Create Materials for Print with Custom Dimensions in Google Slides

Need a flyer? A sign? A visually appealing handout?

Google Docs is a great word processor, but it can be hard to get images, text and word art laid out in just the right way. Tools like LucidPress are great for this, but they have a learning curve. For most educators and students, Google Slides is perfect for this – we know how to add & resize pictures and text as well as how to move them around on the screen.

So, why not use Google Slides for creating Printed Materials?  Go to File > Page Setup and give your slides the dimensions of your piece of paper.  Bam.

Custom Dimensions in Slides Animation

FormRanger Add-On

I love me some Add-Ons. One of my favorites is FormRanger from New Visions Cloud Lab. It can be used to pull in a column of information from a Google Sheet as multiple choice or dropdown options.

This is nice for quickly creating a lot of options for a multiple choice or dropdown question, but what takes it from nice to awesome is  . . . you can set it to automatically update based on changes made to the spreadsheet. Whaaaaat!?  I know, right?

There are two main cases for use: Continue reading FormRanger Add-On

Comparing & Contrasting College Admissions and the NFL Draft

Every April, executives and coaches from the 32 NFL Teams prepare to select the college football players that they will add to their roster. For months leading up to this event, their scouts pour over every morsel of information that they can find on the hundreds of players available for the picking.  And talking heads at ESPN and other sports media outlets talk about all of it.  Anyhow…. how does this relate to school? Continue reading Comparing & Contrasting College Admissions and the NFL Draft

Scratch as a Content Area Tool

Scratch, developed by a group at MIT, has a tremendous reputation as a computer science learning & creation tool.  But, I believe it is under-appreciated as a tool for the content areas.

It is a great way for students to show their mastery of content standards, while honing their computer science skills and practicing the 4 C’s.  It’s also a great way for educators to create content for their students to interact with.

This summer, I hope to make some examples of how Scratch can be used in content areas.  For now, here’s a little taste:

Scratch in Edu Animation

“Kids These Days . . . “

Adults these days start sentences with “Kids these days . . . “ way too often.  And here’s the thing that I want to point out about that phrase:

Any sentence starting with “Kids these days” is not an excuse.  It is an observation (it’s also a loosey-goosey generalization, but we’ll save that for another post).  However, adults often use it as an excuse.

So?  Isn’t “excuse vs. observation” just syntax?  Well, you may think it is until you see an educator who’s struggling to lead his/her students to mastery shrug their shoulders and say something like “Kids these days want to play on their phones and video games instead of studying.”

Why is it important to draw the line in the sand between excuse and observation on this statement?

Excuse – “Sure, my students aren’t achieving mastery, but it’s not my fault – kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study.”

Observation – “Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . ”

What’s up with the “. . .” in that observation?

Any good educator uses observations (a.k.a., informal formative assessments) to make decisions about how to best lead their students to deeper learning.  It’s what you put after the dot dot dot that is what makes a good teacher a great teacher.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll try using gamification in my course.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll start integrating more technology into my teaching.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll look for an app that they can interact with on their mobile devices to continue their learning.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll learn about the apps, games and sites that they’re using to see what I can learn to support my instruction.”

The most important thing about this . . . 

If you’ve made it this far in this post, and I hope you have, then you get to hear what I consider to be the most important thing about “kids these days”:

We are teachers these days.
It is our responsibility to teach kids these days.
We can’t change them, nor should we want to.
Kids from “back in my day” are gone.
Learn to understand kids these days.
Strive to inspire kids these days.

FILTER Formula in Google Sheets

You can filter using menu buttons and create filter buttons in Google Sheets, but sometimes it’s valuable to setup a FILTER formula.  One such instance is shown in the GIF below: when you have a Sheet that contains data about many students across many grades or classes.  Using a filter formula, you can create a tab for each class or grade.  You can also create tabs for certain criteria (like lower scores that require follow-up).

=FILTER(range, condition1, [condition2, …])

Note from the formula above, that you can actually identify multiple criteria (such as Mr. Kotter’s students who scored below a 75%).

Filter Formula (Google Sheets) Animation

Creating GIFs in Camtasia 2

You may have noticed: I create lots of GIFs.
You may have wondered: how does Jake make his GIFs?

I ❤️ the functionality of creating them in Camtasia 2 for Mac.  Under Advanced Export is an option for “Animated GIF.”  It’s pretty much that simple….

However, if you choose to do this, you want to put some thought into how & where you plan to use your GIF.  Certain platforms have time & file size limits for GIFs.  Others do not.  Twitter, for example, limits GIFs to 5 MB.  To obtain the perfect balance between high quality image and low enough file size, I leave the settings all of the way up and then nudge them down until I hit something just a hair under 5 MB.  I prefer the frame rate at 30 and won’t go below 20.  If a frame rate of 20 doesn’t get me low enough, I decrease the dimensions.  If needed, I even use custom dimensions to hit that sweet spot of quality-file size. (More content after GIF)

Make GIFs in Camtasia Animation

Twitter doesn’t appear to have a limit for the time length of the GIF.  However, the longer the GIF, the higher the file size.  So, I cut my GIF’s at 20 seconds.  That was always the limit for GIFs in the SnagIt extension, and it seems like a good number, so I go with it.  To hit this limit, I increase the speed of my videos to get them right to 20 seconds.

Increase Speed for GIFs in Camtasia Animation

(When I last checked, Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers received Camtasia for free.  If you’re not eligible for that I believe it’s well worth the actual education price.)

Print Speaker Notes in Google Slides

We all know from experience, as well as the infamously-hysterical and on-point “Death by PowerPoint,” that slideshows should involve minimal text.  But, for many people, this is where cognitive dissonance enters.  They believe this to be true, but need somewhere to plan what they will say.

Well, Google Slides has a spot for “Speaker Notes,” and here’s how you print them to have ready during your next presentation:

Print Slides Speaker Notes Animation

Password Protected Google Forms

First off – I can’t take credit for this idea – just the GIF below.  I’ve heard it mentioned most recently on the Google Teacher Tribe podcast who credited the idea to Jeremy Badiner.

There are a lot of uses, but here are the 4 main ones that I can see:

  1. Post a Google Form (i.e., an assessment) to your LMS early, but students won’t be able to access the questions until you give them the password.
  2. Set this form as part of a BreakOutEDU style activity – participants can only access the form once they’ve found the password in the previous stage.
  3. Make it so only your intended audience can fill out a form.
  4. Keep sensitive information within the form, just like a password-protected website.

One important note: setting “error text” is essential – otherwise it will tell the user the password.

Password Protected Forms Animation