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

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

Note: Ah, the power of the Twitter PLN. @HaleEdTech pointed out that the user (i.e., student) can discover the password using Inspect Element or View Page Source (both are in the right-click menu).  If you intend to use this regularly, you may want to 1) turn off Inspect element in the Google Admin Console and 2) block “view-source” in the URL blacklist in your Admin Console.  These will only prevent this in Chrome – there are likely other steps you’d need to take with Safari or Firefox.

The Draftback Extension

One of the earliest edtech tools that I recommended to the teachers involved in the Writing Ourselves project, which I am the Technology Director for, was the DraftBack Extension.  Once enabled, the extension allows you to playback your writing process for any doc that you are an editor on.  Obviously, the best use case for this would be to have students do this.

What a powerful way for students to reflect on their writing process and for educators to assess (and offer feedback on) the way that they go about the writing craft.  Awesome sauce.

Draftback animation

Jump to a Page in a PDF

If you’re like me, scrolling through a really long .pdf hoping to find the right page drives you bonkers.  Did you know that, when looking at a .pdf in Google Chrome, you can jump directly to a page number?

Note: This is based on the number of pages in the document and occasionally the publisher of the PDF didn’t count the cover page and other initial pages in their numbering.  So, typing in page 10, might actually land you on page 9 because the cover page didn’t count.  But, hey, at least you only have to scroll one more page!

Creating a Restricted Access Group in the Google Admin Console

Let me start with this . . . I think the best thing that we can do for children in regards to the dangerous, disruptive and distorted content on the internet is to teach them to identify and avoid it.  However, some students have difficulties with this and during intermediary times while helping them to develop better/safer online habits, an alternative support may be necessary.

One option is to use a separate Google Admin Organizational Unit (OU) that is has restricted internet access.  In it, you can block all online content except for content that that you and your educators have identified as being a part of students’ learning experience.  (The last thing that you would want to do is limit or prohibit their learning)

To do this:

  1. Login to the Google Admin Console
  2. Go to Device Management > Chrome Management > User Settings
  3. Select the appropriate OU (Organizational Unit)
  4. Scroll down to the URL Blocking Section
  5. In the URL Blacklist section enter only a *.  This blocks ALL internet content.
  6. In the URL Blacklist Exception section, list every site that you do want your students to have access to.  Keep in mind that an address like khanacademy.org will unblock anything starting with khanacademy.org, including things like khanacademy.org/math.

A few tips:

  • When placing students into this group, you may need to move them in Active Directory in order for them to stay in the Google Admin Organizational Unit.  It all depends on your setup.
  • Maintain a Google Doc that teachers can access to see what sites are unblocked.  That way, they can double-check their sites that they intend to use . . . and send you additions.
  • Consider using an instructional piece about appropriate internet use to help students learn to make better choices so that they can be moved out of this group after an appropriate amount of time.

Again, this is not a perfect solution, but different students need different supports and scaffolds as we prepare them for their futures in our technology-obsessed society.

Note: These limitations will only be apply 1) in Chrome, 2) with the student logged into Chrome.

Stop Motion Slides

There are multiple options for creating animations (GoAnimate, Scratch, etc.) but my favorite way to do it is creating Stop Motion Slides.  I like that I can make it exactly how I want it in this format.  I think this has tons of potential in all subject areas (Please comment or share on Twitter with the hashtag #StopMotionSlides if you come up with any cool uses for it).

There are two main steps:

  1. Create a Google Slideshow where each slide is an incremental change from the previous one (like a flipbook).
  2. Open the slideshow up in Presenter view and use a screencasting tool (i.e., Camtasia, Screencastify, Screencast-o-matic) to record it as a video.

Here are a few of my tips for making it quick:

  • Ctrl+D or ⌘+D to Duplicate Slides
  • Use Arrows to Move Smoothly & Incrementally
  • Move in groups when appropriate
  • Rotate things incrementally
  • Change Colors gradually
  • Use Transparency
  • Use Ordering

Add Customizable Columns to Google Docs

One of the complaints from Day 1 with Google Docs was the inability to add columns.  Not too long ago, Google added this functionality, but it’s still sorely lacking in customizability.  So, here’s a workaround:

  1. Insert a Table
  2. Enter your text and images
  3. Make the table’s border 0 point (a.k.a., invisible)
  4. Find a microphone
  5. Drop it

Adding Images with Captions in Google Docs

Years ago, I heard plenty of complaints about how Google Docs just didn’t measure up to Microsoft Word.  My response always centered around the ways that Google Docs could change the way we worked and students learned.  Most people have bought in, but I still occasionally hear complaints about missing features.  One of them is adding captions to pictures – a major informational text skill in the English Language Arts standards.

Check out the GIF below to see how to use the “Insert > Drawing” tool to perform this task.

I should note, as has been pointed out that me on Twitter, that this process will reduce the quality of the image. I think that, for a student’s project it’s still okay. Just, you know, maybe not for your doctoral research paper or school yearbook.