Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Create drop-down lists in Google Sheets

If you’ve got multiple people entering data into a Google Sheet. it can be helpful to give them a list of pre-defined values to pick from. For example, a list of locations, classes, teachers, software, dates etc. This keeps data entry consistent and makes it very easy to sort or filter the sheet based on a specific value.

Here’s what such a list might look like:

Sound good? Here’s how to create your own list:

1. Select the cell(s) you want to create the list in.

2. Select the Data menu > Validation.

3. Click the drop-down box next to Criteria and select List of items.

4. Enter the values you want to appear in the list, separated by commas.

5. Choose if you want to reject values other than those in the list, or just warn users the value is invalid.

6. Click Save.

Your drop-down list will be added to the cell! To make the list box appear in other cells (e.g. the ones below or above), click in the cell and then click and drag the blue box in the bottom right-hand corner to fill up or down.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Three sites with 100% free images

If you or your students are looking for some great images for a website, blog, report or assignment, be sure to try out the three sites below. All feature high-quality images that are 100% free for commercial and non-commercial use. They also have good searching capabilities, minimal advertising, easy to use interfaces and do not require registration. This makes them perfect for students and educators alike!


The ever-popular Pixabay features over 510,00 photos, illustrations and vector graphics in 24 different categories. All are completely royalty-free, with no attribution required.  Make use of the advanced search feature to quickly find an image that suits your needs (click on All images next to the search box to access the advanced search).

Tip: Be aware that the first row of search results contains paid images from Shutterstock, so be sure to avoid these if you’re looking for free content.


Pexels specialises in stock photography, with over 4500 images in their library.  10 new photos are added every day. You can search by keyword, browse through popular photos or use one of the 24 categories. All Pexel’s images are also completely royalty-free, with no attribution required.

Photos for Class / Photos for Work

Photos for Class and Photos for Work are different versions of the same tool, both featuring high-quality photos. Photos for Class includes only age-appropriate images. All the photos in both tools are licensed by Creative Commons for public use, with the attribution automatically added to images upon download.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The best way to find files in Google Drive

Do you spend lots of time drilling down through your folder structure to find files in Google Drive? If you’re nodding, read on to learn how to find your files quicker and easier.

Google Drive includes the power of Google search. This is the best way to find your files in Google Drive. The search feature looks for keywords in the title and contents of files - including PDFs and documents you’ve uploaded. This means you don’t need to even remember what your file is called to be able to find it.

You can conduct a basic search by simply typing your keyword in the search box. Drive will immediately  begin suggesting suitable results. Press Enter or click the Search button to see a full list of results.

Drive search also includes several advanced features to help you pinpoint the right file even quicker.

Click the small grey arrow on the right of the search box to access advanced search options. From here you can choose the type and ownership of the file you’re seeking.

There are also numerous search operators you can use in the search box. For example, to find all documents with the word ‘speedy’ in them created after September 1st, you would use the following operator:

Here are a few more useful search operators to get you started. A full list is available in this Google Drive help centre article.

OperatorWhat it finds
owner:Files owned by a particular person
title:Files with the keyword in the title
to:Files you have shared with a particular person
OR   Files containing at least one of the words
e.g. tips OR tricks
Minus sign ( - )  Files that do not have the keyword
e.g. tips -gmail

With these searching tips, you’ll never have to dig through your file structure again!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Google Sites time travel with revision history

Google Sites are great for collaboratively building and sharing content. However, the more collaborators you have, the more likely things are to be changed or removed by mistake. Fortunately, Sites has a revision history tool. Just like the Google Docs revision tool, you can review previous versions of a page and move back and forth between versions. That’s right, you can travel through time on your Google Site!

Here’s how to do it:

1. Access the page you want to view the revision history for.
2. Click the Settings cog button > Revision history.

From here, you can click on the Version number to view that version of the page and click Revert to this version to restore it.

Tip: When you’re previewing an older version, click the Compare two versions link to see what has changed.

Happy time travelling!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

5 speedy keyboard shortcuts for Google Docs

In the last few months we’ve shared keyboard shortcuts to help you save time in GmailGoogle Calendar and Google Drive. This month, we continue the series with five Google Docs shortcuts that will help you access common features in a flash!

ActionShortcut key
Insert or edit a link to a websiteWindows: Ctrl + k
Mac: Cmd + k
Insert a commentWindows: Ctrl + Shift + m
Mac: Cmd + Option + m
Save a commentWindows: Ctrl + Enter
Mac: Cmd + Enter
Increase font size   Windows: Ctrl + Shift + >
Mac: Cmd + Shift + >
Decrease font size  Windows: Ctrl + Shift + <
Mac: Cmd + Shift + <

Once you’ve mastered these, be sure to check out this complete list (from Google) of keyboard shortcuts for Google Docs.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

University referencing in Google Docs with Paperpile

Many universities and colleges require the use of in-text referencing when writing papers. This can be challenging if you’re writing your paper in Google Docs, as most of the referencing tools available only provide footnote referencing. One tool which does provide in-text citations is Paperpile.

Paperpile is available as a free Google Docs add-on, letting you search for, insert and manage your in-text citations and reference list. It’s also available as a feature rich web-based reference management tool, starting at $2.99/month (with 30 day free trial). You can learn more about Paperpile’s features here.

This add-on is a must to check-out if you’re writing papers that require in-text referencing! Drafting your papers in Google Docs has the added advantage of cloud-based storage (taking care of the backup for you) and easy collaboration.

How do I get it?

Follow the steps below to install the Paperpile add-on into Google Docs.
1. Open a Google Doc.
2. Click the Add-ons menu > Get add-ons.
3. Search for Paperpile (top right corner).
4. Locate Paperpile in the list and click the +FREE button

5. Grant permission for Paperpile to integrate with Drive.
Tip: If you do not see the grant permissions box, the pop-up may have been blocked by your browser. Look for the pop-up blocked message and allow the pop-up.

How do I use it?

Adding in-text references

1. Type the content that you need to add a reference for.
2. Insert your cursor where you want to add the in-text citation.
3. Click the Add-ons menu > Paperpile > Manage citations. The Paperpile add-on will open in a pane the right of the screen.

4. Select your referencing style (i.e. APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA etc.) from the drop-down box at the bottom of the Paperpile pane.

4. Search for the reference you need by entering the title, authors, keywords, year, DOI or PubMed ID in the search box. You can also search for a website by entering the URL.

5. Locate the correct search result. Hover over the result and click the Cite button.

The in-text citation will be added as a hyperlink at the current location of your cursor. The hyperlink formatting will be removed when you generate a reference list. Learn how to do this in the next section.

Creating a reference list

To create your list, click the Update citations & bibliography button at the bottom of the Paperpile pane.  If you add or remove more references, simply click the button again to update the list.

Editing references

All references in the current document are shown in the Paperpile pane. To edit a reference’s data, simply click on the reference and select the Edit data link.
Tip: If you don’t see a list of your references in the pane, try clearing the search results by click the X in the search box.

The Edit Details box for the selected reference will open in a new tab. Make the required changes and click Save.

This is just a quick overview of some of the basic features of the Paperpile add-on. To learn more, check out this Cheat Sheet and the Paperpile forum.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Tips for using text questions in-auto graded Google Forms & Flubaroo quizzes

Google Forms are a great platform for classroom quizzes and tests. Using the Flubaroo add-on makes them even better by saving you the task of grading the questions! However, many auto-graded quizzes only use fixed response questions (e.g. multiple choice), meaning students only have to identify the correct answer, not actually come up with it themselves. In this post I’ll share how you can overcome this by using text response questions AND still get Flubaroo to grade them with some clever tweaks.

Note: The information below assumes you’ve got some knowledge of how to use Google Forms and Flubaroo. If you’re new to these tools, I suggest you check out the Google Forms Learning Centre and the Flubaroo website.

Tip 1: Allow for multiple correct answers in a text field

If you’ve got a text response question to which there is more than one possible correct answer, you can tell Flubaroo to consider any of several answers correct. That way, any of the correct answers your students type in the text box will be accepted.

Here’s how to do it:
1. Create your text question.
2. When completing the answer key (i.e. filling out the form with the correct responses), put %or between each correct answer in the text box.

This is very handy if students might use different spellings for a word, or if you’d like them to identify one of several possible answers.

Tip 2: Require a numerical response

If you want your students to enter a numerical answer to a question in a text field (e.g. the answer to a calculation), you can configure the text response field to only accept numbers. That way, you won’t have some students entering ‘nine’ and some ‘9’!

Here’s how to do it:
1. Create your text question and enter the question title.
2. Enter some help text advising students that they need to enter their response as a numerical value.
3. Click Advanced settings.
4. Tick Data Validation.
5. Select Number from the first drop-down box and Is number from the second drop-down box.
6. Enter some suitable text in the Custom error text box. This will be shown to students if they enter a word instead of a number.
7. Click Done.

Tip 3: Remove case in-sensitivity

Flubaroo ignores case when auto-grading, which most of the time is a good thing! However, on occasion, you may want students to enter an answer where case does matter. For example, you might require them to enter the name of a person, place, publication etc. using accurate case.

Here’s how to do it:
1. Create your text question.
2. When completing the answer key (i.e. filling out the form with the correct responses), put %cs before the correct answer.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Three tools for developing students' thinking skills

Developing higher-order and critical thinking skills in our students is a key focus for many educators across the globe. Intel’s education division has three free, collaborative tools which help support this endeavour. These tools encourage students to examine and justify their own reasoning, explore the reasoning of others, find and evaluate evidence and examine cause-and-effect relationships.

Every tool comes with a variety of resources to help you implement it in your classroom. Be sure to check out the link at the bottom of each tool below for unit plans and project ideas.

Visual Ranking tool

Available for: Web, iOS and Android.
The Visual Ranking tool lets students create ordered lists. However, unlike a regular list, students must identify, refine and justify the criteria and reasoning they use to select the order of items - in other words, they need to think about their list creation. The Visual Ranking tool is designed to be used in groups, meaning students need to discuss and agree on their criteria. Once each group has ordered their list, the Visual Ranking tool lets them compare their work with other groups. This is a great opportunity for getting students to explain and rationalise their reasoning through group discussions or debates. Teachers can also view students progress and provide feedback through the tool. You can find a demo of the Visual Ranking tool here.

Ideas for the classroom

The Visual Ranking tool is great for helping students prioritise concepts or information, explore differences of opinion and reach agreement on contentious topics. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

- Get students to explore open-ended questions relevant to your subject by ranking events, people, personality characteristics, products and more. For example Who were the most influential pharaohs in Ancient Egypt? What are the most important things individuals can do to reduce their impact on the environment? Which actions had the biggest impact on the downfall of the main character in the story?

- Get different groups to create their lists from different perspectives or roles. For example, ask them to rank the importance of particular facilities in their local communities from the viewpoint of young people, families, businesses and the elderly.

-Have students use the Visual Ranking tool to create a relevant list at the beginning and the end of a topic. This is a great way for them to see how their understanding and opinions have changed as a result of their learning.

Get more unit plans and project examples here

Showing Evidence tool

Available for: Web, iOS and Android.
The Showing Evidence tool helps students learn how to back-up their opinions with evidence. It also assists them in evaluating the strength of other people’s arguments or actions by providing a visual framework for identifying and assessing evidence. There are two complexity levels in the tool, making it suitable for both primary and secondary levels. After the teacher has entered a project task or question into the tool, students create and rate relevant evidence, explaining their rating of the evidence’s quality. Once sufficient evidence has been entered, students or the teacher can create a ‘claim’ based on the evidence. The evidence can then be linked to the claim, with students explaining how the evidence supports it. At the end of the task, a final assessment of the claims validity is made and justified by students. The Showing Evidence tool is suitable to use in groups or by individual students. Again, teachers can view student progress and provide feedback via the tool. The Intel website has primary and secondary demos of the Showing Evidence tool.

Ideas for the classroom

Before using the Showing Evidence tool, it’s a good idea to have your class collaboratively develop a set of criteria for evaluating the quality of evidence. Students can then use this criteria as part of activities that involve comparing conflicting viewpoints, defending their opinions or developing an argument. Here are a few ideas:

-Get students to analyse the opposing views of controversial issues such as smoking laws, drinking laws, refugees, climate change or junk food advertising.

-Use the Showing Evidence tool for students to analyse issues in a text. For example, did a particular event or the actions of a particular character lead to a specific outcome? Students can then find and use evidence from the text to justify the claim.

-Have students use the Showing Evidence tool to explore a hypothesis as part of a scientific research project. This would work well in a Mythbusters-style challenge!

Get more unit plans and project examples here

Seeing Reason tool

Available for: Web
The Seeing Reason tool assists students to investigate and understand cause-and-effect relationships. Students use the tool to create visual maps of the factors involved in a situation, showing and explaining how they relate to each other and contribute to the issue. Intel recommends students use this tool in groups of 2-3. Like the other two tools, teachers can view student progress and provide feedback. You can find a demo of the Seeing Reason tool here.

Ideas for the classroom

Before getting students started with the Seeing Reason tool, it’s a good idea to get the class to define the problem they will investigate and brainstorm some factors that might contribute to it.  Students can then investigate how these factors do contribute to the problem, using the Seeing Reason tool to record their findings and present the end result. Here are a few project ideas to get you started:

-Get students to use the Seeing Reason tool to show how character traits affect their actions and the plot of a story (e.g. analyse the protagonist and the cause of their downfall)

-Ask students to explore how climate change will affect the lives of people in different countries, or how the destruction of natural habitats affects the ecosystem.

-Task students with investigating a social issue in their community. For example, how diet affects physical and mental health, or the causes of online bullying.

Get more unit plans and project examples here.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

5 speedy keyboard shortcuts for Google Drive

In the last two months we’ve shared keyboard shortcuts to help you save time in Gmail and Google Calendar. This month, we continue the series with five Google Drive shortcuts that will help you navigate the Google Drive web interface quickly and easily:

ActionShortcut key
Rename the selected filen
Share the selected file.
Star the selected files
Move the selected file to a folder   z
Add the selected file to an additional folder  Shift + z

Once you’ve mastered these, be sure to check out this complete list (from Google) of keyboard shortcuts for Google Drive.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

5 tips for great looking tables in Google Sites

If you’ve ever inserted a table into a Google Site, you’ve probably noticed there are very few styling and formatting options available. This means many tables in Google Sites get left looking pretty dull. Don’t let your tables suffer the same fate! In this post, you’ll learn five ways to format and style Google Site tables by tweaking the HTML code of your page.

Note: This article relates to the Classic Google Sites only.

A little bit about the HTML for tables

If you’ve never worked with HTML before, don’t be daunted! Here are a few basics to help get you started. If you’re already familiar with HTML, skip ahead to the next section.

A simple HTML table is created using the HTML tags below. In this example, the table being created would have two rows and three columns:

<table>        Creates the table.
<tbody>       Signals the beginning of the body of the table.
<tr>             Creates the first row in the table.
<td></td>    Creates the first column. The text between the two tags will be put in a cell in the first                         column in the first row.
<td></td>    Creates the second column. The text between the two tags will be put in a cell in the                              second column in the first row.
<td></td>    Creates the third column. The text between the two tags will be put in a cell in the third                        column in the first row.
</tr>             Ends the first row.
<tr>              Creates the second row in the table.
<td></td>     The text between the two tags will be put in a cell in the first column in the second row.
<td></td>     The text between the two tags will be put in a cell in the second column in the second                           row.
<td></td>     The text between the two tags will be put in a cell in the third column in the second row.
</tr>             Ends the second row.
</tbody>      Signals the end of the body of the table.
</table>       Signals the end of the table.

You’ll notice that all opening tags are surrounded by < > and all closing tags are surrounded by < />.
Most of the tweaks in this post will require you to add extra code to the <table>, <tr> or <td> tags.

Accessing the HTML

Every Google Site page has HTML behind it. To access it:
1. Open the page you want to edit and click the Edit page (pencil) button.
2. Click the <HTML> button.

A window with the HTML will open. Look for the <table> tag to find the start of your table.

Tweak 1: Remove a table’s border

By default, a table will be created with a border. To remove the border, simply change the values in the border =”1” and border-width:1px to 0

You could also just delete these tags, however I find it easier to leave them in place in case I want to turn the borders back on. To do this, simply change the 0 to 1 again!

Tweak 2: Add a background colour

You can add a background colour to a row, the whole table or an individual cell. To do so, add the style=”background-color: #colour code” to either the <table>, <tr> or <td> tags.  You can find a list of colour codes here.

Here are a few examples of the adjusted code:

Tweak 3: Centre your table on the page

To put your table in the centre of the page, add style="margin: 0pt auto;" to the <table> tag. Here is what it should look like:

Tweak 4: Add some room (padding) between table cells

The default spacing in a Google Sites table often results in the text in different cells being very close together. You can add some breathing room between cell contents by adding  cellpadding=”XX” to <table> tag. Insert a number where the XX is. Try starting at 10 and adjust from there to find a setting that meets your needs. Here is what it will look like:

Tweak 5: Change the width of your table 

To change the width of the table (for example, to 90% of the total width of the page), add style=”width:90%” to the <table> tag. Here is what it should look like:

There are also heaps of other ways to format and style your table using HTML tags. After you’ve mastered the five tweaks above, check out this site for some more ideas.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Create Gmail templates with Canned Responses

Do you have emails that you send over and over again? Perhaps it’s a daily broadcast of student absences, phone messages to a colleague or requests to the community for student work placements? If this sounds like you, Gmail canned responses can save you time and effort!

The Canned responses lab in Gmail lets you create email templates. These templates can be re-used every time you need to send a similar email. Canned responses are a much simpler solution than digging back through old emails looking for some text to copy and paste!

Step 1 - Enabled the Canned responses lab

1. Click the Cog button in the top right corner of Gmail. Select Settings from the menu.
2. Select the Labs tab.
3. Scroll down the list of labs until you find Canned responses. Select the Enable radio button.
4. Scroll down and click Save changes.

Step 2 - Create a Canned response

1. Compose a new email message.
2. Enter a subject and type the body text you want to include in the template.
Tip: You cannot save recipients as part of a Canned response.

3. If you use an email signature, delete it from the template (it will be inserted automatically when you use the template).
4. Click the small grey arrow button in the bottom right corner of the New Message window. Select Canned responses and New canned response...

4. Confirm the name of the Canned response and click OK. Your Canned response has now been saved.

Step 3 - Use a Canned response

Follow the steps below each time you want to use a saved Canned response.
1. Compose a new email message.
2. Click the small grey arrow button in the bottom right corner of the New Message window. Select Canned responses and click the name of your Canned response in the Insert section of the menu. The template will be inserted into the email.

3. Make any necessary changes to the body text and subject of the email. Add the recipients and then click Send

That’s it! You’ve used your Canned response to send an email. You can create and save more than one Canned response, so have a think about all the regular emails you send and get creating!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Show and tell with Microsoft Snip

Microsoft has recently released Snip, a simple, yet powerful tool for adding annotations and voice-overs to images. Use Snip to take a screenshot or capture an image from your webcam, then use the drawing and voice recording tools to explain the content of the image. You can then share the end result as an image file or mp4. If you don’t require a base image, Snip also includes a whiteboard feature that can be used for drawing. Snip’s a quick and easy way to create videos for rich feedback or to help students or colleagues understand tricky concepts. You could also get your students to use Snip to explain their understanding of a topic or showcase their work.

How do I get it?

Snip is available for free for the Windows platform.  Download it here.

How do I use it?

Once Snip is open, it hovers at the top of the desktop.

The first icon lets you take a screenshot, the second opens a blank whiteboard and the third icon captures an image from your webcam.

Once you’ve captured an image or opened the whiteboard, you can access the annotation and recording tools.

When you’ve finished working with your image, you can save it locally to your computer or share it online.

Snip is still brand new, so expect a few bugs and missing features. However, it’s a promising start and I’m looking forward to seeing how this tool develops.

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