10 Things Every Teacher Should be able to do on Google Docs

Google Docs is a powerful word processing tool that many schools have adopted. As it’s similar to Microsoft Word and other word processing tools, most of its features are intuitive to use. However, in addition to completing many of the functions of a traditional word processor, Google Docs provides even more capabilities that can be invaluable to educators. Here are ten tricks that can make your life easier with Google Docs:

Share & Collaborate with Google Docs

One of the most powerful features of Google Docs is that you can share and collaborate on documents with others. Think about all the times where you work on something at home and then email it to yourself at school or put it on a thumb drive. How about the challenge of students who “forgot their essays” or couldn’t print their homework? Not only does Drive solve this, but it also opens up possibilities for real time collaboration and feedback.

Sharing with individuals is relatively easy. Click the blue “Share” button in the top right corner and input the email addresses for those you want to collaborate with (add a message if you would like), select if you want them to be able to “edit,” “comment,” or “view” and click send! If you give someone editing privileges, then you can collaborate with them on a document in real time (up to 50 people can edit a document at once)! Another unique feature about Google Docs is that users do not need an account to see what you are sharing. There are two ways to share, first by sharing with a gmail account and second with a link. Either way collaborators will have the ability to edit, comment, and/or view.

google docs

Comments And Suggested Edits

Sometimes, you don’t want to make changes on a document. When I am providing feedback on a writing assignment, for example, I want students to craft their project in their own words. I use “comments” instead of making changes directly to their paper. To add a comment, highlight the word or section you would like to change and press the “comment” button. This will open a comment window where you can type and leave directions or feedback.

google docs

Others can reply to your comments when they make changes or ask for clarification. This actually creates a conversation directly in a document. It could also be used for student reflection as they write about why they make their changes. Another great tool is “suggested edits.” By using “suggested edits” you can make changes to the document that others can either “accept” or “decline.” It’s a great way to keep one another up to date with edits especially if you are building a collaborative document.

Revision History

One of my favorite tools in Google Docs is “Revision History.” If you are collaboratingon a text with another, you can use this feature to see what changes they have made and restore an earlier version of the document if necessary. I like to use it with my students so that I can observe the evolution of their writing. This feature has become the most valuable tool in my teaching arsenal. Revision history also can show a teacher whether or not the student is actually making changes to their work. Additionally, it can be reaffirming for a student to witness the progress of their work so that they can see how far they have come over the course of a project.

google docs

Add-Ons

Recently, Google released a suite of “Add-ons.” These Google Doc specific extensions have allowed educators to unleash more powerful features within Google Docs and Sheets. To find and apply Add-ons, simply open a document and select “Add-ons” from the menu. You can then browse the suite of available tools and apply those that you want. Some of my favorite Add-ons are EasyBib (for creating bibliographies), Google Translate, and Kaizena (for leaving Voice Comments). You can also find third party apps such as Lucid Charts to create diagrams and mind-maps that you then directly drop into your document. More Add-ons are added daily.

Leave Voice Comments

Sometimes written comments are not enough. Fortunately, Google allows you to leave voice comments with third-party applications. One of my favorite is Kaizena. With this free tool, you can leave voice comments throughout a document just like you can with traditional text comments. To see Kaizena in action, check out their brief tutorial here.

Research Tools

google docsGoogle will allow you to do research right within the document! With the Research window pane, you can perform a basic Google search, search images, access Google Scholar, find quotes, and look up words in the dictionary. You can even search by usage rights (key when teaching students about copyright and licensing). When you put content from the research pane into your document, it will even include the citation with a footnote at the bottom of your page in the format that you choose (MLA, Chicago, etc). It is a great tool for academics.

Image Editing

With its latest update, Google Docs now allows you to edit images within a document. If you want to include an image in your Google Doc, you can position it by dragging and dropping, wrap text, resize, crop, and change the border. It’s a great time saver when you are creating a document with diagrams and images.

Insert Special Characters

google docsGoogle Docs has a robust library of special characters, accented letters, and different alphabets. You can use the “Insert Special Characters” feature while you type. Simply go to “Insert” and then “Special Characters” (right next to the Ω symbol). You can browse symbols by alphabet, purpose (math, technical, copyright), and more. Their library is vast, and they are updating it constantly. If you need to insert a mathematical formula, check out Insert → Equation to access easy tools for creating sophisticated mathematical formulas.

Download As

If you want to save your Google Doc in another format (such as a Word document), the “download as” feature is your friend! This will allow you to access and edit content on different machines or to send it to others. I often download my Google Docs as PDFs to post on my class website or as memos to distribute on email lists.

Email as Attachment

If you want to share your Google Doc with someone who doesn’t have a Google account, then you can do this with the “email as attachment” feature. Go to File → Email as Attachment. This will bring up a window that will allow you to select the format in which you would like to send your document (PDF, Word, etc) as well as a space for you to write a message. The document will come from your email address jus tas if you sent it from GMail or Outlook.

More Than a Word Processor

Beyond using Google Docs as a word processor, these features allow it to become an editing platform, collaboration tool, research aid, and much more. After exploring many of these features, I’m sure that you will find even more uses on your own!

To learn more about using Google Docs and Google Apps in the classroom, EdTechTeacher will be offering a number of hands-on sessions during the July 28 Pre-Conference Workshop day as well as during the July 29-30 EdTechTeacher Summit in Chicago.

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Realities of and Solutions to Plagiarism – Infographic


University of Illinois at Chicago Online

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The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

Want to know what your hometown looks like from space, check out NASA’s website “The Gateway to Astronaut Photography from Space.”

The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth hosts the best and most complete online collection of astronaut photographs of the Earth from 1961 through the present.

The free database is is a great way to explore both photographs and videos taken by astronauts from space. The public is permitted to use the images so long as they credit them appropriately:

“Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center” or “Video courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center” as appropriate. We recommend that the caption for any photograph published include the unique photo number (Mission-Roll-Frame), and our website (http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov) so that others can locate or obtain copies when needed.

Miami at Night Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center ISS026-E-8504 http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov

Miami at Night
Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center
ISS026-E-8504
http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov

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The High Stress Life of a 27 Year Old!

Thanks to a reader Jack, I wanted to share this infographic that highlights the lives of 27 years olds; namely millennial graduates who came of age right at the peak of the recession.

What You Do at 27
Source: BestMastersDegrees.com

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Tip of the Week: USGS historical topo maps

Jennifer Carey:

This is a great tool I can’t wait to use in my class!

Originally posted on History Tech:

Maps are so cool. Historical maps are way more cooler. And online historical maps are even way more cooler. (I like saying way more cooler cause it makes me feel like a rebel.)

A couple of weeks ago on the helpful GoogleMapsMania site, I ran across a way cool tool created by the United States Geological Survey. This is the group that, among other things, is responsible for creating topographic maps.

The cool tool that the USGS has created is called USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer.

Basically, you do a map search with a Google Maps-like interface, click on a specific place on the resulting map, and the Historical Topographic Map Explorer will provide a timeline with topo maps from the past.

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Should I go to Grad School?

Special thanks to a reader Roy from the University of Arizona submitted to me an excellent infographic that highlights the costs and benefits of enrolling in a graduate program. Many recent college grads are not contemplating this very issue. Check out the handy infographic below.

If like Roy you have an idea you would like me to highlight on my blog, please send me a suggestion here. As always, I cite my sources and give credit to contributors!

Grad School width=
Source: GradSchoolHub.com

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Want your kids off their Smart Phones? Then put yours away!

When I was a child I lived in a two story home with my parents and three siblings. Around 7 o’clock, my mother or father would ask the available to child to “go get your siblings for dinner.” We then ran to the stairs and promptly yelled at the top of our lungs, “DINNER!!!” My parents then scolded “Don’t yell!

Walk up the stairs.” But here’s the real kicker, if all of us kiddos were upstairs mom and dad didn’t walk up to get us; no, they stood at the base of them and yelled up as well. No wonder we always ignored their instruction and screamed for one another instead of walking up the steps. We followed our parents’ lead.

I tell this story because as a Tech Director I am often asked by fellow teachers, administrators, and even parents how they can curb a child’s smartphone behavior. The best advice that I can give (and the hardest for adults to follow) is to model the behavior that you expect from a child.

If you want your child to have conversations during a meal, then all phones (not just theirs) should be put away. Pick a designated location that they are stored, preferably outside of the room so that a ding or a buzz won’t distract. If you are going to dinner, bring *one phone* for an emergency. All of the others stay home. The present phone doesn’t sit on the table, it should be put away. I like to zip mine up in a handbag so that it’s not readily available and I can’t pull it out if tempted. If you think that the distractify culture isn’t a problem at restaurants, check out this article written by a New York restaurateur that outlined the impact of cell phones on restaurant turn over.

In addition to meals, pay attention to where else you use your phone. A recent article in the Washington Post reported some disturbing trends in adult use of smart phones; nearly 1/3 used it during a child’s recital or production and more alarming more than 1/2 used it while driving! Likewise, how often in a long assembly have you snuck in a quick text or checked your email (I know I’m guilty of this)?

The reality is that children do learn what they see. Just as we teach children to be courteous (say please and thank you, wait your turn, etc), be sure that you demonstrate and model appropriate and respectful use of your smartphone: don’t read email/texts/social media at the table, don’t use your phone while you’re driving, and certainly do not ignore a child or student (at ballet recitals, school plays, or assemblies) in favor of the device. Not only does this demonstrate to them what courteous smartphone use it, it will provide you some weight when you correct their behavior.

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I’ll be on hiatus for one week!

Thank you to all of my wonderful subscribers. I will be on a hiatus for the week of July 6-12 as I attend an NEH Summer Seminar for Teachers in Chicago, Illinois. I’m so excited for this amazing opportunity and will be sure to share what I have learned upon my return.

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The APPMazing Race: A Great Way to Increase Collaboration and Learning at an Event

Jennifer Carey:

Great details from the incomparable Carl Hooker’s iPadapalooza. Some suggestions that can be applied to training sessions and professional development at your home institution.

Originally posted on Hooked On Innovation:

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 1.19.08 PMThis year at iPadpalooza we were looking to do something a little different with all that “transition” time in between sessions. Often times, when you attend a conference, you find yourself in complete session-mode. You rush from session to session, never taking time to reflect, interact or collaborate with others at the event.

And so, the APPMazing Race was born. When the team at iPadpalooza started brainstorming ideas, the thought of some sort of app-based Olympics was being passed around. Last year, we did an Aurasma scavenger hunt to get people interacting with their space. It was a great time-filler but was purely for individuals. Inventing a challenge based on teamwork would make the actual event even more meaningful was the hope. We ended up with 47-teams of 3 to 4 players signing up for the race by the end of the opening keynote. At midnight of the first day…

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Terms of Service Cheat Sheet for Parents & Teachers

This is reblogged from my post on Edudemic

If you have email, iTunes, Facebook, or any other online account, then you are familiar with Terms of Service; you know, those excessively long, confusing legal documents that we all click “accept” on so that we can download the latest episode of Modern Family. These documents are confusing, and very few of us have the time or knowledge necessary to process 56 pages of legalese (yes, the iTunes Terms of Service is 56 pages!). Fortunately, there are several movements out there to encourage technology institutions to present easier to understand and more transparent Terms of Service and Privacy Guidelines; in fact, Microsoft and Google have recently revamped their TOS agreements. In the meantime, here is a brief “cheat sheet” to help parents and teachers to assess the safety of online tools. It will also help to clarify what happens when your children engage and share online.

Keep an Eye on Age Limits!

It’s easy to want to dismiss age restrictions for online services. After all, with just a little creative math your child can use some great resources like email or Skype to communicate with family far away or even enjoy videos from YouTube. However, an age restriction may be a sign that this is a tool to examine more closely. If you find it of value to your child, then you might want to create an account in your own name and with credentials that you can use together. This could open up a myriad of opportunities to help guide your child through appropriate usage.

acceptThere are two age restrictions that frequently appear with online resources: age 18 and 13. If a company or organization requires that an individual be 18 years old to use their services, this is often a sign that they require their users to enter into legally binding contracts (such as financial agreements for purchases such as with airlines). Additionally, it may have adult content (nudity, violence, tobacco and/or alcohol use, language, etc). It is important to note that an 18 year old age restriction is not an automatic black mark. For example, if your child is working on a stock market project for school, then it may be useful for them to have access to a brokerage account in order to get up-to-the-minute stock price updates. This is an appropriate use, but because your child is under 18, it’s also a perfect opportunity for parent-child collaboration on homework; you can create the account and use it with your child!

Because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), companies are limited on what information they can collect and share for children under the age of 13. This magic number is a prime indicator that data is being collected and shared, so keep in mind that the age 13 requirements for Facebook or Google are not arbitrary! These are organizations that make their income from selling user data to advertisers. Deciding whether the cost is worth the benefits is highly personal; however, this is a great opportunity to discuss online behavior, digital citizenship, and digital footprints before deciding to sign up.

Know what information is being Collected & keep up with Changes!

If a company is collecting data, they should state what information they are gathering – either in the Terms of Service itself or a separate privacy agreement. Google has recently published its privacy policy outlining how it collects and uses data. Still, many companies are not as transparent, so you may need to do some research on an individual businesses.

Many organizations will allow you to sign up for notifications of updates. They will email you every time that there is a change to their privacy policies. This is a great way to stay up to date. In addition to this, you can go back and check privacy policies on a regular basis (every few months). Big companies often make the news when they make drastic changes, especially if they are controversial, so pay attention to these stories and follow up with your own research. You may want to keep a special eye on things like changes to default sharing settings (public vs. private) and how data is being collected.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help!

Navigating Terms of Service and privacy policies can be confusing and challenging. Never hesitate to enlist others in your quest. Speak to other parents, join discussion groups, read websites dedicated to online privacy (check out “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read”). If your child is in school, seek out the Tech Director with questions. They navigate this world on a regular basis and can help to assuage your concerns or highlight areas where you should be more vigilant. As Director of Educational Technology, I am always eager to form partnerships with parents and colleagues to raise awareness of common security issues and keep them informed about the tools we are using in school.

The Good News: It will get Easier!

There has been a lot of push-back on the tech world to encourage companies to be more proactive and transparent in what type of data they collect and how they use it. Many organizations (such as Google and Microsoft) have responded positively to public pressure. Additionally, federal and state legislation is beginning to address online privacy with a special eye to protecting children. Reaching out to government officials and adding your voice to the cause will help to push this along. Parents are reasonably concerned about their child’s online presence; and with the abundance of online tools, it’s a challenge to keep up. However, by enlisting others and making a concerted effort, you can help to keep your children safe online.

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