Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Google 101: How To Make a Parent Contact Form in Drive

If you're already an experienced Google Drive user, then you probably already know all about using forms. If not, then this post is for you. These Google 101 posts are going to be for the very new user. In today's edition, I'm going to walk you through - step-by-step - the process of making a parent contact form in Google Drive.

Step 1 - Get to know your Drive
If you are new to using Google Drive, check out this section of my Learning to Teach With Google site for an introduction to what Google Drive is and some examples of what you can do with it in the classroom.

Step 2 - Create a new form
Once you've acquainted yourself with your Drive, you need to create a new form.

Step 3 - Choose a Template and Give it a Name

Step 4 - Start Adding Items

You have a number of options for item types, ranging from short text answers to multiple choice or even videos. Start adding items, choosing the type from the list in the drop down (found by clicking the down arrow next to "add item").

Once you start creating an item for response, you have a number of options, such as making the question required (note that if a question is required, the parent won't be able to submit the form without answering it, so be sure it's one that they will definitely be able to answer). You can also duplicate the question (for instance if you want multiple phone numbers). When you've finished, click "Done."

For my parents night / open house parent contact form, I use the following fields:
  • Parent / Guardian Name(s) (standard text type question)
  • Parent / Guardian primary e-mail address (standard text type question)
  • Parent / Guardian secondary e-mail address (standard text type question)
  • Parent / Guardian primary phone number (standard text type question)
  • Parent / Guardian secondary phone number (standard text type question)
  • Parent / Guardian other phone number (standard text type question)
  • Preferred method of contact (multiple choice of phone, e-mail, or either)
  • Best time to contact (time question)
  • Any questions for me? (paragraph text type)

Step 5 - Set up the confirmation page

The confirmation page is the page that will show up after the respondent has finished and submitted the form. I suggest unchecking all but the last box, "Allow responders to edit responses after submitting."

Step 6 - Adjust the form settings

At the very top of the form, there is a box for changing the form settings. This will look different from my screenshot if you are using a personal Google account. The screenshot above is what it should look like if you are using your school district's Google account. Either way, you need to make sure that the only box checked is the one that shows a progress bar (the progress bar isn't necessary, but I've always found it to be a nice aesthetic touch). The other two boxes might be useful for a form you want your students to fill out, but they are more likely to cause trouble for you than to help, so I would still always uncheck them. Unfortunately, the first box will always default to being checked, so you need to make sure you never skip this step.

Step 7 (optional) - "Send" the quiz

This can be confusing for our situation, since you aren't actually sending this type of quiz anywhere. In other situations, you might send a form to a specific person or group of people, or perhaps send one out on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. But clicking the Send button (found in the upper righthand corner of the screen) also shows us the public link for the quiz as well as the embed code for placing the form fully inside a webpage (note that if you are using Google sites for your teacher site, you don't need to do any of step 7 - click here to view my overview of Google Sites and stay tuned for a future Google 101 episode on this).


To see what the form looks like, click "View live form" at the top of the screen.
We're now done with our form. Because Google Drive is the best thing ever, there is no save button - the form has been saving as we've worked on it. You can find it in whatever Google Drive folder you were looking at whenever you first created it.

 As soon as someone submits a response, a spreadsheet will automatically be created in the same folder with the responses (actually, it should create it before they respond, but I've found that sometimes it doesn't). This is really great, especially for a parent contact form, because this spreadsheet can be sorted, formatted, printed, etc. just like any other spreadsheet. I like to add an extra column to mine for me to keep track of when I've called parents. If you want to see the spreadsheet before anyone has responded (so that you can change the look of it or whatever), click "Choose response destination" from the bar at the top (see below).

If it says "View responses" instead, then that means it made the spreadsheet already.

So, that's it. To view the form I created while making this tutorial, click here. Feel free to fill it out so that you can get a feel for what your students' parents will be doing. I encourage you to fill out your own form before sharing it, too, so that you catch any typos or errors you might have.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment below with any questions.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Extending Your Browsing Power with Chrome Extensions

If you've been using Chrome or Firefox for any length of time, you're probably already familiar with extensions. Extensions (called add-ons in Firefox, the last I checked) are apps that add new functionality to your browser. There are literally thousands of Chrome extensions available at the Chrome Web Store (don't let the word "store" spook you - I've never seen one that isn't free or at least 'freemium'). Adding them is extremely easy. There are several ways to do it: go to the Chrome Web Storego to your extensions page by either clicking the menu button in the top right hand of the browser and then click Tools > Extensions or Settings and then clicking Extensions on the next page, or just jump straight to your extensions page by going to chrome://extensions/ and clicking "Get more extensions" at the bottom of the page.

My Top Extensions for Educators

This is not a comprehensive list of my favorite extensions by any stretch of the imagination, but these are some good ones specifically for educators. For a bigger, intermittently updated list or extensions, apps, and Drive add-ons click here.

Google Extensions:

Translate - Translate entire webpages (including Drive documents) into the various languages at Google Translate's disposal.

Save to Google Drive - Does what it says. Save web-content directly to Drive.

Dictionary - Adds a searchable dictionary to the navigation bar in Chrome. You can also highlight text to view a definition, though I've had trouble getting that to work sometimes.

Third-Party Extensions:

Read&Write for Google - This is an amazing tool. Select text from Google Drive documents, PDFs, and ebooks. The tool will read it out loud, define words with a word and picture dictionary, translate words into different languages, and more. This could have great potential for differentiated instruction in situations where some students need text read out loud, new ESL students, students with writing difficulties, etc. This tool requires a paid subscription UNLESS you have a Google Education account (like through your school district), in which case it's totally free. If you don't have an education account and don't want to pay for it, it still has some free features.

Select and Speak - This is a good alternative to Read&Write. Select text in the Chrome browser and the extension converts it to audio that you can play back at any time (even after you've closed the browser and come days later). An App that does this and shows up under my extensions (but not in the extensions page on the Web Store for some reason) is Chrome Speak.

AdBlock Plus - This extension blocks ads on the web. It's really bad for people trying to make money for the "free" stuff they put out on the Internet, so please turn it off for people you want to support. But what does it have to do with education? Picture this: you're showing a video about snorkeling near the Galapagos Islands as part of your unit on Darwin. Before the video starts, you have to watch a 30 second commercial for a line of bikinis. Now you've got howling kids and angry parents and administrators. AdBlock will prevent this sort of situation by getting rid of any ads that might pop up and embarrass you.

Web of Trust (WOT) - This is another extension that's great for everyone, educator or not. Web of Trust creates a database of websites. People can rate the trustworthiness and appropriateness of the sites. When you have the extension installed, external links (links that leave a website to go to another) have a little color-coded circle next to the link. A green circle indicates a link you can probably trust that is probably appropriate to your situation (you can set up a profile so that WOT knows what you're okay with or not), a red one indicates a site that will fill your computer with viruses and pop-ups. Like AdBlock, you can see how this would be helpful in the classroom as well as just net-life in general.

IE Tab - This extension is becoming more and more useless, thankfully. Still, you may find a use for it, especially if your district is using an older, less tech-savvy gradebook or web-mail system. Whenever you need to open a site in Internet Explorer, you can instead open it with the IE Tab extension, which opens a single tab of Internet Explorer inside of Chrome. From there, you can add that tab to your bookmarks. In the future, when you click that bookmark, it will automatically open the site in an IE Tab. 

Evernote Webclipper - This is an extension for the popular note-keeping / to-do list and more, Evernote. I'm a big fan of Evernote, so this is the one I use. With this, you can clip things from the web to your Evernote account, which can sync with all of your devices. Two alternatives to this that I haven't used but that are reportedly just as good are Pocket and Google Keep. So, as far as education goes, I mainly end up using this when I'm looking up lesson ideas or doing research as a way to keep it all organized and reachable as needed. 

bit.ly - bit.ly is a URL shortener. As far as URL shortener's go, I've usually used goo.gl in the past; however, bit.ly has the added benefit of letting you name the link whatever you want. This is great for putting links inside presentations or printed directions, as it allows students to much more easily type in the URL. The extension version lets you do this without having to go to the site.

Tabcloud - This is another one that is great in and out of the education field. Tabcloud lets you set up saved Chrome tab profiles for different situations. I have one for when I'm giving presentations that just has my blog and my presentation website up, another for work that has just Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Blogger, and Sites, one for break time that has my social media and various article sites I like to read, one for music and podcasts...the possibilities really are as endless as your imagination. In the classroom, you might have a Tabcloud saved for when you show your browser window to students, one that has things like Prezi, Discovery Education, etc. already up.

SnagIt - This is basically just a snipping tool, but it can also do annotations and capture video. It's really great for creating directions presentations or handouts, cutting the middleman of screenshots and image editors out of the equation.

HTTPS Everywhere - Another one that is just a good extension to have in general, but this is another one that will possibly save you some embarrassment and trouble in the classroom. HTTPS is a security protocol (actually it isn't technically, but that's the easiest way of thinking about it) that ensures that you are actually using the site that you intend to be using. 99% of the time, you probably won't need it, but it's a great thing to have around for the 1% of the time that you do.

Okay, that's it for now. Remember to check here for a bigger list of apps, extensions, and add-ons that I will intermittently update as I find new stuff.

Also, once again, special thanks to my EdTech mentor, Amy Mayer. I learned about probably half of these from talking to her or reading her blog. Check her out at www.friEdTechnology.com and follow her @friEdTechnology

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Use Add-Ons in Google Drive PLUS My Top Apps and Add-Ons

In my last post, I talked about Google Apps and how to connect them to Google Drive, giving you a much more varied and powerful Drive experience. Today I'm going to highlight a few of my favorites, but first I wanted to talk about something very similar to Apps: Add-Ons. 

Add-Ons are basically just apps that enhance existing Drive apps. A lot of the time they even overlap with existing apps you might have already connected. I know all of this talk of apps inceptioned into other apps can get a little confusing, so let me show you instead.

How to Add Add-Ons to Drive
In my apps tutorial, I showed you how to add apps with the Create button in Drive. With add-ons, we're going to use them from inside a Drive Doc. This is really simple - there's already a button for add-ons within Docs (also within the other standard apps: Presentation, Spreadsheet, etc.). Just click it and choose "Get add-ons..."

From there, we get a nearly identical screen to what we got when we connected apps, allowing you to browse add-ons by popularity or category or to search for what you're already looking for.

Once you've added the add-on, it will ask for various permissions, just like when you install an app on a smartphone (note that some apps will do this the first time you use them after connecting them to Drive or launching them from the Chrome App Launcher). 

I don't really worry over the permissions much, but make sure you read them carefully.
Once you've done all this, the add-ons you've installed will show up within their relevant Drive apps under the Add-ons button.

My Top Apps and Add-Ons
I didn't put screenshots of all of my favorites because I was afraid of melting blogger's servers. Here's a list instead (note that there is some overlap between Add-Ons and Apps - in most cases, the App creates its own separate file while the Add-On inputs it into the document).

Lucidpress - a great replacement for Microsoft Publisher. Makes beautiful posters, fliers, and more.
Lucidchart - create mind-mapping charts. Great for notes-pages for students.
Movenote and PresentMe - create video presentations using slides and audio
PowToon - Similar to Movenote and PresentMe up above, only with a very cartoonish, kid-friendly interface. Great for student presentations.
Videonotes and Kaizena - add voice notes to documents. Great for giving feedback on student assignements.
Geogebra - create beautiful graphs and pictures. Excellent for creating math test problems.
WeVideo - good video editor.
Pixlr - excellent picture editor. It has become my go-to Photoshop replacement.
Notepad - puts a Notepad app inside Drive with extra features. Great for marking up HTML.
VideoPlayer and MusicPlayer - play video and audio files inside drive. Allows for streaming.

Easy.bib - adds bibliography to Google Docs with a source search and choice of MLA, APA, and Chicago Styles
Lucidchart - input mindmaps and charts
Table of Contents - uses your headings to create a table of contents, similar to how Adobe Acrobat does for PDF's.
Template Gallery - adds a huge gallery of new document templates to Docs
Open Clip Art - adds a free clip art gallery
gMath - create detailed graphs, charts, and equations into docs and spreadsheets. Similar to Geogebra, only allows you to insert them directly into documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.

There are a lot more than this, but these are the ones that I've currently tested and played around with. For a bigger and intermittently updating list, click here.

Special Thanks
I found a lot of these things (and got the whole idea for this website) by talking in person to my friend and tech-guru mentor, Amy Mayer. Follow her on Twitter @friEdTechnology or check out her blog at www.friedtechnology.com

I also found some more add-ons on a great blog by Vicki Davis. Follow her on Twitter @coolcatteacher and check out her blog at www.coolcatteacher.com.

I'm presenting a professional development on all things Google Apps for Education at Woden ISD this week and again next week, so wish me luck. Thanks and see you again soon.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

How to Google Drive like a Pro with Connected Apps

Back in 2010, Google launched their Chrome Web Store, a one-stop-shop for Chrome apps, extensions, and themes. We'll talk more about extensions another time, but today I wanted to talk about apps. Specifically, I want to talk about connecting apps to Google Drive to get more out of your Drive experience.

You probably already use Google Drive for the standard Office needs - replacements for Microsoft's Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. You may also know that Drive comes with a free 15Gb of cloud-based storage space, making it a great thumbdrive replacement. And you may even have already installed Drive on your computer so that you can work offline or automatically sync files between computers. But there is a lot more that you can do with Drive by connecting apps.

You know about apps on your smartphone and probably have heard that that's what people are calling programs on computers these days (programmers have actually used the term for a long time, because program is a more general technical term). Chrome has been able to run its own class of apps since it opened up the Web Store in 2010. When you run these apps from Chrome (you now have a little app launcher button at the top left corner of your Chrome browser, just under the back button), it either opens up a separate dedicated window (still in Chrome but without the navigation or menu bars) or just a new browser window to that app's site, depending on the app. These range from things like Drive to YouTube to calculators to to-do lists to video games, all running inside of Chrome. The implementation of these apps was part of the Chromium project, which led to the Chromium Operating System that runs on Chromebooks. But a lot of these apps have special functionality when they are connected to Drive. So, let's look at how to do that. In my next post, I'll go over some of my favorite Apps and Add-Ons.

How to Connect Apps to Google Drive
The easiest way to connect apps to Drive is to do it through the "Create" button, then click "Connect more apps."

At this point, you'll be able to find apps either through browsing or searching. You can also browse by category.

Choose the app you want and click "connect." The app will now show up when you click "Create" in Drive.

There are some apps that won't show up in that box because they do behind-the-scenes stuff. For instance, I have apps that play music and video files from inside Drive or that convert them to other formats. There is nothing new created here, so they don't show up under "Create." To see all of your apps, click the gear icon and choose "Manage apps."

If the app has its own special file formats, then it will ask for permission to make that the default. Don't panic - let it be the default unless you have reason to do otherwise (for instance, I have several different apps that can open video files, so I had to decide on one to be the default).

And that's it. So, the next question is, what is the benefit? Well, that all comes down to the apps. To give you an idea, I have apps that make mind-mapping diagrams, apps that make flowcharts, an app that makes beautifully-designed posters and fliers similar to what you can do with Microsoft Publisher, a Notepad replacement for marking up HTML, a music player that I can use to stream music from the cloud, and another app that lets me make voice notes on student papers for detailed, easy feedback. And that's just a handful of the literally thousands of apps you can connect to Google Drive. But the very best part is that all of this is inside my go-to cloud storage solution, available instantly on all of my computers and mobile devices.

Special Thanks
I found a lot of these things (and got the whole idea for this website) by talking in person to my friend and tech-guru mentor, Amy Mayer. Follow her on Twitter @friEdTechnology or check out her blog at www.friedtechnology.com

Tune in next time when I talk about Drive Add-Ons (very similar to apps) and highlight some of my favorite of both for educators.