Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Be More Productive with Google Drive in 2018

None of us seem to have as much time as we need. Get back a little time and be more productive with Google Drive in 2018 by using these handy tips.
If you are looking to be more productive with Google Drive in 2018, then you’ll definitely want to use some of the tips listed below. I use Google Drive every day, which means that I am always looking for ways to do things faster and easier. Google Drive has some features that are not as apparent as some of its core functionalities. I have listed five of the handiest Google Drive tips that you should take advantage of, if you don’t already.

1. Save Images and Web Pages Directly to Google Drive

There are times when I need to share images or entire pages with my colleagues via Google Drive. In the past, I would save the image and then upload it to Drive. This can be a very tedious process. However, thanks to the Save to Google Drive Chrome Extension, you can now simply right-click on an image and then click “Save Image to Google Drive”. If you want to save a web page, simply go to the web page you want to save and click on the Save to Google Drive extension, located in the upper right-hand corner of your Chrome browser.

2. Quickly Access your Files in Google Drive

This is one of the newest features added to Google Drive. It lets you quickly access the files that you have recently worked on. Once you turn it on, you’ll find a line of your recent files right in front of you on the top of the Folders section just like the image below.
To turn it on, open your Google Drive Settings by clicking on the Gear icon in the top right-hand corner.  Scroll to Settings and find the Suggestions section. Next, click the box for “Make relevant files handy when you need them.” Refresh your page in order to see the changes. Now you can quickly access your recently modified files.

3. Filter Your Searches

If you want to quickly find a file in your Google Drive, you can always search your Drive. But did you know that you can filter your search results by clicking on the not-so-visible drop-down button on the right edge of the Search box? Once you click the arrow, you will see a panel of search options. You can filter by file type, date modified, and owner. If you need to find shared files, you can filter the same by looking for the name of the person you’ve share the file with.

4. Take Advantage of Google Drive Templates

Google Drive templates are an underused feature that has the potential to make your life much easier. There is no use recreating the wheel if you don’t have to. Google has a gallery of templates you can use. There is also a Chrome app for the Drive Template Gallery that you can install. You can even create your own templates and/or access templates created by others within your domain. If you are unable to access the templates, then your G Suite Admin must enable access to public templates.

5. Attach Google Drive Files Quickly in Gmail

This is one of the simplest Google Drive tips that I often take advantage of, but many people don’t know about. If you need to quickly email a document from your Google Drive, don’t download the file and send it as an attachment. Simply look at the bottom of your Gmail’s compose window. There you will find a little Google Drive icon. When you click on it, your Google Drive files will appear. Find the document you want to send and insert it. You can insert it as either an attachment or as a link contained within the email. It’s so simple and easy!

It’s clear that there are a number of ways to be more productive with Google Drive in 2018. These are just a few tips that have helped me be more efficient. I encourage you to try one (or all of them). If you have some other tips you would like to add to this list, drop them in the comment below and let me know.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Enhance Accessibility with Chromebooks

In this first in a series of blog entries on ensuring learning accessibility for all students, we explore Chromebook add-ons and extensions.
Are  you struggling to enhance accessibility with Chromebooks in your classroom? In this blog entry, you will find  a few accessibility add-ons and extensions for Chromebooks.

Make Learning Accessible on Chromebooks

Find a list of Chrome apps and extensions for special needs grouped by topic. Special thanks to Eric Curts for sharing his wonderful ideas.


  • Picto4Me – Allows you to create, edit, download, and play pictographic communication boards.


  • Simple Blocker – This tool helps students to stay focused on their work by blocking distracting websites. The user can choose the sites to block, how long to block them, and include optional password protection.
  • uBlock Origin – A simple but powerful ad-blocking extension that removes distracting ads from websites.
  • Move It – This extension can be set to periodically stop students working and have them do something physical. Research supports movement during study to improve retention.


  • OpenDyslexic – This extension overrides all fonts on web pages with the OpenDyslexic font and formats pages to be more easily readable.
  • High Contrast – This tool can make webpages easier to read by changing the colors to increase contrast, invert the colors, or switch to grayscale.
  • Readline – Although designed as a speed reading tool, you can adjust the speed to the lowest setting and use this extension to easily read text one word at a time.
  • Visor– This screen overlay tool darkens the page except for a horizontal band you can move up and down as you read, helping the student focus.
  • Color Enhancer – For people who are partially color-blind, this tool can help adjust and improve webpage colors.

Reading Comprehension

  • SummarizeThis – Copy and paste any text into the app to get a summarized version of the most important information.
  • sentiSum – Get a summarized version of any web page.
  • Google Dictionary – Double-click any word on a web page to get a pop-up with the definition and audible pronunciation.
  • Books That Grow – Books That Grow is a leveled reading app that contains eBooks that are set for each user’s reading ability.
This list is just a few of the many Chrome add-ons that can enhance accessibility in your classroom. Be sure to see another list of helpful add-ons that enhance readability and reading comprehension. If you discover other apps and extensions that work with the Chrome browser to help students with accessibility, please share in the Comments section.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Power of Add-Ons: Save as Doc

Managing Google Form responses can be a pain. But the power of the Save as Doc add-on makes it a breeze. Learn more in this blog.
Eliminating the number of decisions you have to make increases your energy level, asserts the author of The Power of Engagement. You can accomplish this in a easy way with a Google Sheets add-on. Consider this scenario. You setup a Google Form and send it out to everyone you  know. When you are looking at the responses, you realize, “Wow, I don’t want to reformat this Sheet of Form Responses for readability.” You want to avoid countless energy-sapping decisions as you try to wrap content in Sheet cells, move data around, read tiny text on a crowded screen. A wonderful Google Sheets add-on makes it easy to read through the responses submitted via a Google Form and saved in a Google Sheet.

The Power of Less Decisions

We all know that reading long paragraph field entries is a nightmare in a spreadsheet. But, good news! The add-on Save as Doc is the cherry on top when it comes to finding a solution for your Google Forms content.

Save as Google Doc Core Features

  • Choose any name for the generated document.
  • Select any number of adjacent cells to output.
  • Choose any heading style for column headings.
  • Add a pagebreak after each row of data.
  • Save the current settings as the default.
  • Generates a Google Document in your Google Drive.

How to Use This Google Add-on

  1. Download the add-on.
  2. Within Google Sheets, click on Add-ons.
  3. Choose “Save As Doc > Start.”
  4. Select the cells, rows, or columns to include or choose “Select all data.”
  5. Type a Save Doc File name.
  6. Modify the output settings in the sidebar.
  7. Choose “Save as Doc.”
  8. At the bottom, click on the blue Open the Doc.

The Google Three-Step

You’ve heard of the Texas two-step? Now you have the Google three-step:
  1. Use Google Forms to enter the information.
  2. The responses are compiled in Google Sheets.
  3. Use the Save as doc add-on to turn your information back into a Google Doc.
Watch this video walk through by Free Tech4Teachers blogger Richard Byrne:

More Favorites Coming Soon

Want to power through more tough tasks in Docs, Sheets, and Form with add-ons? I’ll be sharing some more of my favorites in upcoming blogs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Digital Bulletin Board Smackdown

One of the best new tools offered by technology is the digital bulletin board. Learn how to use it and which ones are the most effective for learning.
Looking for a free, simple assessment tool? Then this digital bulletin board smackdown is for you. First, however, let’s define what a digital bulletin board is. It’s not putting up decorative items on the TV screen in your classroom. It is a way for students to collaborate and learn together by digitally sharing resources, ideas, questions, and final products.
Before we jump into an analysis of some of the various bulletin board tools available, let’s take a moment to revisit why they are so awesome. Here are the two best ways to use them in the classroom:
  • Exit Tickets – Exit tickets can be a great way to set up the next day’s learning by allowing the teacher to discover what students learned (or didn’t learn) today.
  • Quick Write – With quick writes, you can ask students to respond to an open-ended question or prompt, which, if structured correctly, can move them up the level to Bloom’s Taxonomy in their learning.
“What are the best lesson ideas? How can you use [digital bulletin boards] in the elementary classroom and in high school?” asks Lucie Renard in her blog entry featuring thirty creative ways to use digital bulletin boards in your classroom. Let’s explore a few ways digital bulletin boards (DBBs) make learning possible.

Digital Bulletin Boards in Your Classroom

Digital bulletin boards enable anyone to post:
  • Videos
  • Images
  • Text
  • Thumbnails of Google Suites documents
  • Links to other document
What’s more, these DBBs  empower students to:
  • Summarize key concepts using text, video, or audio
  • Collect student work and assignments
  • Develop a graffiti wall
  • Curate a digital collage
  • Make a concept/mind map
  • Gather data about a particular phenomena or event
  • Share takeaways about a field trip
  • Share book talks
  • Analyze book characters

Digital Bulletin Board Tools

While there are a baker’s dozen of digital bulletin board tools available, including whiteboard solutions,  a few popular digital bulletin board tools have risen to the top of the heap. Those top of the heap tools include:
Each of these tools was assessed and assigned a score. Read on to see how each of them did.

Criteria for Digital Bulletin Board Selection

Ready to select a digital bulletin board for your classroom project? Here is a breakdown of  the top four digital bulletin boards according to my preferred list of features. If you have your own preferred features, please add them in the comments section below.

User Management

  • Free
  • Use another account to login (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Allows for multi-user collaboration


  • Easy to add Post it or index card
  • Reminders on special days
  • Embed images, video, text, thumbnails of digital documents (e.g. Google Docs, Slides)
  • Chat feature between users (audio/text)
  • QR codes
  • Custom background/wallpaper


  • Mobile friendly with Android/iOS version
  • Requires Flash
  • Apple Watch compatibility

Digital Bulletin Board Smackdown

Ready to see how digital bulletin board favorites stack up? Let’s take a look at this chart. I encourage you to add your own favorites to the Google Sheets version of this smackdown.
digital bulletin board

Points to Remember

Classroom learning opportunities can be enhanced when students use visual tools like digital bulletin boards. Research suggests that visuals enhance students’ ability to:
  • Organize and process information
  • Practice higher order thinking skills
  • Have their various learning style preferences met
Make the effort to use a digital bulletin board solution in your classroom with your students. It can make a big difference.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Give Thanks with Google Forms

Thanksgiving is a perfect time of the year to engage the imagination of your students and encourage them to be creative with Google Forms.
This Thanksgiving, why not give thanks by utilizing Google Forms in the classroom? I have been thankful ever since I began using Google Forms; it makes real-time work and collaboration a creative joy. Here are some classroom applications of Google Forms this Thanksgiving.

Today I’m Thankful Because

Have students complete a Today I’m Thankful Because Google Form with things they are thankful for.  Students complete a form, then the teacher can generate a list of their responses and display some of the commonalities. Another idea is to generate a word cloud from the list. The word cloud below was created using It allowed me to paste the list from my Google Sheet and then upload an image of a turkey to use as an outline.

You can extend this activity by having students:
  • Write descriptive paragraphs in Google Docs about the things they are thankful for.
  • Create posters in Google Drawings of their thankful lists.
  • Draft letters to people they are thankful for using a Google Doc template.

Thanksgiving Turkey Traditions at the White House

Rely on Google Forms to quiz your students on the history of Thanksgiving. This quiz  focuses on the turkey traditions at the White House. The President of the United States pardons a turkey on the eve of Thanksgiving at a White House ceremony. This tradition of compassion dates back fifty years to Harry Truman.  Test your knowledge.
President Barack Obama, National Turkey Federation Chairman Gary Cooper; son Cole Cooper participate in the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey pardon ceremony in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Nov. 26, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Try these quiz ideas:
  • Learn how Thanksgiving became a national holiday. Embed a video about the history of Thanksgiving on your Google Form. Then quiz your students.
  • Compare the first Thanksgiving dinner in Colonial times to the one we celebrate with today. Students delight in the differences. You can also have them share what unique foods they will see on their Thanksgiving table.
  • Quiz students about fun facts about turkeys. Enable them to use multimedia to share what they learn about these fascinating birds.

An Interactive Thanksgiving Story

Students love to read “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories. Therefore, why not let them create their own story using Google Forms? These stories can be created by taking advantage of section breaks in Google Forms. When an option is selected on the form, it will go to a unique page about that particular answer. Before getting started, it will be very helpful to have students brainstorm their ideas by creating an outline first.
Check out this short Thanksgiving story I created. It tells a story about what I will do on Thanksgiving Day.  Another idea is to give your students a writing prompt for their story such as:
  • If you could have any guest at Thanksgiving, who would it be?
  • What would happen if a scarecrow joined you for dinner?
  • You have magically become a Pilgrim. Describe your day.
  • My family’s Thanksgiving traditions
  • My favorite Thanksgiving story
  • The best part of Thanksgiving break
These are just a few ways to use Google Forms this Thanksgiving. I can’t think of a better time of the year to engage the imagination of your students and encourage them to be creative. Let us know in the comments below how you are using Google Forms in the classroom.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Explore Google Earth’s Brown Bear Livecams

There are many ways to incorporate livecams in the classroom. Explore Google Earth’s Brown Bear Livecams and take students on a learning journey to Alaska.
In July of this year, Google collaborated with to offer “Bear Livecams” in Google Earth. If you are a fan of live video feeds and like to use them to engage your students in learning, then your class will definitely have to check out the Alaskan brown bear livecams. Watching the bears eat, play, and hang out underwater at Katmai National Park is such an incredible experience.

Five Brown Bear Livecams

When you go to Google Earth’s storytelling platform Voyager, you will find five livecams.
1.Brooks Falls – This camera is located at Brooks Falls, Alaska. On this livecam, watch the hungry bears wait in the river near the waterfall for their next meal. They search for the best fishing spot as they dine on salmon.
2. Lower River – This camera is located where the Brooks River gently flows into Naknek Lake. On this livecam, watch female brown bears and their cubs play, rest, and practice the skills they will need to hunt for themselves one day.
3. River Watch – This camera scans a vast amount of the Brooks River. On this livecam, watch the bears and their cubs from afar as they sit in the river. As they come out of the riverbanks, you can often see them begin to play.
4. Underwater – This camera is, of course, located underwater in the Brooks River. On this livecam, watch the bears employ a variety of hunting techniques, including simply sitting on the river floor and waiting for a fish to swim by. Also watch them try to “snorkel,” or swim on the surface while submerging their heads to look for fish.
5. Dumpling Mountain – This camera is located up in the clouds on Dumpling Mountain. On this livecam, you can see all of Brooks Camp and the surrounding country stretching out in front of you. On a clear day, you can spot the active volcanoes bordering the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.

Classroom Connections

Below are a few lesson ideas that you can incorporate in the classroom.
  • Encourage students to use Google Keep to take notes on the daily activities of the bears. They could then create a timeline of these activities using Google Drawings.bears
  • Have students present using Google Slides about volcanic eruptions, including the world’s largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, which occurred at Katmai National Park.
  • Have students create and print 3D models replicating what they see on the livecams.
  • Assign students to use Google Scholar to research the brown bears of Alaska and then write a paper in Google Docs.
  • Use the activities occurring in the livecams as writing prompts to have students practice their inference skills about things they are seeing.

More Classroom Connections

  • Explore the terrain of at Katmai National Park and Preserve using Google Maps as a whole class activity.
  • Invite a geologist to talk about the significance of wildlife at National parks and have a Google Hangout with him.
  • Let students use Google Drawings to create a comic strip about how many salmon bears eat in a day.
  • Have a discussion in Google classroom about the way mama bears teach their cubs survival instincts and the lessons we can learn from them.
  • Create a Google Form to record daily logs about the bears’ activities.
  • Use green screen technology or a webcam to have students record a story they created using stick bear puppet figures.

Bear Cams in the Classroom

These are just a few ideas for how to use the live Bear Cams in your classroom. If you watch live webcams in the classroom, please share in the comments below which ones you watched and how you incorporated them into lessons.
All photos used in this blog post appear courtesy of Google,, and Katmai National Park, Alaska.