Tag Archives: GAFESummit

Google Docs & Research: How-To?

Google Research Pane

Google Research Pane

The last session I am attending is “Google Docs & Research: How-To?” given by Christopher Craft, Ph.D. As I am using Google Drive with my students for an upcoming research project, I’m excited to learn more about the tools available here.

When students are doing research, they sometimes struggle with citing their sources or moving beyond a quick search with Google.com. The Google Docs Research Pane helps to facilitate searching for and citing sources. By going to Tools –> Research, the Research Pane pops up on the right hand side! You can search Google, images, scholar, quotes, and dictionary! By dragging and dropping certain content (e.g. images), not only will the material appear, but a footnote (in MLA, Chicago, or APA format).

Google Image Usage Rights

Google Image Usage Rights

A great element in using the Google Image search is that, when teaching students about copyright and usage rights, you can limit the Google Image search to “free to use or share.” This is key for work that is going to be published online. I highlight the need to address licensing in student projects in my article: “How to Find License Free Content for School Projects.”

Remember that this tool is not perfect. Students may need to fix formatting or bibliography. For example, if you do not want students using footnotes, they will have to revise the document to remove the footnotes and use in text citation. For my students, they would need to revise image citations for full content, such as for a work of art.

Another great tool for sophisticated research is Google Scholar. It is both a stand alone feature as well as a search option on the pane. You can look up academic content and, so long as you have access rights (e.g. via Jstor) you can read and include the citation properly. If you have not yet played with Google Scholar, it’s worth a look. Here’s a good introductory video (it’s 40 minutes so grab a snack!).

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 3.26.03 PM

Insert Quote

You can also search and input quotes! Not only can you find relevant quotes, but then it will put it in the document and then cite it. Again, it will cite as a website, so if you would like your students to format differently, then be sure to have students revise and edit!

These features also work on a shared format as well. This means that if you have a group of students working on a research project, you can see who added what and when. So is one student doing all the work and the others slacking off? Is Joseph doing research on Jstor but Stephanie is spending all of her time on Wikipedia? I like that this not only lets me see the amount of material students are contributing, but the quality of that research.

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 3.37.22 PMAnother key feature is that by looking at the revision history, you can look for plagiarism. Using revision history, see if students are adding in chunks of texts or individual words. Using your own judgment, you can then select a section of text and do a quick search. If students create a bunch of citations at one time, then you may want to pull that student aside and ask them how they incorporated their research (Did they carefully revise and add footnotes as they went?) to see if that meshes with how the citation appears in the document. This is also a great tool when you consider  the “document translation” feature. If all content was added at once, the student didn’t translate, they used the tool to do it for them.

There are a few draw backs to using the research pane. For example, there is not a way to seamlessly integrate outside research. If students are using books in your library in addition to web resources, they cannot easily include that in the research pane. Google Books is not currently integrated in the research pane either. They will have to manually input content and material.

Google Apps Planning & Deployment Best Practices

courtesy of wikimedia commons

courtesy of wikimedia commons

The next session I am attending is “Google Apps Planning & Deployment Best Practices” by Tim Lee. You can find his presentation here.

Tim highlights the need for laying a proper foundation. This includes:


  • Have a written plan that is unique to your institution’s needs.
  • Identify use cases across the school.
  • Showcase these tools to get buy-in from faculty, staff, parents, and students!

Set Realistic Goals

  • Determine and define stages of your adoption; be flexible, things can and will change!
  • Do this project in bite sized chunks. Prioritize.
  • Highlight measurable success and celebrate it.

Keep Up to Date

  • Update software and apps as needed.
  • Spread the word about what is possible and new material that is added.
  • Share a “tip of the week”
  • Revise your adoption plan as tools, needs, culture, change

The next focus after your plan should be professional development, which is probably the most important step in success.

Google Certified Trainers

Join the Conversation

Google Apps Training on Demand

  • Check out Synergyse & Boost eLearning to provide ongoing training for yourself and your staff on demand.
  • Differential costs, focus on task skills, and flexible tools

Next consider how you want to setup and manage google apps


  • Create administration roles carefully
  • Delegate access (e.g. can reset passwords, manage sites at different schools or divisions).
courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Organize Users Wisley

  • Create appropriate organization units and determine why.
  • Only enable appropriate services (e.g. do you want students to have access to Google Voice?).
  • Establish channels of communication so that teachers and admin can request additional services.

Track Usage with Reports

  • Keep track of activity (how many people are creating docs? How are people collaborating?).
  • Consider paying for additional security services like Cloudlock.
  • Be sure to audit the log to check out what other admin are doing.

Learn to use Google Apps Script and/or API’s

Next Consider Student Management/Compliance

Walled Garden

  • For elementary aged students you may not want to let them send emails outside or receive outside emails.

Consider Filtering Options

  • Whatever you choose to filter, it should change as students get older or as needs change.
  • Establish delegation rules, perhaps a generic mailbox for school groups. You may also want to turn off the features to prevent student shenanigans.


  • Check out Google Vault for email.
  • Make sure you have tools to know what’s going on in email and drive and how you want to monitor content.
  • Consider your backup needs and find an appropriate tool (e.g. Backupify).

In addition to usage professional development, it’s also important to plan how teacher’s can use these tools in the classroom.

Google Sites

  • Class/Teacher Sites
  • Library & Technology Sites
  • Student digital portfolios or project sites

Google Groups

  • Online discussions
  • Take the classroom outside of the room

Explore the Marketplace

Take Google Apps to the Next Level!

  • Consider single user logon
  • Consider syncing existing LDAP (GADS) or SIS
Hapara Teacher Dashboard via Hapara

Hapara Teacher Dashboard via Hapara

Top  Issues Challenging GAFE: Admin & Teacher Workload, Administrative Tools, and Online Safety

  • Explore options like Teacher Dashboard by Hapara or provide professional development that will help manage work flow.
  • Explore monitoring/management options.
  • Be mindful of training and requirements!

Whenever considering adoption, make sure that you customize GAFE to meet your needs, plan for PD, and simplify student and teacher interactions as much as possible!

For additional info, check out the GAFE Audit and the Best Practices Document! Take what Google gives you with a grain of salt and modify to meet your school’s needs.

Not Your Traditional Textbook

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

The next session I attended was virtual and entitled “Not Your Traditional Textbook” by Hetav Sanghavi of CK-12. CK-12 is a non-profit organization that provides free material in an open source, collaborative platform. CK-12’s primary focus is math and science for middle and high school learners. They provide all of the content they have created for free to teacher’s everywhere.

They provide free digital textbooks for state and common core aligned curriculum. It is flexible and can be downloaded on computers and tablets. They also have interactive learning objects (videos, audio, games, etc). They have both chrome and iPad apps. If you would like to learn more about CK-12, check out their YouTube Channel

With CK-12 books, you can take existing content and distribute it or you can modify it to meet your needs. You can even upload your own content. Textbooks include text, images, graphs, etc. All of the content is free to use and distribute.

They also provide assessment material (practice as well as grades) that will allow you to record student progress in real time.

GAFE Summit Day 2 Keynote: Christopher Craft, Ph.D.

This is the second day of the GAFE North Carolina Summit. Today’s keynote is presented by Christopher Craft, Ph.D. The title of Chris’s talk is “Four Chairs.” He invites to come along with him on a journey:

“To be the best learner you can possibly be, and to inspired your students to do the same.”

Altavista original logo via Wikimedia commons

Altavista original logo via Wikimedia commons

Chris highlights his journey with technology, that ultimately resulted in him getting on the internet. I remember the old 8.8 modem… back in the day… The shift in technology went from isolated work, the internet and portable compputing, to high speed internet, to online research via search engines (remember Altavista?).

Google search engines has one of the most sophisticated search algorithms. That in conjunction with their push into education. While some of us grew up geeky, kids today are living in a geeky world – and it’s normal! Now let’s take the role of education seriously and guide them!

“What teacher impacted you the most?”

We can all answer this question. For me, it was Mr. Raap and Ms. Roeding in elementary school, and Mr. Parker at my high school. I’ve had some great teachers, but these three stand out for not just helping me to gain knowledge, but giving me a stronger sense of myself and value.

As a teacher, sometimes we forget that we can have this impact on our students. We don’t always know what impact we have on their lives. Students we impact may be distracted, jaded, disinterested… They often feel this way because of how they have been treated in school – as a number, as one of several hundreds or thousand, as someone that needs to step in line… We should want kids to be individuals, not to be another number in the crowd. We need to consider the kid, not the label.

Courtesy of wikimedia commons

Courtesy of wikimedia commons

Chris states that he doesn’t believe in learning styles. He says they’re bunk! In fact, he argues that the educational science does not support it. Instead, when planning lessons think “Will this connect with Tony, Susy, Keaton?” He uses different strategies to connect with his students in the classroom:

  1. He greets every student in class and gives them a riddle. He publishes his announcements with Buzzsprout (a tool for recording, publishing, and hosting a podcast). This way if a student misses class they just have to access his website. It also increases parental engagement – they often go to parents for help on their riddles!
  2. His second chair addresses students that have struggles at home, perhaps because they have family disruption, they move around a lot, they may not have contact with a parent, etc. This is becoming increasingly common around the country and all teachers have seen this student. Chris likes to get these students to focus on something that other kids want to know – for example, app development. Using Appshed, a free tool for schools, students can learn to build and publish and iPhone or Android App!
  3. Another problematic student is the child that is quiet, obedient, and blends in. They are easy to gloss over and ignore because they can easily fall between the cracks. They are “well trained in school.” As teachers, it’s easy to focus on the “problem” kids and these students can get short-shrift. We have to reach out and get to know these students. For example, if a student really likes Movies you can reach out to them with a tool like STEMHollywood hosted by Mayim Bialik, Ph.D. (she played Blossom and is now on Big Bang Theory). It highlights the STEM realities in Hollywood movies, like why zombies walk funny!
  4. Another child we see is a child that is fired up and eager about school. They want to be challenged and learn. They can also be a little difficult because they’re so enthusiastic and can be demanding on your time. So start looking at their direct interests in order to direct them. If the student is interested in science, you can engage them at a higher level – have a Google Hangout with real scientists! It’s better than Skype!

  5. Always be sure to focus on yourself (the teacher). Share with students what you’re reading, share what you’re learning, engage with others. It’s important to continue to learn and share your excitement about it! Students and colleagues respond to this. We should talk to kids more about our learning. If learning is the most important thing, then we need to demonstrate that to them. Don’t just share with them your successes, share your failures as well. Learning comes from failure.

“…to succeed in the 21st-century economy, students must learn to analyze and solve problems, collaborate, persevere, take calculated risks and learn from failure.” – Tony Wagner

Chris tells us that his primary take home is that “children are more than test scores. Every test score has a name, every name is a child, and every child matters.”

Google Sites for ePortfolios

The next session I am attending is the Google Sites for ePortfolios hosted by Molly Schroeder. I am a big fan of students curating their work and presenting it, in an ePortfolio type format (I wrote about it in my article “Digital Portfolios and College Admissions“) so I’m excited to see what Molly will be presenting. You can check out Molly’s slides here.

Before deciding on your tool, you must decide how you would like the students to use it. For instance, do you want them to:

  1. Demonstrate Learning
  2. Demonstrate Mastery
  3. Showcase Published Work
via kyteacher on Flikr

via kyteacher on Flikr

For example, if you would like to demonstrate learning, then you probably do not want to publish it publicly. You will likely be changing content and it will demonstrate different levels of mastery. If you would like to demonstrate mastery, then you will want to highlight skills and abilities on a set of standards; again you may not want this content public but may want more access (perhaps the school community). The showcase of public work would be more public (perhaps just to members of the community and parents, or perhaps a broader audience) – you are showing off your accomplishments! Sharing considerations should also be age appropriate – for example, you may not want elementary students to have their full name available whereas for college applicants, they should consider a more public profile to build their digital footprint.

Next you should consider the structure and content of your portfolios: documents, presentations, videos, forms, etc. However, you need to think about space and content when using media rich material and understand how it will be inputed: link, embedded, uploaded, etc. Considerations for space as well as presentation are key elements here.

When using these tools, you often have to learn as you go. Learn to be creative and solve problems. Google doesn’t share a lot of instructions, it’s about figuring it out. I personally like this a lot – it’s a reflection of the world in which we live. You are given a problem and told to “return with a solution!”

Screenshot of templates from the Google Library

Screenshot of templates from the Google Library

Molly made some suggestions about how to get students started. One of my favorites was having some established templates from which students can draw. Here are some examples of what she has done for her students. You can also draw from the templates in the Google Library.

There are a lot of features that educators and students can use to stay on top of content: naming protocols, tags, etc. Molly is now walking us through how to create a Google Site with an emphasis of Portfolio curation. As she goes step by step she highlights the need to understand your objectives and intent behind creating it. I also like that she discusses “the look” of the sites (using layouts, etc). Like it or not, people do judge by appearance! We like when things look pretty! She also demonstrates the need to organize different pages in terms of topics and need. The flexibility of Google Sites here is great, but I can also see how it would be intimidating for someone not used to this platform. Having used more robust website builders, I like that Google Sites is much simpler and intuitive! Google Sites allows you to dress up your site as well using images, videos, and more.

If you would like some tutorials on using Google Sites, there are a lot of great tutorials on YouTube. Check out Mike Ravenek’s Google Site Tutorial Series (keep in mind that it’s a bit long!).

Another great feature with using Google Sites is that it integrates with Google Drive. For students using their ePortfolio’s for self assessment and learning, this means that they can directly insert an entire folder into their site (e.g. writing projects for the whole year in a class). You can then choose how you would like it to display (a list, a folder, thumbnails, etc). Again be sure that you have your sharing permissions set properly – you do not want everything to be published to everyone! This is a great time saver (no individual linking)!

Another cool tool she features is thinglink that allows you to make your images more interactive! If the interactive features don’t work below just go to thinglink’s website!

Depending on the tools you use to create your portfolio, you may have to decide to embed or link accordingly. I personally like the look of embedding (if you can’t tell), but you cannot embed everything. Your site quickly gets overwhelmed, and not all tools allow embedding. It’s a good way to get students (and teachers) thinking about presentation to a broader audience – how do you best highlight yourself?

You can also embed audio into your Google Site using Google Voice. This is an excellent tool for students working on verbal fluency (speech pathology, foreign language learners, etc).  Keep in mind that you cannot edit Google Voice documents, so it’s not a great podcasting tool or anything that you want students to be able to revise.

There are lots of ways to configure and personalize your Google Site (again, check out tutorials on YouTube). You can play with layout, fonts, color, widgets, and more. The flexibility allows for a great deal of personalization as well as branding – you may want your school’s colors/logo or students to be able to choose their own colors/layout and you are not painted in a corner when it comes to how the material is presented and who gets to view it.

Google Apps Admin Console – Best Practices for Schools

The next event I attended was “Google Apps Admin Console – Best Practices for Schools,” led by Peter Henrie.  Peter is an educational technology consultant for AmplifiedIT – a consultancy that works solely with educational institutions.

Part of your role as administration is to ensure that you are enabling necessary features for faculty, staff, and students as well as tweak them to meet your needs.

This is a largely hands on workshop for the administrator console, so I may not be writing as much. Right now, the Google Admin panel has two versions: an older version and a new one (you see it if your account is less than five months old or you have been migrated).

There is also the Google Marketplace, a way to add on services (both free and paid). It’s important to understand that third party services are not bound by the Terms of Services for Google Apps for Education. Therefore, be sure that before you add them, you check out the terms of service. One great tool (that is paid) to check out is CloudLock. Also check to ensure that services you do not want are turned off. Be sure to check not only the default GAFE apps, but the additional google services.

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 11.48.01 AMAnother tool I want to play with is aliases – that will allow a single user to get email from multiple names (e.g. if it’s misspelled, someone manages sports, etc).

In the Administrator console, you can also assign people different roles. For example, you may not want someone to have full access to administrative privileges, but they should be able to reset passwords. A great tool to enable user abilities without endangering the security or setup of your system.

Another great feature (that I have used as we piloted Google Drive) is the ability to pull reports. You can examine stats such as: email usage, doc creation, collaboration, etc. over a period of time. It’s a great tool for advertising its success and adoption.

Another key suggestion is to write down the support numbers and your pin. Because when you really need Google is when your console goes down – and you can’t get in to get the number. Be sure to note that the PIN changes regularly!

He also highlights that calendars can be used to schedule resources (e.g. computer carts, rooms, etc). One of the best tutorials on this is by Anson Alexander:

Another element that he highlighted is that you get more accesibility and services the more you enable (e.g. using gmail or Google Plus) as well as devices (e.g. Chromebooks). Every time you add a service or device, be sure to explore all of the settings. Understand the settings and what you have setup. For example, in GMail you can include spam filters, content filters, and routing.

The key concepts I have taken from this session is explore your settings fully and regularly.

Re-design your school technology around the Cloud

Sample Cloud Infrastructure, courtesy of Wikimedia

Sample Cloud Infrastructure, courtesy of Wikimedia

I decided to attend an administrative session hosted by Tim Lee, “Re-design your school technology around the cloud.” The focus of this session is about redesigning schools around cloud technology. The focus of this session is: why to go to the cloud, redesigning a school, and building a school around GAFE. The Prezi Presentation can be found here.

Why are Schools going to the Cloud?

  • Storage Requirements
  • Financial Savings (21% over four years)

What were the benefits of going to the cloud?

  • Increased efficiency (#1)
  • Improved mobility
  • Increased ability to innovate
  • Freed IT staff for other projects
  • Reduced IT operating costs
  • Enabled new products/services

By moving schools onto the cloud  it allows all of these elements. You are no longer confined to a space or a device. More and more educational institutions (districts, private, higher ed, etc) are going Google Apps. However, this is not without its challenges – must be concerned about infrastructure, security and compliance, etc.

Cost savings for GAFE:

  • IT Budget Savings
  • Email server
  • Spam filter
  • Resource Management
  • File Storage

Hidden Benefits of GAFE specifically

  • Efficiency savings
  • IT support redirected
  • browser based access
  • SAAS Apps – subscription based pricing
  • Ability to sample technologies
  • revitalize interactions
  • reduction in printing

If planned effectively, there are significant cost savings with cloud based elements. However, it does require that we redesign our environments. Instead of talking about platforms and software, we need to talk about what students and teachers need. This may be a 2, 3, 5 year vision… and it will change (sometimes radically).

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

So… does your school have a written plan and objective for Google Apps? I will say, most of us said “No.” He suggests putting Google Apps in the center, and then look at the key tools surrounding it: Digital signage, wireless/networking, desktop/app environments, web filters, LMS, devices, printing, etc. How does information get into Google? One tool that educators use is Chromebooks. However, the device itself doesn’t matter. You can still access a remote desktop/applications (like Microsoft Office) via Ericom.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Printing is another concern. For example, you can use PaperCut. If you are in a BYOD system, you don’t want to spend time and energy installing print drivers. Cloud printing allows students flexibility to print and the ability to institute  monitoring and controls, e.g. print quotas, charges, etc. Not only can this help to limit high volume printing, but it can help you to track your heavy users in the institution and help them to navigate over to more cloud-based, paperless options. Printing is a major concern with cloud computing, but it is a significant consideration.

Filtering is another concern. He highlighted the tool Securly. It uses Google Apps to authenticate for web filtering and allows you to block certain search terms and enable Safe Search. You can automate YouTube for Schools. You can also enable filtering when students take their devices home – you filter through the cloud.

Another concern is Mobile Device Management (MDM). How do we manage school based devices or BYOD environments? One program he discussed with meraki (which we use at Ransom for mobile devices). It allows you to track multiple devices and platforms, manage policies, push apps, and fully manages from the cloud. A real bonus feature is that it’s free.

Meraki’s control panel on the cloud also allows you to see how bandwidth is being used – you can run and navigate your entire network from the cloud. It will allow you to control and manage bandwidth.

The biggest concern people have for cloud based technology is security. Largely it stems from:

  • Lack of visibility of integrations
  • Inability to set policies on 3rd party services
  • Not planning future roadmap of adoption
Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

You must plan how to implement acceptable use policies for not only faculty and staff, but students. For example, should we allow students to share with those outside of our network? How do you manage what people have in their drive? One individual recommended FlashPanel. Tim recommended CloudLock. This can provide an app firewall as well as a system to manage permissions for sharing documents and define collaboration zones. By using CloudLock, they can look at what is being shared internally and externally. You can change and monitor settings. You can also search for phrases across documents. By using these tools, you can ensure whether this addresses your institution’s concerns and demands.

Many of the concerns we have about going to the cloud actually have solutions in existence that are actually more mitigating than the solutions we currently have in place. Even with this plan, we need to be flexible and allow for further growth. There will be challenges, but by reaching out to the community and using professional development, you can limit these problems.