Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Five Google Drive templates for teachers

Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms all have a range of great-looking templates that can help make teacher’s administrative work a bit quicker and easier.  In this post, I’ll show you how to access templates and share five of my favourites.

Accessing templates

Templates are accessible via the Docs, Sheets and Slides web and mobile apps, and the Forms web app.  You can access the web apps from the App Launcher button, or using the links above.
Tip: The Google Forms app icon is usually shown in the ‘More’ section of the Apps Launcher.



Once you have opened the appropriate app, you will see the templates displayed at the top of the screen. Click the More button to view all templates.


Click on a template to create a new file. It will automatically be saved in your My Drive. You can rename the Doc, Sheet, Slide or Form to suit your purpose, then customise the template as much as you like!

Template 1: Meeting Notes (Google Docs)

Few people enjoy attending meetings, but it’s a necessary part of most teachers job! A good agenda and minutes system can help keep things on track and ensure you make the most of everyone’s precious time. The Meeting Notes Google Doc template makes it quick and easy to record meeting attendees, agenda items, discussion points and action items. 
Note: This is just one example of a Meeting Notes template, there are currently three to choose from.


Template 2: Attendance (Google Sheets)

This template is great for teachers who are still marking the role on paper! Its simple to set up:

1. Copy and paste your students names into the Class 1 tab.
2. Enter your term/semester dates in row 2 of the Class 1 tab. A few tips for this:
- If you enter the date into row 2, the day of the week will update automatically.
- Put in your first date as a Monday, then click on the little blue box in the corner of the cell and drag your cursor across the next four rows. This will automatically complete the dates for the rest of the week. Repeat the process for each week.
- When you get to the end of the dates, use Insert > Columns right to add more. Use the click and drag method (see above) to continue copying the date and days from rows 2 and 3.

3. Rename the Class 1 tab to the name of your class (click on the tab and select Rename).
4. Make a copy of the Class 1 tab for your other classes (click on the tab and select Duplicate), rename the new tab and update the student names.
5. Click on the Attendance key tab to customise the letters and wording for your situation. 



Template 3: Grade book (Google Sheets)

The Grade book template is by far the most popular with the teachers I meet! Again, it’s easy to get started with:

1. Customise the grading system on the Overview tab to meet your needs.
Tip: You can delete grades you don’t need and/or update the ranges. You could also replace the letter grades with numerical ones.

2. Copy and paste your students names into the Grades tab.
3. Enter the names of your assessments, quizzes, tests, homework etc. in row 2
4. Enter the total points available for the task in row 3.
5. Start entering student grades! All the other information in the sheet will update automatically. The Individual report tab displays a graph for each student, mapping their progress against that of the class.

Note: If you’re a beginner with spreadsheets, it’s probably easiest to create a new Grade book for each class (by clicking on the template). If you’re more advanced, you could duplicate the Grades and Individual report sheets for other classes and update formulas accordingly.




Template 4: Student certificate (Google Slides)

This is a simple certificate template which you can easily update with your school colours, logo and the award information:

1. Right-click the globe image and select Replace image. Browse for an image that suits your needs (e.g. your school logo or an on-topic image).
2. Click on the big blue rectangle or green stripe. Use the paint can button to change the fill colour (e.g. to your school colours, or the student’s favourite colours!)
3. Update the student name and other text.
4. If you need to make certificates for other students, select the Slide menu > Duplicate slide. Update the new slide as required.
5. Select File > Print to print your certificates.


Template 5: Course evaluation (Google Forms)

Student feedback is one of the most powerful tools for teacher reflection and improvement. The course evaluation template has a basic set of feedback questions which you can customise to suit your class:
1. Update the title to include the name of your class (e.g. “9B Science feedback”)
2. Add a friendly description, including a note about whether the feedback is anonymous.
3. Click on each question and amend the text accordingly. 
4. Use the + button to the right to add extra questions.
5. Click the cog button in the top right of the screen. Change the settings as required.
Tip: If you want the feedback to be anonymous, make sure you don’t tick the ‘Automatically collect respondent’s username’ box!

6. Click the Send button. From here you can either email the form to your student’s, or copy the link to the form and put it in your learning management system or similar.
Tip: If you use the email form option, don’t tick the ‘Include form in email’ option. Doing so embeds the form questions in the email, which means your students don’t see the nice theme!




Tuesday, 7 June 2016

What colour is that?

Ever wondered what the exact colour of something is? Perhaps the colour a company uses in its logo, or a great-looking shade used on a website? I wonder this a lot! Why? Because if I’m creating something for a school, university or other client I like to use a colour palette that is meaningful to them. Even if it’s just for customising the headings in a document I’m writing, or for setting the colour scheme on a Google Form or Site.

It’s actually really easy to find out and use exact colours once you learn a few tricks. In this post I’ll share my secrets with you!

Tip 1: Understand hex colour codes

Hex codes are six-digit hexadecimal numbers used to represent colours on the web and in applications. They also start with a #. For example, the hex code for white is #ffffff and black is #000000. The hex code for this colour is #ff3399.

Once you know the hex code for a colour, you can use it to tell most applications what colour to use. You can use it to customise the colour of text in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, to set the fill colour of shapes in Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides or Drawings, to customise the look of Google Sites and to colour individual elements in graphic or web design applications (Photoshop, Lucidpress etc.).

Tip 2: Finding hex colour codes

There are many websites that list hex colour codes. The W3Schools HTML Color Picker is one I use a lot. However, if you’ve already got the colour (e.g. in a logo or on a website) and just need to know the hex code, I suggest you install and use a handy Chrome extension called ColorPick Eyedropper.

Here’s how to install and use the ColorPick Eyedropper extension:

1. Visit ColorPick Eyedropper in the Chrome Web Store.
2. Click the Add to Chrome button, then Add extension. Once the extensions has finished installing, you will see a new colour wheel icon appear in the top right corner of Chrome. 


3. When you find a colour you like, click the extension icon. Hover your mouse over the colour you like and click to select it. A pop-up box will display the hex code for the selected colour. 

4. Copy the hex code (Ctrl-C on Windows, Cmd-C on Mac) and start using it!

Tip 3: Using hex colour codes

Here’s how to use hex codes in Google tools. Most applications have a similar feature, so keep an eye out for ‘custom’ or ‘more colours’ buttons in the tools you use.

Google Docs, Slides and Drawings

1. Select the text, shape, line or whatever other element you want to colour.
2. Select the appropriate colour button in the toolbar. For example:


3. Click Custom.


4. Enter the hex code and click OK.



Google Sites

You can use hex codes to change the colour of text and tables in Google Sites and to customise the look and feel of your site.

For text:
To use hex codes to change text colour in Google Sites, you need to enter the code in the HTML of the web page. Here is the quickest way to do it.
1. Put the page in editing mode and select the text you want to colour.
2. Click the text colour button in the toolbar and select any colour.
3. Click the <HTML> button in the toolbar.



4.  Find the section of HTML that includes the text you want to colour. Change the hex code in the <font colour=> tag to the hex code you want to use.
Tip: Be sure to enclose the hex code in double quotation marks.
5. Click Update when you are done.


For tables:
Check out this post for instructions on adding a background colour to a table using hex codes.

For site customisation (background, menu etc.)
Google Site owners can customise the colours used in their Google Site. This includes the background colour, menu buttons, headings and more.

1. Click the Cog button in the top right corner of the Google Site and select Manage Site.
2. Choose Themes, Colours and Fonts from the menu on the left.
3. Choose the site element you want to customise (e.g. Entire page, Site header etc.)
4. Where appropriate, click the paint can icon to change the colour of the element.
5. Enter the hex code at the bottom of the colour picker box. The colour updates instantly.
6. Click Save to change the customisations to your site.







Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Share Google Drive files and folders for a limited-time only

Let’s imagine you’ve got a pre-service teacher on placement with you for 2 weeks. You want to share some Google Drive folders and files with them, but only for the 2 weeks they’re at your school.  Previously you’d have to remember (and likely forget!) to remove their sharing permissions after the two weeks. Not any more! Google have recently released a new Google Drive feature which allows you to set a time limit on Google Drive sharing permissions. This means you can tell Drive to automatically remove the pre-service teacher’s permissions after the two weeks.

Things to know

This feature is only available in Google Apps accounts belonging to your school or university.

You can only put expiry dates on folders that have ‘Can view’ access, or files that have ‘Can view’ or ‘Can comment’ access. FIles and folders with ‘Can edit’ access cannot have expiry dates.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Access the sharing settings for the folder or file and click the Advanced link.


2. Enter the name of the person you want to share the folder or file with.

3. Choose the appropriate sharing settings (must be Can view or Can Comment).

4.  Click the Send or OK button to share the file.

5. Hover over the name of the person you shared the file with until a clock icon appears.



6. Click on the clock icon and choose an expiry date. You can pick either 30 days or 7 days from the drop-down list, or select Custom date to choose a specific date.







Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Keep track of student grades in Google Classroom

In Google Classroom, you can assign grades to question and assignment tasks given to your students. Although Classroom does not yet have an in-built gradebook, it is still possible to keep track of student grades across different tasks using a linked Google Sheet. This shows students’ grades for each task, as well as average grades for individual students and the class.


Here's how to do it:

1. Open any question or assignment task that you have given to your students using Google Classroom.
2. Click the Cog button in the top right corner of the screen and select the Copy all grades to Google Sheets option.


A new Google Sheet will be created. This sheet lists all your students, all the assignment tasks that you have created to date and the grades for the task you just copied from.


You can add grades from other tasks to the spreadsheet by repeating steps 1 and 2. A new version of the spreadsheet is created each time, showing the grades for all tasks that you have copied to Sheets. The Sheets are stored within the Classroom folder in Google Drive.
Tip: If you change the grade a student receives for a task, be sure to repeat step 2 above to update the spreadsheet.





Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The easiest way to get your students to join your Google+ community

One of the most common questions educators ask me about Google+ Communities is “what’s the best way to get my students to join my community?”. Usually they’ve tried using the Invite people feature and had trouble locating all of their students, or received errors when trying to add students using their email addresses.

Part of the problem is that your students need to have Google+ profiles before they can be invited to join your community. Hence, the Invite People feature is only useful if you can be sure your students are already Google+ users. If you attempt to invite them to join prior to them signing up to Google+, you’ll receive an error message. Further, unless you’ve already got all your students in a Circle (which can be a mission in itself!) or your Gmail contact list, it can be time consuming trying to find and add everyone. This is particularly the case for tertiary educators who often have large cohorts.

In this post I’ll share my answer to the “what’s the best way to get my students to join my community?” question with you. If you follow the steps below, I guarantee getting your students into your community will be much easier and quicker!

Step 1: Configure your community with the 'ask to join' setting

Note: In the new Google+ interface, this setting has been renamed to ‘Visible on search’ and can be toggled on or off. The instructions below are applicable to the old Google+ interface (I’ll continue writing for this interface until the new one becomes default), however the process is mostly the same for the new interface.

This is the secret to making your community easy for your students to join. Every community has a ‘Who can join’ setting which controls the visibility of your community in search results and determines if people can request to join or need to be invited. There are two choices for this setting:

No, hide it from searches: If you select this setting, you must individually invite each student to your community. This is the setting that most educators choose, but it actually makes the joining process harder!

Yes, people can find it and ask to join: If you select this setting, people who know about your community can request to join it. You can then accept or reject your requests. This is the setting I suggest you select!

Won’t this setting make my community less secure? I hear you asking….
No. Selecting this setting does not expose any of your community’s content to non-members. It will only show non-members the community’s name and cover photo. No-one can access your community until you have accepted their join request.

Tip: If you find you end up getting join requests from strangers (I’ve had this happen before), you can always change this setting back to ‘No, hide it from searches’ after your students have all joined.

To configure this setting:

On an existing community
1. Open your community.
2. Click the Cog button underneath the community name. Select Edit community.
3. Scroll to the bottom of the settings pane and find the Ask to join setting:

- if the setting currently says ‘Anyone can ask to join’ - great! You’ve already got your community configured for your students to ask to join. Simply click Save (top right corner) and move on to the next section.

- if the setting currently says ‘This community is invite-only’, click the change link. Change the setting to Yes, people can find it and ask to join and click Confirm change. Now click Save (top right corner) and move on to the next section.




When creating a new community
When creating a new community, be sure to set the Can people search for your community? setting to Yes, people can find it and ask to join.




Step 2: Get join requests from your students

Now that your community is configured to allow join requests, you actually need to get your students to request to join!

The quickest and easiest way to get all your students in to your community is to give them a set of instructions guiding them through joining Google+ and then your Community. You could do this in class-time or as homework, via a paper handout, an email, your LMS or a shared Google Doc. The key is to include the URL to your community in the instructions (more on this below).

This approach will minimise issues and help ensure your students have a smooth introduction to Google+ Communities.

Here’s a suggested format for the instructions:
- Explain what Google+ Communities are and how they will be used during your class/course.
- Ask students to join Google+ using the instructions provided.
- Ask students to request to join your community after signing up to Google+. 
To do this:
a. Provide your students with the URL to your community (more on this below).
b. Ask them to visit the community and click the Ask to join button.
c. Advise students that you’ll then accept their invitation request and they can begin using the community.

Some tips for sharing the URL to your community

You can get the URL for your community from the address bar when you have your community open in a web browser.


If you’re going to put the URL in a print handout or display it in your slides, it’s a good idea to use a URL shortener like bit.ly or goo.gl to make your URL nice and easy for your students to type in correctly!

Step 3: Accept your students’ join requests

You’ll get an email when a student asks to join your community. You can accept or reject their request from within the email. 

You can also see and manage request on mass in the community itself. To do so:
1. Open your community.
2. Click the Cog button underneath the community name. Select Manage members.
3. Accept or reject requests as appropriate. You can also eject community members from this interface.









Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Automatically close Google Form submissions at a specific date & time

Have you ever planned a deadline for Google Form submissions (your quiz MUST be submitted by
3pm Friday!) and then forgotten to close it at the deadline? Worse, have you had students or colleagues submit after the deadline and then had to have an awkward conversation (Sorry, my mistake!) or accept their late responses? If so, you’ll love the formLimiter add-on for Google Forms!

The formLimiter add-on automatically closes Google Form submissions at a date and time you specify. It can also close the form after a certain number of responses have been reached.

Here’s how to install the add-on and set a closing date and time:
Note: These instructions are for the new Google Forms. If you're using the old interface, just look for the Add-ons menu to complete steps 2-5.

1. Open or create the Google Form you want to automatically close.
2. Click the three dots menu botton (top right) and then Get add-ons.



3. Locate formLimiter in the add-ons library. Hover over it and click the +Free button to install.
4. Grant permissions to the add-on when prompted.
5. Click the Add-ons (puzzle piece) icon > formLimiter, and then choose Set limit.




6. Click the Limit drop-down box and select date and time.
7. Enter the date and time to close submissions in the appropriate fields.
Note: This will be in the same timezone as your Google account.
8. Customise the submissions closed message if required. For example, you may ask students respondents to get in touch with you directly if they need an extension to the submission date.
9. Tick Email form owner when submissions are closed if you want to be notified when the form closes (scroll down to find this option). I find this a useful reminder!
10. Click Save and enable.



That’s it! Your form will now automatically close - one less thing to try and remember!





Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Resize the label column in Gmail

If you’ve ever wished you could resize the label column in Gmail, you’ll love the Gmail label column resizer Chrome extension. This tweak is particularly useful for those of you who have several layers of nested labels and can’t fit the entire label nest on the screen.

Here’s how to install the extension and resize the label column:

1. Visit Gmail label column resizer in the Chrome Web Store.

2. Click the Add to Chrome button, then Add extension. Once the extensions has finished installing, you will see a notification in the top right corner of Chrome.



3. Open Gmail, or reload it if you already have Gmail open.

4. Look for the dotted vertical lines running down the right of the label column. Hover over these lines until you see the two-sided arrow mouse pointer. Click and drag the dotted lines left or right to re-size the column.








Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Turn PDFs into documents, spreadsheets & presentations with Able2Extract

If you’ve ever tried to get text or images out of PDF files so you can edit them, you’ll know that it is an unreliable process. The more complex the PDF is, the less likely you are to end up with something usable after conversion. Further, most tools only help you turn PDFs into text documents, even if their contents are better suited to other formats. This makes it quite difficult to liberate those old teaching materials or resources trapped in PDF files!

I was recently approached by Investintech.com to road test the newest version of their PDF extraction tool, Able2Extract. After putting the product through its paces, I was pleased to discover that it really works! Able2Extract converts PDF files to documents (Word and Open Source formats), spreadsheets (Excel, CSV and Open Source formats), presentations (PowerPoint and Open Source formats), images, supported AutoCAD formats and Microsoft Publisher format. The product also lets you create PDF files, allowing you to add security features (such as a password) in the process.

The level of data and formatting retained after conversion is extremely high. I used Able2Extract to convert an 18-page image-heavy recipe booklet to PowerPoint, a 20-page text and image information guide to Word and long multi-column tables to Excel. In all cases, the converted files retained and accurately displayed all data and almost all formatting. The only loss I experienced was that of the page numbers in one file.

So, if you’ve got PDF files that you’d like to turn into editable documents, spreadsheets, presentations or more, read on to learn how Able2Extract can help.

How do I get it?

Able2Extract is available as a desktop application for Windows, Mac and Linux. It has both standard and professional versions. You can see a comparison of the versions here (the professional version includes OCR capabilities).

I suggest you begin with the 7 day free trial. If you’re happy with the product you can choose to purchase a 30 day licence for the standard version for US$34.95 (great for once-off big-batch conversions) or a full, permanent licence for US$99.95. 

To get Able2Extract:
2. Click the Free Trial button at the top of the page. 
3. Select your Operating System to begin downloading the install file.
4. Once the file download is complete, launch the file to instal Able2Extract on your computer.

How do I use it?

Able2Extract shows useful help tips to guide you through using the product. Here’s my quick guide for converting a PDF to another format.
1. Click the Open button. Browse for and select the PDF file you want to convert.
2. Select the content you want to convert. You have a few options:
     - Click and drag with the left mouse button to highlight content.
     - Use the Select All or Select Area buttons in the top toolbar.
     - Use the options on the Edit drop-down menu.



3. Once the content is selected, click the button for your desired file type in the top toolbar.



4. Choose a location to save the converted file and click Save.

Don’t forget Copyright

Before converting a PDF to an editable format, always consider the copyright status of the file you are converting. Depending on the Copyright or Creative Commons licence associated with the file, it may be illegal for you to edit or distribute the content.

Learn more

To learn more about Able2Extract, check out their support centre.

Note: In the interests of transparency, I’d like to let you know that I was provided a free licence for Able2Extract as a result of publishing this post. However, I only recommend products on this blog that I am willing to use myself and are comfortable personally recommending to colleagues, clients and family. 


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