What follows are a few hacks, tips and ideas I picked up over two days at the Google Apps for Education Summit in Johannesburg (2014). For most of them, I feel foolish for not knowing they existed – or for not taking the time to figure them out properly. Now that I do know about them I thought I’d share them in case any of you faithful readers have not yet come across them.
- Did you know that there is a research feature right inside Google Docs? It enables you to open a narrow browser window inside the document you’re working on without having to split screens or tab between windows. Access the ‘Research’ feature from the ‘Tools’ menu in Docs.
- Using the Research tab, you can drag hyperlinks and other content straight from your browser into your doc and get an instant citation at the bottom of the page. Very cool for student research projects that. And if you’re into that kind of thing, you can even choose the format of citation you prefer.
- Still on the Research feature inside Google Docs, you can change your image search filtering preferences and choose free to use / stock images. Once you drag an image into your doc, it will instantly add a reference to your citations. No worries about treading on anyone’s toes, and a nice way to teach kids about digital rights management. How cool is that?
- I’ve always used goo.gl as my hyperlink shortener without really thinking about it. But bitly is far better, simply because you can create customised hyperlinks instead of gibberish like http://goo.gl/oO0iIlL1 where you never can tell if that’s a 0 or a O, an I or a l. Silly me for not finding bitly sooner!
- Want some example text that looks better than this: ddggsfft fdghsj htryfgd? I need nonsense more often than I ever thought I would – especially when I am training kids and teachers to use technology. If you do too, try Cupcake Ipsum. Cupcake ipsum dolor sit amet chupa chups lemon drops toffee bear claw. Marzipan croissant tart cheesecake gummies powder oat cake applicake pie. Dragée I love caramels croissant topping caramels chocolate. Sesame snaps apple pie muffin. Pudding I love lollipop. Chocolate bar jelly-o ice cream applicake gingerbread gingerbread pie. Wafer liquorice caramels I love I love. Donut sweet cupcake caramels brownie. Nerd chupa chups I love.
- Something I’ve never considered, but what a great idea: get students to fill in a teacher-created Google Form and add a hyperlink to their digital submissions. Teachers can then access them from the associated sheet and simply click each hyperlink to navigate to a student’s file hosted on Google Drive or elsewhere. As to the assessment of tasks, perhaps Google Classroom will offer teachers a simple, streamlined way of marking assignments when it launches in a few months. Stay tuned…
- Talking about ways to submit digital work, how’s this for an idea: Using a shared presentation for students to create or submit work digitally. Super-teacher creates a shared Google Slides show and gives students editing rights. Each slide has a student’s name on it. On their personal slides, students either paste hyperlinks or generate work live. The teacher can even keep a template of names and reuse it by creating a copy each time. Easy as pie and sure to be a lot of fun.
- Another idea I love is creating non-linear slide presentations. The viewer can click on an option to navigate to a slide matching their choice. Think of it as a ‘choose your own adventure’ which allows for differentiation and customization. I can see this being used in learning, diagnosis and even some interesting assessments. Careful planning is required, though, and Jay Atwood (my GAFE Summit superhero) recommends adding hyperlinks last.
- A very hip way to differentiate is to use the ‘go to page…’ option in Google Forms. This is a very cool and differentiated way to do revision, quizzes and feedback.
- Creating a YouTube video for your flipped classroom? Add layers over different parts of your video with hyperlinks to content or other related videos. (Now why haven’t I been doing that!)
- (A random thought: Most of the items on this list cannot be done on an iPad. Wouldn’t it be nice if Apple and Google played a bit more nicely with one another?)
- How about using just a picture in Google Docs or Drawings and asking students to comment on it live. A great tool for teaching Visual Literacy, Geography, Biology, Art History and almost any other subject. Imagine students deconstructing a Maths or Science problem, or analyzing sentence structure or a poem… The possibilities are endless.
- Going paperless? Try going paper-less first. That is: try to eliminate paper slowly from your classroom or school before you eliminate it altogether. Going cold turkey can often be traumatic and ends in frustration.
- A reliable, ubiquitous and fast internet infrastructure is absolutely essential in the digital classroom. Tablets, Chromebooks and the like are worth next to nothing without students being able to access the internet. True story.
- Who’s Pegman? He’s the little orange guy at the bottom of your Google Maps screen. Pick him up and drag him around. When you do, all of the street view coverage in the area you’re looking at will appear in light blue – even some underwater ones!
- Attention Social Science, Geography, Art and History teachers: Discover the Google Cultural Institute and the Google Earth Historical Imagery plugin. It is really cool! (No lies.)
- On plugins: I am converted. There are so many juicy scripts, add-ons and plugins for Google that it’s going to take me a good long while to navigate through them all.
- My favourite little Google toy: Nightwalk. It’s like a point-and-click adventure in a real city.
- I took notes using the Notability app on my iPad. It is without a doubt one of the best apps I use.
- And my final thought: enthusiasm and a sense of fun are the most important tools a teacher has in their tool belt.
Thanks to Dainfern College and the GAFE team for an awesome conference!