORE Chromebook Tips for Teachers.

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Creating Interactive Choose Your Own (Google) Adventure Stories

A fond childhood memory of mine was going to the library once a week to check out some of my favorite types of books – the Choose Your Own Adventure series. They were created by Edward Packard and were very popular in the 1980s and 1990s. While the books are less popular today, the legend lives on in digital formats that are always appealing to students. Here is how to create some interactive stories of your own using Google Apps.


Recently I saw a great example from a fellow Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, Michelle Anderson. I’d never thought about using Google Forms for this before, but clearly it is a great use of the tool. The choices hinge on a feature inside Google Forms that let you go to a certain page based on how you answer the question. So, once you have planned out your narrative, all you have to do is select the right page to link to for a given response. Simple, but very effective. You can try Michelle’s adventure here, and don’t forget about the ability to add images to Google Forms!

Choose Your Own Adventure Google Form


Want to try something different? Try using Google Presentations. Instead of creating pages, like you would with Forms, you create slides to tell your story. This gives you a little more flexibility in the visual design of your story, but it also opens up more options in terms of the media you can include…namely video. Slides can be linked together via the link function that you may normally use to insert a hyperlink, only this time you select “Slides in this presentation”.

Google Presentation for Interactive Storytelling


You can use Google Docs for your Choose Your Own Adventure story too. It would work in a similar way to Presentations, but this time you would use bookmarks to jump around in your text. Create the bookmark by placing your cursor or highlighting text next to where you want to jump to and clicking Insert > Bookmark. Then highlight the text that you want to jump to that point, and click Insert > Link and choose Bookmarks to select the point in text you want to navigate to. Links can be changed or removed later if needed. For bonus points, be sure to rearrange your text so that it will not read in a linear fashion, just like the books of yesteryear that made no sense when read chronologically page by page.

Google Docs for Choose Your Own Adventure


An increasingly popular way to create your own Choose Your Own Adventure story is to use YouTube. There are countless examples of these types of videos on YouTube with some obviously better than others. However, when done well, these can be very effective ways to communicate a story. To create your adventure, you first need to shoot all your movies, (including alternative outcomes), and upload them to YouTube. Best keep them private to start with, but you can change your privacy afterwards. To link between videos and give the users a choice in your story you use the YouTube annotations to link between your videos. Below is an example of just such a video that Greg Kulowiec created with his Social Studies class.

Not Using Google Drive?

If you’re not using Google Apps in your school, check out Inklewriter, a free story telling tool that was created to help students build exactly this kind of interactive journey. At ISTE 2013 this year, I went to a session led by a couple of EdTech Pirates. It was presented with the help of Inklewriter, so we had a choose your own adventure PD session where we voted on what we wanted to hear about next! Genius. More on Inklewriter in the video below.

Did this give you some ideas? How would you use Choose Your Own Adventure stories to enhance your Language Arts or Social Studies lessons? Feel free to leave a comment below to share your experiences.

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A Chromebook 101 for Teachers: What’s All the Fuss About?


Considering Chromebooks? You’re not the only one! The Chromebook in Education revolution is finding its way into more and more schools across the country.  So, in my third presentation at the Iowa Mini Google Summit I decided to do a session that outlined the basic pros and cons of Chromebooks in schools in order to help answer any lingering questions.

People have strong opinions on Chromebooks. Some dismiss them as nothing more than a browser, others herald it as a fast, low cost, easy to manage device of the future. But I think it is important we don’t get too bogged down with pitting one device against another (as I often see in Chromebook vs iPad Twitter or blog posts).

The important thing, with any device that a school chooses, is whether or not it will support and enhance student learning in your school district? Will it do what you want your students to do on it? Can it help move teacher instruction beyond its current limits? In the right environment, and with good professional development, Chromebooks are an awesome device for schools, of that I have no doubt. But there are a number of other devices that can be just as good, or better, given the climate and circumstances of your school district.

So, feel free to take a look at the slideshow below, and the resources that it has for using Chromebooks in education. If you have any questions, feel free to add them to the comments below and I will do my best to answer them in any way I can.

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Pimp My Site: Customization Options for Google Sites


Recently, I shared the first of my three presentations at the Iowa Mini Google Summit – Editing Video Online with the YouTube Editor. Today, I am sharing the second – Pimp My Site: Customization Options for Google Sites. It’s an exploration of the ways in which you can make a Google Site easier on the eye, and less like a stock Google Site.

I have grown to love Google Sites. They are easy for students and teachers to build and maintain, but they are also easy to tweak…if you know where to look. They don’t have to look like a stock Google Site if you learn a few simple tricks. It takes a little bit of time to apply all these tweaks, but once you start using them, you will get faster, and you will get more adventurous with ideas of your own.

One of my favorite things to do when I find a truly awesome Google Site is to try and backwards engineer it. How did they do that header? How did they make the navigation so elegant? How can I get a background like that? I would encourage you to do just that. At the same conference, one of my colleagues made a one page Google Site for their session handout. He stripped out all navigation, and had a simple two color palette. It was clean, simple and elegant. I love coming across new ways of doing things, and for me this was a great example of that.

So, take a look at the slideshow below and see if you can apply any of these tips to your own Google Site. Together we can make the web more beautiful! 🙂

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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 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.