Monday, November 24, 2014

Google Calendar

As I've been polling the staff in our district this month, I'm finding that most of them use Google Calendars solely to view calendars shared with them by the administrators.  While this is one way to utilize Google Calendars, I bet there are some features and uses for Calendar that might surprise you.

Some educators are using the invitation feature when they create a new event to invite others to attend.  When you invite others to an event, they are able to indicate if they will be able to attend or not.  With a simple click of yes, no or maybe from those invited, you will see who can make the meeting so you know if it needs to be rescheduled or who will need to be filled in on what they missed at the meeting.  Furthermore, when you invite someone to attend an event, they can add that event right to their own calendar.  No need to create a new event or find some way to remember that upcoming meeting.

This leads us to another great feature - event notifications.  I use this with almost every event I create.  I can choose to receive an email reminder, pop notification or text message.  Personally, I use the pop notification most often, but you do need to make sure that you have your calendar open on your computer or you will never get those notifications.  I have recently started using the text notifications for my online courses, but I'll talk about that more a little later.  If you opt to use text notification, you will need to go through the Mobile Setup in settings.  Please note that Google does not charge for sending text notifications, but your carrier might.  You will want to check with them before setting up this feature.  You will find instructions for completing Mobile Setup at this site - SMS Notifications or via the video below; and since we're talking about mobile devices, you can sync your calendars to Google and Apple mobile devices.  You can also sync your calendars with iCal on Apple.  For more information on syncing with your mobile devices or iCal, go to Sync Google Calendars.

Learn how to create an event with reminders including SMS(text).

Lesson Plans
Another use for Google Calendar is creating your lesson plans.  As I've worked the past few years with elementary teachers, I know they like the "pretty" lesson plan templates.  However, if the decorative decor isn't a priority for you, you might consider creating a new calendar just for your lesson plans.  You can include standards, links to sites, and attached files.  You can easily share your lesson plan calendar with you administrator and don't have to worry if you submitted them to your admin for the week or not.  They can view your lessons at any time.  Printing your lessons for the sub is also an easy task.  Go to the agenda view and display only your lesson plan calendar.  Then choose Print under the More button to the right of your calendar view options.

Video explaining how to use Google Calendar as your lesson planbook.

Assignments with due dates
Another great use for Google Calendar is to create an assignment calendar for your students and parents.  This will keep them informed of tests, spelling quizzes, projects, book reports, and any other class due dates.  The beauty with this type of calendar is you can also attach your instruction sheet, rubric and any other handouts a student might need for a specific assignment to that event.  If there is an upcoming spelling quiz, then attach a list of the words so students and parents have them available without looking for that illusive piece of paper.  Your assignment events can also include details in the description as well as web links to sites the students might need while completing that particular assignment.

As a student, I created a calendar for my online courses so I could set reminders to complete specific tasks.  For instance, most of my online courses require you to comment on blog posts and then respond to comments posted by other class members.  So, I set an event to make my initial comment and then another event to go in and read/comment on responses by class members.  I originally set these up as pop notifications, but some of the event dates were on the weekend and I didn't always have my computer on to receive these notifications.  I eventually moved to the text notifications so I got the reminder on my phone, which for me was harder to ignore.

Field Trips, Holidays and Other Special Events
As I mention earlier, paper is easily misplaced and lost, so a special events calendar would be a great resource for parents and students to remember specific activities coming up at school.  It could include everything from trips to the community center to see a play to a Spanish field trip.  Some schools are choosing to put this type of information on a building calendar, but if that calendar is not accessible to your students and parents, then you might want to create your own just for your classroom.

Embed Your Calendar on Your Website
Most web creation tools allow you to embed html code so you can add multimedia elements created with other web tools into your website.  Each of the calendars you create in Google Calendar has an embed code that you can simply copy and paste onto another website.  Below are the instructions on how to embed a calendar onto a Weebly website.  So why would you want to embed a Google Calendar?  It's a great way to communicate specific event times and dates without having to put them in multiple locations or send home slips of paper that get lost before they ever make it home.

More Ideas
Other GAFE Schools and Districts have also been embracing the use of Google Calendars in the following ways:
  • Athletic and Extra-Curricular Events Calendar - class & organization meetings, sporting events, concerts, plays, etc.
  • Practice Calendar - sports practice, play practice, scholar bowl practice, special music & band practice
  • Substitute Calendar
  • Library Schedule Calendar - includes teaching & library skill times, equipment reservations, special programs & events, etc.
  • Building Specific Calendar - PLC & faculty meetings, extra duty assignments, special events and more
  • District-wide Calendars - inservices, days off from school, holidays, school board meetings, grant deadlines, and more
As you can, these are just a few ways you can use Google Calendar to not only keep yourself organized, but to share important information with other educators, students, parents and community members.  Remember that not all calendars need to be viewed by everyone, so invite only those who need the information you are providing on your calendars.  For more on sharing your calendars, check out the video below.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It just has this little ding...

It's like a slow motion scene in the movies.  You set your laptop on the corner of your desk at home when the cat jumps up and bumps the laptop sending it tumbling to the wood floor.  Your arm and fingers are stretched out trying to desperately reach it before it hits the floor while the word "Noooooooo!"  is coming out of your mouth.  Alas, your fingers touch the tip of the laptop, but not enough to get a good grip and it hits the floor.  Your heart is racing as you gingerly pick up the fallen laptop and examine it for damage.  You notice it just has a little ding...

Naturally, if your laptop had flown out of your protective backpack while you were driving 195 mph on your motorcycle you would expect some major damage.  (That's what happened to this poor MacBook Pro.  The owner got lucky because the hard drive still worked.)

MacBook Pro 13" gets dropped at 195mph

However, it's just a little ding with a bent corner.  As long as it still starts, you'll be ok - right?

Dropped my MacBook Pro by Karl Baron

Over the past few years working in the tech department for our school district, we have had a few laptops tumble to the floor.  Most of them come in with corner dings, but a few have a little more damage.  In our district, we send damaged computers to AppleCare Services for repairs.  When the computer is returned, Apple includes a Product Repair Summary.  This summary provides a list of parts that were replaced and the symptom related to the damaged part.  For example:  Description - Bottom Case, Symptom - Enclosure - Mechanical/Cosmetic Damaged.

That sounds normal for a laptop like the one above, but would you believe other parts can get damaged from a little ding like this?  A minor ding to the case could cause the need to replace other parts like the keyboard (specific keys may not function properly), trackpad (the cursor may not track properly) and battery (no power; it's completely dead).  Sometimes, there is no visible ding from a dropped computer or even one involved in a car accident, but there can still be hidden damage like the need to replace the optical drive because the computer won't accept or read a DVD.

Minor fluid spills can also cause unseen damage to a computer.  A single drop into the keyboard can
A little drop of fluid under the keys can damage more than you realize.
trickle down into the memory, battery, logic board and more.  If you do a quick Google search for "fluid under the keyboard," you will get several suggestions on how to "dry out" your computer including the use of rice (which, by the way, is best saved for recovering a wet cell phone).  However, wiping up the computer and drying it off can still leave you with sticky keys and rust or mold under the keys.  Furthermore, the actual damage to the internal parts of your laptop may not start surfacing for weeks or even months after the initial spill.  Your best bet with water or liquid damage is to suck it up and turn it in for repair because once the case on a laptop is opened up, liquid damage is easy to spot.

So remember, while accidents do happen, don't assume a little ding or one drop of fluid will not impact you laptop.  Talk to your technology department or you computer repair store because a little damage can be as detrimental as major computer damage.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Website Wednesday

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

What happens in TIG...

As many of you know I attend a Tech Integration Group at Essdack once a month.  The group consists of other tech integration specialists, school librarians, teachers and those with a passion for using technology in the classroom.  We spend our time sharing and exploring new technology tools as well as discussing the uses within the classroom.  We make every effort to focus our time around a specific topic.  If instance, the main topic for our November meeting was Everything Google.  We also begin each meeting with an icebreaker - I may use some of these in future tech training sessions.

Demo Slam
In an effort to cover the specific Google topics that piqued our interests, we broke the topics into groups and could choose which group we wanted to join.  The group discussed the topic and addressed specific questions.  We were then challenged to create a 'Demo Slam' based on our topic.  I had not heard of a Demo Slam yet, but discovered that this term was coined by Google in an effort to make those boring tech demos more entertaining.  Since we didn't have time to make a video, we we were to create a quick slideshow with 8-10 slides demonstrating our topic.

Here are some official Google Demo Slams:

This video showcases how Google Goggles works.  Not familiar with Google Goggles?  Read more about it -  You can also get the app for your iPhone -

In this video, the creators use Google Presentation to create an animated project.  I don't know if I would have the patience to create something like this, but it's AMAZING!

While this Demo Slam isn't as dramatic, it does showcase an idea for having students share photos in a class blog.  This would be great for field trips, creation projects or other completed assignments.

While none of the groups actually created a Demo Slam over their topic (we ran out of time), we did have some good discussions on the various Google topics.

Google Tour Builder
Another tool we explored as a group was Google Tour Builder.  When Google Earth came out, teachers were able to create virtual trips to enhance learning in social studies, English, Spanish, science and other content areas.  However, the process was time-consuming and not for the technology novice.  Google Tour Builder allows you to create these virtual trips without the complicated procedures.  You can add locations, photos, videos, text and more.  This tool takes digital storytelling to a whole new level.

In this video a student quickly reflections on their project created in Google Tour Builder.

**Please note - You are required to download and install the Google Earth Plugin - - before you can use Google Tour Builder.

Other Google Tools
We discussed other Google Tools like Google Classroom, which I will be exploring and writing about more in the near future, and Google Cultural Institute, which I've shared in the past through Diigo. We also discussed the some Google Add-ons including Flubaroo, Doctopus and SuperQuiz.

Finally, the last web tool that I explored is one every educator needs bookmarked on their computer.  We all know that compliments are few and far between, especially if you are in education.  This web tool by Tony Vincent will help you end your days with a high quality compliment - ok maybe some of them are a little cheesy, but at least it's a compliment.  The great part is you can compliment yourself over and over again.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Changes to Google Spreadsheets

If you've worked on one of your Google spreadsheets recently, you may have seen this message:

According to  Google, you can tell if a spreadsheet has been created with or upgraded to the new Google Sheets if there is a green checkmark at the bottom of your document.  When you click on the green checkmark you will be able to take a tour of the new Google Sheets.  If you take the tour, you will discover that you can now edit your spreadsheets offline, scroll through them faster, utilize advanced formatting and more.

The process of updating your old spreadsheets to the new Google Sheets requires no action on your part.  Google has already started making this transition and anticipates the switch to be completed over the course of next year (2015).  Not all spreadsheets will be updated at the same time, so don't be surprised if some of your spreadsheets are update and others are not.  Google assures their users that no data should be affected in the updating process, but some formula results may be slightly different.  More specifically, the adjustments in formulas should resolve previously reported problems and bugs thereby improving the formula behaviors.

While you cannot revert an updated spreadsheet back to the old version, you can manually update your spreadsheets to the new version of Google Sheets.  Just follow the instructions in this article - Moving spreadsheets to the new Google Sheets.

If you would like to read more about the new Google Sheets, read this article posted on the Google Help site - Check out the new Google Sheets.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Website Wednesday

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Google Apps in the Classroom

I recently presented a session to some educators on Google Apps in the Classroom.  As I was preparing the presentation and gathering resources, I learned some new ideas, features, tips and pointers for various Google Apps.  I've decided to start a weekly series showcasing different Google Apps including Calendar, Drive, Classroom, Google+ and more.  I'll start each post with some basic how-tos regarding the application and then move on to other tips and ideas for using that application in education.  OH, one last note about this series - since my district is a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school, I will be approaching the applications from this perspective.  I'll do my best to note if some of the tips and features do not work the same with a standard Google account, but I might miss something, so don't hold it against me.

Today, we're going to kick off this series with commonly asked questions about GAFE and Google Apps.

Which browser should I use?
According to Google, their apps are supported in Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.  You can also use other less common browsers, like Slepinir, Opera and Iron.  However, seeing that the Chrome browser is owned by Google, this is the top recommended browser when using Google Apps.

What is Google Apps for Education (GAFE)?
It is a collection of productivity applications provided for free to schools and other educational institutions.  These applications focus on the ability to communicate and collaborate.  School districts also gain the ability to administer all teacher and student accounts under one domain.  This provides a more secure environment for students to work in as they create documents, presentations and more in their Google account.

Why are schools choosing to use GAFE?
Districts choose to use GAFE for various reasons, but some of the top reasons include cost savings, privacy and security of data, collaboration abilities, and adoption ease.  For more on why your district should choose GAFE, check out these articles:

What tools are included in the GAFE for teachers and students?
The list is rather extensive, but the top tools are:
  • Gmail
  • Calendar
  • Drive
  • Docs
  • Sheets
  • Slides
  • Sites
In September, Google announced they will be adding Vault as an additional tool for GAFE schools and user storage space will jump from 30GB to 5TB.  (Update:  Google did increase storage space for education accounts to unlimited.  They are still working on adding Vault to education accounts.)  You may be asking yourself, "Is that a lot of space?" or "How much can I actually store with 5 Terabytes?"  Let's get some perspective...

One gigabyte (GB) equals a pickup truck filled with paper.  It takes 1,024GB to equal one terabyte (TB).  One terabyte is equivalent to 50,000 trees made into paper and printed.  You will be getting five times that, so you do the math.  Here's another view, on average the memory capacity of the human brain is equivalent to three terabytes.  So you're two terabytes short from calling your brain 'The Vault.'  Want to know more about data storage measurements?  Check out this infographic: