5 Google Apps for Education PD resources for busy teachers

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Google Apps for Education has to be the hottest topic in education around the world at the moment as literally hundreds of thousands of schools are adopting this free resource which is changing the way teachers and students collaborate on work and share information. 

Professional development (PD) around Google Apps is essential for any school to get the most out of Google Apps so here is a list of 5 great resources to learn more about Google Apps for Education.

Google Education on Air:  Offers both live and archived video of professional development around a range of Google's products in education.  There are numerous sessions around Google Apps for education worth exploring here. 

Google online courses:  has a range of content both created by certified Google teachers or provided by third party sources. 

Google Apps User Groups:  Connects like minded educators in specific regions around the globe to discuss their successes and struggles with Google Apps for Education.  An excellent resource.

Google in Education Videos:  The title explains it all.  To be honest there is a bit of commercial junk scattered across this resource but you will find some great video tutorials nonetheless.  A range of content here that covers all of Google's educational products.

Guide to Going Google:  A useful starting point for schools who are considering their options around switching to Google.  It walks you through the process of of switching to Google Apps

Finally Google A - Z gives you a real insight into what Google actually encompass.  There is a load of great educational content in here too. 

How to create a classroom website

New Class Website.jpg

A classroom website can be one of the best tools you can utilize to showcase the great things happening in your classroom.

Some teachers already have a great class website or blog and today we are going to look at what you need to do to build classroom website of your own.

So what’s the difference between a classroom website and a classroom blog?

A blog is like an online diary of articles and discussion topics that readers can subscribe and respond to.  A traditional website is more so a repository of static content.  Over the last few years these two areas have blurred into each other.  Any web creation platform worth a pinch of salt will offer both of these options to you but a blog is probably going to be of far more use than a static site.

What is the purpose of a classroom Blog?

Always connected Learning:  Your classroom website should allow students to contribute from home to a topic that has been discussed in the classroom.  Alternately, you can include follow up content such as tutorial videos for students and parents who might need assistance in a specific area.

Communication:  In its simplest form a classroom website should be a bulletin board of news and events that are relevant to your class. 

A sense of pride:  Your classroom website should be a great bragging point not only your students should feel proud of as it contains great examples of their work, but it should also serve as an excellent portfolio of your teaching craft should you apply for a promotion or another job.

What should it contain?

  “For instance “Where have we seen natural disasters in the news this week?”

What it should not contain?

Of course if you are intending to share your classroom with the world you need to provide and adhere to some cyber safety guidelines about not sharing personal information and always ensure you have parental permission.

Never let your website become a platform for cyber bullying or criticism.  Moderate it at least once a week.

What is the best platform for success?

There are literally hundreds of options here if you run a Google Search but here are my top three picks from personal experience.

Weebly:  Probably the web’s easiest blogging and website creation tool for beginners through to novices.  It is free to get started but you can buy a full featured premium package for a few dollars per month.  The great thing about Weebly is that allows you to create simple password protected pages that your students can feel a little safer on.

Blogger.  This is Google’s blogging platform tool and it is totally free. It will create a great classroom blog and that is about it.  If you already have a Gmail account you are already registered.  Simple drag and drop interface and can be integrated easily into your existing school website.

Edublogs:  If you are a WordPress user this will seem like the easiest thing in the world to you.  If you are not I would not recommend starting here.  I really only included because of the massive user base Wordpress has.  If you get stuck on Blogger or Edublogs there is no 24/7 support to help you out but there are millions of users on forums who can help.

 

Six ways to teach smarter with Google Forms

To the uninitiated Google Forms might seem like a poor cousin to the spreadsheet, presentation and word processing apps on offer, as it doesn’t fit the model of the traditional Office Suite.

Google Forms however opens up a whole collection of new teaching learning opportunities through it’s capacity to accumulate custom data in large quantities and then represent that data instantaneously in either a number of graphical or text based formats.

Teachers around the Globe are tapping in to this resource to make their job easier and find out a great deal more about their students with reliance on technology as simple as a mobile phone.

Here are some ways in which Google forms are being used by teachers.

Create an online reading record

Put a link on your class blog to an online reading record.  You don’t really need to make it too different from your paper based reading log such as name, title of book, pages read and comments.  It will save some paper and printing costs and be available as a digital format when writing reports.

Brainstorming with Wordle.

Got a class full of students who you want to focus on a specific point of view?  Create a simple task such as this.  “Separated by  a comma write down three words which you think sum up the message of “The Great Gatsby”.  You have 1 minute to do so.

Pop up a link for them to access and answer on their mobile device.  Then simply copy and paste all the responses into Wordle and you have a class focus on the topic in a beautiful easy to read and share format.

Create a classroom test.

Create form that has multiple choice or short answer questions to a topic you have been learning in class.  You can quickly view the spreadsheet to save correction time.  See the Video below for a tutorial.

Assignment tracker.

When students say they have saved a piece of work such as an assignment to a website or school server get them save the hyperlink to the location of the file on a google form so you don’t have to waste time looking for it and assuming it is there.

Spelling Tests

It doesn’t get much simpler than this.  Create a form with name and ten or so short text boxes for students to type in their weekly spelling words.

Prior Learning Assessment form

Create a Google Form asking a few simple questions about the topic you are intending to teach.  It will give you a great insight into where to start and direct your teaching. 

This may have taken a session on it’s own to do in the past.

 

101 ideas for using technology in the classroom

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Sometimes it is difficult to put the technology in your classroom into an educational context.  This document contains many ideas for using a PC or mac in education.  

Unfortunately much of it was written prior to the uprise of the iPad so there is no reference to it but nonetheless there is plenty of relevant content for teachers and students. 

Many of the ideas come from the Victorian department of Education, Australia and can be downloaded here. 

5 YouTube Tips for Busy Teachers and Students

YouTube is one of the most underused teaching resources on the web.  It offer millions of hours quality viewing made by some of the biggest names in the industry for free.  

As a teacher it is your job to sort the good from the bad and define a purpose for this medium; which is in most cases a pretty simple task.

Below I have put together my top five tips for teachers to help them get the most out of YouTube as a powerful teaching learning tool.

Create a YouTube Channel of your own.

Let’s get one thing straight you don’t actually need to create your own videos to create a channel you simply need to add videos to your channel.  This is really handy for teachers because it allows you to organize your favorite YouTube clips exactly how you would like them and you can invite visitors, pose questions and share comments without the rest of the world having their say. watch the video below.

Download your videos to watch offline in HD quality

You can download practically any video stream off the web with RealPlayer basic.  In HD too.  Install the program, and every time you load a YouTube clip it will have the option to download it locally to your PC.

Embed YouTube into PowerPoint Slides and web pages.

This is really easy to do.  If you have a web presence or a presentation simply follow these guides below to ensure your video is accessible via your website, blog or presentation.

YouTube: An Insider's Guide to Climbing the Charts
By Alan Lastufka, Michael W. Dean

Add Quizzes to your Videos

“Now kid’s today we are going to watch a documentary.  Please ensure that you take notes as there will be 5 questions you need to answer throughout the clip via a quiz.”   This really enhances student engagement and gives teachers a greater purpose as to why you are watching a clip.  Click here to see how to do it.

Add annotations, links and subtitles to your videos.

So you’ve just uploaded a YouTube video but forgot to add subtitles or annotations.  Don’t worry; you can do all of this directly from YouTube by following this guide.

20 Google Docs Secrets for busy teachers and students.

Google Docs for Teachers and Students

Google Docs for Teachers and Students

Google Docs has revolutionised the way we create and edit content on the web.  It is a genuine collaboration tool like nothing that has come before it.

Up to 50 people can simultaneously edit a spreadsheet, presentation or document at no expense, and it is available on all mobile and desktop platforms.

Today we are going to look at 20 great tips every teacher and student should be using to get the most of the collaborative learning opportunities Google Doc’s offers.

Allow editing without signing in: If you’re sharing a document with classmates who don’t have a Google login, just make it available to edit without signing in.

Chat away: In Google Docs, you can see anyone who is currently editing the document, and if needed, send a message to chat with them.

Embed Docs anywhere: Get a link to your document or spreadsheet, and you can embed or publish it anywhere, including Facebook or a class blog.

Insert facts: Using Google Spreadsheet, it’s easy to insert facts, like a countries’ population, which is simply pulled through the Google search engine.

Create graphs: Visuals are great tools for getting your point across. Using charts in Google Spreadsheets, you can create your very own information-sharing graphs.

Create forms: Gather research information; ask for opinions, and more by creating Forms in Google Docs.

Convert PDFs to images and text: Use Google Docs to make PDFs easily editable.

Save to different file types: You can easily save your documents and spreadsheets to commonly used file types like DOC, XLS, CSV, and HTML.

Automatically add email addresses: If you have Google Apps, the email addresses of the people who fill out the form will automatically be saved.

Hide chat: Keep everyone quiet during your presentation by clicking the left side of the chat module.

Track edits and changes: In Google Docs you can go back and forth between edits that you or collaborators made.

Remove collaborators: If you want to take someone off a project, click none next to the name of the person you want to remove.

Turn it into a webpage: Download your document in HTML, and you can share it as a webpage with a minimal amount of hassle. A great starting point for students wishing to create a website.

Change ownership: Switch ownership of Google docs as project leaders change.  You might need to transfer ownership of a document to a staff member or student.  It’s easy.

Share an entire folder: If you’ve got a collection of documents to work on together with students or staff, just open up a shared folder that everyone can access and contribute to.

Adding video: Remember Google owns YouTube, so they know video.  You can embed video in documents, slides, and more to dress up your presentation.

Track visits: Using Google Analytics, you can track how much traffic a published document is receiving.  This is really useful if you need feedback on whether your audience is actually getting involved.

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Revert back to old versions: If your group doesn’t like a certain set of changes made, it’s very simple just to revert back to automatically save previous versions in the revision history.

Get Google Drive – Google Drive is the central place to manage all of your online profile with Google and syncs with a number of devices.

Google Docs and Google Drive is an ever-evolving product that has provided heavy competition for products such as Microsoft Office.  I am sure there are many other useful tips you might be ware of and would love you to post them below.

Ten iPad Apps every Student should have and how to use them.

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Increasingly, schools are adopting the iPad as the student computing device of choice due to it’s flexibility, hardiness and price point.  The fact is that even with such a great tool you can’t actually do anything substantial on the iPad without some great open-ended apps for students to create content with.

These apps are what I would call essential apps every student should have if they want to source and create content that supports god quality teaching and learning. 


These are open ended, and offer numerous learning opportunities.  They are not games or apps specifically related to an area of the curriculum.  They are apps that encompass all areas of learning and encourage personalized learning.

My next task is to create some lesson plans or tutorials for each of these apps that you can use in the classroom.

You will also note none of these apps include pricing as it changes so frequently.  Please refer to the iTunes link for the correct pricing for your region.

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Evernote

Evernote is the do everything app for the iPad and can essentially do parts of many of the apps listed below.  It is a great app for recording notes, pictures, images and video that can be utilized for a number of purposes such as note taking and creating digital portfolios.

  • Submit Projects Online
  • Create a digital portfolio
  • Record and reflect upon a reading sample

Penultimate

This is a handwriting app that allows students to write on their iPad and use it as they would use a notebook. The great thing about Penultimate is that it gives students the power to organize their notes into notebooks then go on to organize the individual pages for those notes. The app is customizable as it allows the user to add their own notes and share them as PDF files and it also integrates with Evernote as a further bonus.

    • Handwriting lessons on the iPad
    • Create Mindmaps
    • Digital Drawing Tool

    iMovie

    There is no better solution to creating and editing videos on the iPad.  It offers a number of great templates and an incredibly easy to use interface students can create a movie of their own with confidence

    • Document a project
    • Self reflection videos
    • Peer Feedback videos
    • Create an annotated photo essay
    • Slow motion analysis

    Garageband

    Much like iMovie. Garageband offers students to create music and podcasts with ease.  It also offers a vast array of options for the serious musician who wants to record something live or create a soundscape from loops and samples.

    • Create a Podcast
    • Record a Soundscape of your school
    • Create a soundtrack to a video

    Google Drive

    Google Drive offers iPad users FREE office functionality including a capable word processor, spreadsheet and Presentation tool.  Make no mistake it is not as easy on the eye or contains the beautiful templates of the Apple products listed below, but it does offer up to 50 people to simultaneously work on a document and integrated cloud storage which no other product can.  I believe it is a must have, even if you already own the apps listed below for it’s collaborative aspect alone.

    • Complete a team project
    • Create a class newsletter
    • Shared bulletin boards and calendar

    Numbers, Pages and Keynote

    This is Apple’s take on Microsoft Office and Google Doc’s and they do a very good job of it on the iPad.  Beautiful templates, simple navigation and iCloud integration make it the premium office suite on the iPad but you will have to pay around $20 for the complete suite.  Definitely worth it if price is not a sticking point.

    • Numerous Spreadsheet Application
    • Create a portfolio in Keynote
    • Publish written work in Pages

    Mindmeister

    Mindmeister is a beautiful mind-mapping tool which allows students to link ideas and create concept maps on their iPads.  It is very simple to use, has a great range of templates and offers students many options to export their mind map to another application for further use.

    • Create a family tree
    • Plan a Narrative
    • Create a network Diagram

    Calculator

    It is a little odd that the iPad does not ship with a functional calculator app when the iPhone does.  But there are a number of free and paid options to choose from.  Make sure this is one of your first downloads and you get a calculator that is age appropriate.  Seriously too many to choose from here including many great free alternatives.

    Wolfram Alpha

    Ask Wolfram Alpha a question and it will give you an answer. Essentially like the Oracle that knows everything Wolfram Alpha is connected to numerous reputable databases of useful and useless information regarding statistics mathematical, scientific formulas and facts about the world.  A pretty amazing little tool for students who need to know things in a hurry.

    Dictionary & Thesaurus

    There are a number of dictionaries available on the iPad and some of these are very expensive.  Please select a dictionary thesaurus combo that meets the age and regional needs of your students.  A couple of respectable options which are reasonably priced would be Ninjawords and the Macquarie Essential Dictionary

    Screen Chomp

    Create screen casts on your iPad using ScreenChomp.  Students can create a tutorial or explain concept they have learnt by recording their voice and drawing on the screen.  Plenty of sharing opportunities for students to share their ideas with others make it an excellent collaborative tool.

    • create video tutorials
    • Explain a mathematical . scientific concept
    • Add annotations to a picture

     

    3 Great iPad Apps for annotating PDF documents

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    One of the most underused features of the iPad is the ability to both read and annotate e-books and PDF documents.  This is a really useful tool for teachers and students who are using their iPad for research.

    These three apps allow you to use your iPad to highlight digital documents and hopefully save some unnecessary storage and printing.

    iAnnotate PDF

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    Transient

    by Branchfire, Inc.

    iAnnotate PDF offers complete control over PDFs, but the trade off is learning how to use it. Although the app has a User Guide, it has so many buttons and options that it takes more effort than many of the other apps to use, and much more to master. If you’re willing to put in the effort, iAnnotate is very customizable and will likely fulfill your needs. iAnnotate includes several notable features, including the ability to convert any document to a PDF.

    PDFpen for iPad

    by SmileOnMyMac, LLC

    PDFpen for iPad is the highly-anticipated iPad version of the popular Mac application of the same name. Although the app is new, it has an intuitive UI, a full complement of features, and syncs via iCloud to companion Mac apps. PDFpen offers the most functionality of any app for modifying the original PDF, including the ability to delete or modify its text and images or even create a new PDF. The app is also the only one to implement freehand highlighting in a way that preserves the clarity of the original text, and offers a group of helpful editing ”stamps,” the ability to make new stamps (e.g., a signature), and text expander integration. In fact, PDFpen is so easy to use that it's almost fun. The only negative is that PDFpen occasionally crashes, but the autosave feature ensures no work is lost.

    Adobe Reader

    by Adobe

    Although Adobe Reader is the “official” PDF app, Adobe was late to the AppStore party and only recently updated its app to include annotation capabilities. Despite the delay, Adobe Reader is still a good app, and by far the best free option for PDF annotation. Adobe Reader isn’t limited in any way, and allows users to add “sticky notes” (with the ability to mark yourself as the author), free-hand drawing, and signatures. However, the app has some very significant detriments: (1) it does not allow you to add text outside of a note, (2) no cloud connectivity (users can only import files via iOS’s “open in” function), and (3) no undo or redo (it is possible to delete annotations manually). Despite these minuses, Adobe Reader will likely be enough for many people, or at least a good introduction to the world of PDF annotation.