Tag Archives: Google Apps

Make a Google Slide Resource Page

For my primary students, rather than let them search the Internet themselves, I like to provide resource links for them when they research online.  Tomorrow, grade 1 will be coming to the computer lab to research whales.  In the past, I’ve created a simple page with hyperlinks leading them to online resources and videos that their teacher and I have already viewed and approved.  This time I thought I would try something a little different and more visually interesting using Google Slides.

After a little playing around, here is what I came up with. (Click the image below)

Whales - Google Slides

The trick here is to make the page appear full screen so the students see just the slide.   To do this, I created a new slide presentation with one slide.  Added images and hyperlinks to my resources,  then clicked PRESENT to get a URL for just that one slide.


Next I made one minor tweak to the URL, changing edit# to present?  So the new URL looks like this.


The result is a hyperlink that automatically opens as a full screen slide with active links. Sure this is a little more work, but don’t you think it is more interesting than just a list of hyperlinks?

Thanks to Lisa Highfill and her amazing “HyperDocs”  presentation for inspiring this idea.

Just Share It!

Have you been looking for an easy way for students to share their video projects with you?  If you’re a Google Apps school, then the answer is right there in front of you.

As an added bonus, videos you’ve uploaded to Google Drive and videos shared with you can be embedded in Google Sites.  Just insert the video from your Google Drive.  This is a wonderful way to share student projects.


Unfortunately, this only works in Sites.  If you want to embed a video in Google Slides (Presentations), your only option is still YouTube.

Add the Google Drive Mobile app to the mix and students can record videos on their Android, iPhone, or iPad and upload them directly to their Google Drive account on your school’s Google Apps domain.  With 30GB of space, students have plenty of room if they avoid uploading bulky HD Video files.

As for the “Warning” in my video, I discovered some issues when you try uploading a video from an iPad or mobile device connected to our school network.  Contacting Google support was both easy and helpful. They assisted me in troubleshooting the issue and determined that there may be some issues with our filter/firewall. For those of you who like technical stuff, here is what Google Drive needs in order to work properly: https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2589954?hl=en

Creating and Collaborating in the Cloud

This year is a year of changes at my school. I’ll likely be sharing others in future posts, but today I’d like to focus on one that I’m most excited about  – Google Apps replacing Microsoft Office.

Beginning this Fall our incoming 6th grade students no longer all have the exactly same computer supplied and imaged by the school. Instead they are allowed to purchase and bring their own laptop computer. This means our teachers are now dealing with students who could have Macs or PC’s and a variety software and hardware configurations. We needed something that would create a common experience for any platform and Google Apps was the logical choice.

To learn more about our Bring Your Own Laptop program click this link: https://sites.google.com/site/stjohnsbyod/


  • Google Apps is FREE.
  • Since it works in a web browser, the user experience is the same whether your on a PC or Mac.
  • Google Docs are saved automatically. There’s no need for students to save their work or try to remember WHERE they saved it. This is a BIG deal if you’ve ever worked with middle schoolers.
  • Google Docs are saved “in the cloud”. If a student’s computer breaks, their work is not gone. They can get on another machine, sign-in, and have access to all their work. This eliminates “the dog ate my flash drive” and “my computer froze” or any other technical excuse they might use to get out of doing their work.
  • Google Docs are “collaborative”. This opens up new possibilities for collaborative notes, documents, presentations, and projects. It also makes “turning in” assignments a simple matter of sharing your document with the teacher. No more saving, downloading, and uploading of files. It makes commenting, correcting and revising work much more efficient.

So how does Google Docs work in the classroom?

When students create a document the first thing they must do is give it a proper TITLE. The document title is analogous to putting your name, class, period, and assignment on the top of your paper. Our students are required to name their documents like this:

LastName, FirstName Subject Period Assignment


Naming documents this way allows the teacher to search and filter documents by assignment, subject, name, or class period.  A teacher could filter all documents shared with them to see all submissions for a particular assignment or just the documents submitted by a particular student. If a student shares “Untitled document”, the teacher will not accept it.

Instant Commenting

When a teacher is evaluating student work, adding a comment or critique is a simple as clicking your cursor in the document or highlighting a section of text and pressing CTRL-ALT-M (the keyboard command to insert a comment). CTRL-ENTER will post the comment.

When a comment is posted, the student can see it immediately.  If a student happens to have the document open while a teacher is looking at it, they will see the comment pop up on their screen. They might also see the teacher’s cursor moving through the document right on their screen indicating that the teacher is looking at their document at that very moment. As I explain this to students this might seem kinda creepy, but it’s also pretty cool.

In our old system, students submitting documents would have to upload a document to to Moodle. The teacher would have to download and save the document. Open the document. Add comments. Save the document, then upload the document back to Moodle so the student could see the comments. Instant commenting in Google Docs is a big time-saver.

Revision History

This is like document insurance. As you work on and make changes to a document, Google Apps is generating a revision history. At any time you can go to FILE and SEE REVISION HISTORY to look at previous revisions of your document. So if you, or one of your collaborators accidentally deletes part of your document, you just find an earlier version of your document and restore it.

How is this helpful to you as a teacher? Think about the writing process. Now you can take a students work and use revision history to go back and see their writing process. What changes did they make? What did they add? What did they delete? Did they make the corrections you suggested?

Have you ever been part of a group project and had a bad experience because you did all the work but everyone in the group got your “A”? Now a teacher can use revision history to see not only what changes and additions were made to a document, but also WHO made them. So now the teacher can see who did the most work and who did nothing. Now those lazy people who sit back and let you do all the work will get their just reward. (It’s about time.)

Teachers as Contacts

We also recommend that students using Google Apps, add teachers to their contacts. This is something our teachers have students do at the beginning of the school year. It makes sharing a document with a teacher much simpler because they just share it and select the teacher’s name from their list of contacts. You don’t have to hope that students will type your e-mail address correctly every time.

We’re only in our 3rd week of school and already I’m hearing positive comments about how much quicker and easier it is to assess student work with Google Documents as opposed to dealing with Word and PowerPoint files uploaded to Moodle.

If you’d like additional Google Doc resources, here is the site we created to support our Google Apps training: https://sites.google.com/site/stjohnsgdocs/

Serendipity Strikes Again

Sometimes you get lucky and happen to be in the right place at the right time. For me the place was Twitter and the time was this morning right about 8am Pacific time. It was there I saw this message…

I clicked on the link and there I was, watching the Discovery Pre-Conference Event live from the FETC Conference in Florida. Problem was it didn’t look like anything was happening. People were just sitting at tables talking and working on their laptops. Maybe they were taking a break and the real session would be starting in a few more minutes.

I decided to check out the chat and see who I might be able to “talk” with while I waited for something to happen. I saw my friend Jen Wagner (JenW in the chat) and tapped out a quick “Hey Jen!”. Funny thing is, where Jen would normally respond quickly with a greeting and a “smiles”, I got nothing. Strange. I read backward through the chat and noticed JenW, nsharoff, derrallg, pgeorge, dduray, and a few others were all busy chatting about gathering pictures, adding slides to a presentation, and posting links on Twitter. In a few moments it was clear what was going on. I had just dropped in right in the middle of a…

Virtual Project

All those people at the tables in Florida were not just having conversations. They were working on a project for the DEN Pre Conference. And so were we. Before I knew it I was part of Virtual Table #7. Our project was about the weather. An appropriate topic considering the blizzard that was crippling most of the country right now. Jen had created a Twitter form asking for your location, the temperature, and whether or not schools were closed in your area because of the weather.

At the same time, the group was collecting pictures uploaded to Flickr from around the country and bringing those images and weather information into a Google Presentation.

I quickly got to my Google Docs, opened the presentation, and observed a presentation forming right before my eyes. I SO wanted to be a part of this. Grabbing a camera from our library media center I quickly ran out front and snapped a picture of the front of my building being sure to frame the shot so it showed off the warm California sunshine. A quick Google search gave me the current local temperature and daily forecast. I added an new slide to the presentation and alerted the chat room that I was claiming slide #13 for myself.

Over the next 30 minutes we worked to build resource pages, links to Discovery content, weather maps, links to the survey results and more. Nancy Sharoff even linked to a Youtube video of snow falling right outside her house. She had just shot and uploaded it a few minutes earlier. I put my own creative touch on the title slide.

By 9:15 am we were just about done and pretty proud of what we had accomplished. About 2 hours later the projects were shared. Even though I had 4th graders in the computer lab with me, I watched live as groups presented their projects. Then Porter Palmer, who was running the live feed for us in the room in Orlando, shared the project that Virtual Table #7 had created. What a thrill to see our work displayed on the screen in Florida and to hear the Oooohs and Aaahhhs from the pre-conference attendees. I think my self-esteem just went up a few notches.

Thanks to all who participated in the virtual project and to Porter Palmer and the rest of the DEN Team at FETC for making something like this possible. It was a blast.

CLICK HERE to see our presentation.

Adventures in Google Apps

Over the past several weeks we’ve been exploring Google Apps for Education here at St. John’s. I really like the way Google Docs allows for collaborating on projects, but the biggest hurdle that prevented us from using it in our middle school was a registration process that requires users to sign-up with an e-mail address. We can’t require our students to have internet e-mail accounts. This is why we decided to try Google Apps for Education.

The process began with signing up our school, registering our domain, and setting up our site. Our reward came this week we when we actually started using it with 6th Grade.

Signing Up/Registering Our Domain
Signing up for Google Apps for Education begins at their site. This is where the process got a little confusing for me. Thankfully our school network administrator was there to help me through the process. The first thing they ask for is your domain name. We had a couple of domain names registered to our school that we were not using so we chose one of those.
Next we had to prove to Google that we actually owned our domain. This involved either uploading a unique HTML file they supplied to our site, or by changing something called the CNAME to redirect our site to Google. Since the name we selected to use was registered to us but not an active web site, we could not upload anything to it, so we had to change the CNAME. If this part sounds confusing to you, rest assured it was confusing to me too. Thankfully our network guy knew what to do. He had to go to the site where we registered our domain and make these changes.

It took almost a week for Google to verify that we had ownership of the domain, but once it was done we could go to our site and a custom Google start page (think – iGoogle) would appear. The page included links to Google Docs, GMail, GoogleTalk, Google Calendar, and any other modules I chose to add.

NOTE: Going to www.yourdomain.com would take you to your custom start page. You can go straight to Google Docs by typing docs.yourdomain.com.

Set-Up & Adding Users
The default settings in Google Apps for Education automatically creates GMail accounts for each of your users (Think: username@yourdomain.com). Since we did not want our students to have GMail accounts, we chose to disable the GMail feature, along with GoogleTalk (Chat is blocked by our firewall anyway) and Calendar (our school site already has a calendar). This basically left Google Docs.

To get our students into the system I was able to export their usernames from our learning system into an Excel CSV file, tweak the spreadsheet a little so it looks like the one below, and upload them to our Google site. For student passwords I just assigned them a generic password and checked a box that requires them to change it the first time they login.

Our First Project
Our 6th grade history teacher wanted his students to collaborate on their class notes for his lesson on the Age of Pericles. He created a Google Presentation with a single question on each slide. We decided it would be easier for a first project to have students each working on their own slide as opposed to editing over each other on the same text document. That presentation was copied multiple times – one for each group of 4 or 5 students. Students were were then invited to collaborate on their copy of the presentation.

For the introductory lesson we just showed students how to login and access the presentation. Even though their usernames had already been imported to our Google system, for their first login they still had to do two levels of “type the squiggly word” and click on the “agree to terms” button to verify their account. We showed them the Common Craft Google Docs video to give the kids an idea how Google Docs work. Then we showed them how to open & edit their copy of the presentation. Student groups had to decide who was going to work on which slide. Their assignment was to go home and work on their questions so their answers could be shared in class the next day.

What was the first thing they all started doing? Changing the themes and watching the screen change on each of the PC’s in their group. I’ve to to admit, that is kind of empowering – and fun. The next day, out of three class periods, all but 2 or 3 students had completed their assignment.

NOTE: The ones that didn’t finish had copied the web site incorrectly in their assignment book.